Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Education Needs Assessment

DON'T BE A "LONE RANGER" could also be an appropriate title for this Post.  As you may have noticed from listening and interacting today with your colleagues, content expertise was never questioned in the Needs Assessment presentation.  You might think that it should be, but most of the time folks that are asked to develop an instructional unit have content expertise.  The problem arises when their expertise is not congruent with the audience needs and goals.... hence NEEDS ASSESSMENT.  Lots of other potential obstacles can be addressed early through just talking and listening to others.  Remember.. A new curriculum is not the answer to every problem.  Your Thoughts?

14 comments:

R Prayson said...

Needs assessment is tough when you are asked to give a talk or presentation on short notice to an audience who may be diverse with regard to fund of knowledge and background (a common scenario if presenting at a national meeting). You presume someone else has done the bulk of the needs assessment and has determined (at the very least) that the topic you are being asked to speak about is “needed” and “pertinent”. We often plan these teaching experiences primarily based on our previous experiences as both learners and teachers. If we are open to feedback, we can improve over time and approximate something that is closer to target. I’m not sure it’s possible to meet everyone’s needs all the time. The challenge I find in putting together such an activity is trying to “pitch” the teaching at just the right level. This requires putting yourselves in the audience’s shoes, to think like they might be thinking. You don’t want it to be so complicated that it is impossible to follow. It is sometimes hard to think back to what is reasonable for someone to know or learn at an early stage in their training (you forget). You don’t want to be too simple, which will bore the learner. Often, particularly at national meetings or even with a resident audience, the starting point of the learners can be diverse. In many cases, I think we rely on prior experience, common sense and openness to feedback to guide our needs assessment. This seems a bit like the “lone ranger” but at least 2 out of 3 of these are informed by interactions with others.

Maged Argalious said...

I look at needs assessment as one of many stages required to create a sustainable and successful change.
Whether the needs assessment is initiated based on a program citation or based on results of resident intraining examination that show a knowledge gap, having a guiding coalition and seeking collaboration from stakeholders is essential in getting "buy in" for implementing a discrepancy, innovation or problem solving model.
While the type of intervention will be dictated by a comprehensive "needs assessment", implementing any of those models will not be successful unless there is a genuine belief by educators and learners that a change is needed. This in turn requires exploring what others have done( literature review, personal communications,focus groups),including an assessment of what worked and what didn't. This guiding coalition will help initiate and sustain the required change and will avoid the "Lone Ranger" scenario.

Shelley Frost said...

I agree with Rich regarding needs assessments when you are a guest speaker. I just had a presentation where my slides did not meet the needs of the audience as demonstrated by their questions. Sometimes the person who schedules a speaker and decides the topic doesn't have a very good idea of what content their team is really needing. Having the ability to adapt to the needs of the audience in the moment makes the experience much more meaningful. I would also agree with Maged's commentary of sustainability. David brought up change management in class and I agree this philosophy corresponds logically with needs assessment and the 3 models. Change management is all about obtaining buy-in and sustaining change. Dr. Taylor's advice in class to not be a "lone ranger" and find out what the person 3 doors down is doing is very important and doesn't happen often enough. We could develop the most scholarly content and curriculum ever, but if we do so in isolation and don't seek others input, it may never take off and folks may find ways to make it fail. The 3 needs assessment handout's were excellent and I plan on using them. Thanks for emailing them to us. Shelley

Brian Johnson said...

I would have to agree with Rich and Shelly, regarding speaking at invited meetings. You have to think that the group that invited you has done the needs assessment for you. I would also agree with Maged that needs assessment is the starting point for true change. I would say however that even if the needs assessment identifies a need and a new program is identified, with buy in, it is not always the right change for the situation. Needs assessment can limit educational focus too narrowly, possibly leading to a change that may not be a real change. That was a key point in the reading but not discussed in the class. How do others feel about that potential pitfall?

Anonymous said...

Kathy Baker

I agree with Maged in that, there needs to be support, confidence, and acknowledgement by both the educators and learners that there needs to be a change. Needs assessment can be beneficial if it works and others put enough effort into it, but it can also be problematic with creating confusion, frustration, and limited resources for those involved. Based off of what Brian stated, there are potential pitfalls to needs assessment that may seem like a positive change initially, but become too narrowed of a focus that it fails quickly. Why is it that those who educate are grateful for positive and negative feedback and are frequently looking for ways to improve things and to better connect to their audience, where others may not be as welcoming to the negative feedback? Isn't all feedback, regardless of the positive or negative connotation beneficial? Needs assessment to me seems like an initial survey to see how things are going and provides an opportunity to change and readdress the presentation or material at hand. An American educator, Thomas H. Palmer once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t give up too easily; persistence pays off in the end.” So, if a needs assessment attempt doesn’t work, there are always other ways of doing it and trying again.

Anonymous said...

Matt Celmar said...

I agree with Maged regarding the need to have an identifiable knowledge gap in order for a needs assessment to be initiated. Aligning the educational program to the needs of the learners allows them to “buy into” the instruction. We can all think of seminars and talks that we have attended where we made no connection with the content. The learner is left unfulfilled and disinterested. An effective needs assessment would lead to a curriculum that was is more concise and digestible for the learner. I have found that instructors tend to cast a broad net and overwhelm the learner. This is not due to a lack of expertise but, more than likely, a lack of focus. A very well designed seminar will impart one to two ideas that stick with the learner and influence their behavior. I am a firm believer that “less is more” when addressing learners.
Collaborating with others to determine focus will help to not become the “lone ranger” of your own needs assessment. One of the most beneficial and enjoyable aspects of this program is the discussion we have in class. I love hearing about what everyone else is doing in his or her teaching. I am always asking myself “how can I apply that to my situation”. There are problems that we all face (eg. how to teach professionalism) in our areas of expertise that warrant collaboration. It is rare to be the first person to discover an origional problem or solution.

Brian Burkey said...

I like the systematic approach to educational needs assessment that Christine presented in our class this week. I suspect I have always dealt with many of the issues before, but I am not sure that I used a checklist to ponder each of the six factors in Gilbert's model of learning improvement. I also liked the richness of the three models for making changes in current curricula. In trying to apply the models to one of my current interests though, I find quite a bit of overlap in the need for each of the three models. In trying to explore the use of internet-based learning in Otolaryngology, there are elements of innovation, problem-solving and gap analysis. This makes the work of developing a different curriculum more difficult, but it does give me some parameters to consider as I take my first steps. Overall, the idea of involving many stakeholders is great, as we all tend to be the "long ranger" if we don't take a step back and get a bigger perspective. The guidelines Christine gave us should help to routinely gain that perspective.
Brian B.

Heidi Gdovin said...

I feel there is great value in doing needs assessments and would suggest to others the significance. I believe most professionals are aware of needs assessments however, in my area I do not see or hear much about implementing this step in the educational development process. With mounting workloads and deadlines, I get the impression many people may think or feel they are too busy and do not have the time to create, distribute and/or analyze a needs assessment before planning a program or curriculum. Therefore, they may develop programs and learning activities based on what they think is needed and on their own. What people may not realize is how valuable this process can be to them, to the learners and to others in the department. I think if there was more awareness, communication, collaboration and education to others about how valuable and helpful this process can be, along with the distribution of useful tools (like the worksheets provide by Dr. Taylor) to get started, there would be an increase in the number of people who conduct needs assessments when creating a presentation, curriculum or program. In turn I think there would be an improvement in the quality or congruency between presenter and learner of educational offerings.

Anonymous said...

David Wheeler

Obviously, this seminar was intriguing. Again, I must stress that for me it is very difficult to examine in a thoughtful way the results of a needs assessment for curriculum and not consider its implementation as a change management project. It has been demonstrated that with every evidence-based guideline published or disseminated in some other fashion the gap between the implementation of evidence-based guidelines and clinical practice grows exponentially. Given, the sheer volume of evidence-based literature it seems that our clinically applied curricula must be continuously updated. This is an almost impossible task without a sustainable construct in place for allowing the new knowledge to move seamlessly throughout the clinical practice. The innovations model is well-suited for a sustainable flow of new information and skill-set to the bedside practitioner. However, the problem and discrepancy-based models are essential components of any highly adaptive teaching and learning system. All 3 models have something to contribute given the educational context and focus of the material or knowledge/skill set.
We must bear in mind that a thorough, honest and relevant needs assessment is an essential starting point in the creation of a sustainable and successful change. The classic model for change management really does apply to a mindful needs assessment; Establish a Sense of Urgency, Form Guiding Coalition, Create a Vision, Communicate the Vision, Plan for and Create Short-Term Wins, Consolidate Improvements and Institutionalize the New Changes.
I think that the indispensable / essential quality necessary for sustainable curriculum relevance is, Adaptability. We must be able to honestly reflect on the current state of our curriculum and act in the best interest of our students and our patients.

Rachel Steines said...

Conducting needs assessment provides many advantages to individuals with a common interest planning a collaborative effort. A major advantage is the generation of new ideas and alternatives for dealing with needs. It also provides an opportunity for job enrichment. Needs assessment offers opportunities to deviate from their routine and revitalize themselves. Contact with other individuals concerned with similar conditions can provide a support group with stimulation and encouragement that is often absent when one is working alone. When resources are scarce, it can be difficult to develop effective programs. Collaboration in conducting a needs assessment can help identify similar personnel, facilities, equipment and funds in other organizations and agencies. The pooling of these resources may allow collaborators to offer programs that none could have alone. Another advantage is the strength there is in numbers. Individuals who choose to work together on important needs often find it easier to generate support for their cause. Collaborators also can benefit from their increased clout with potential funders and policy makers.

Elias Traboulsi said...

I just finished giving a lecture at Mercy Children's Hospital in Kansas City. Pediatric Ophthalmology here is part of pediatric surgery and the audience was extremely mixed. The oediatric ophthalmologists actually constituted a minority of the attendees. I made it a point last week to ask about the audience composition and what their interests were. I spent several hours modifying a presentation geared towards ophthalmologists to convey general teaching points to today's audience. I have made a special effort to inquire about the audience expectations and needs and found that it really helped me be more comfortable giving my presentation, knowing that it was hitting the right spot. I also, for the first time today, asked the organizers to send me the results of any evaluations that the attendees filled out so I can get some feedback and improve my presentation in the future.

Pilar Castro said...

Even though I missed class, I read the papers and presentation with a lot of interest. My fellowship program is undergoing a "needs assessment" process internally and externally created. Continuos assessment is very important, if we simply keep going through the motions, the why's and the how's of education may get lost. By doing a thorough assessment of the program, curriculum, class, one tries to align the needs of the program, learner or class to the educational program. The most important aspects is making sure that any changes that are initiated are truly needed and that the actors responsible of creating some of this change have motivation, initiative and a possible gain from the changes. As Maged mentioned, one does not want to fall in the "lone ranger" scenario.

Karen George said...

Unfortunately missed this class to attend CME but have enjoyed reading your blogs. I feels we've been queried on our needs assessment for this master's class. Dr. Bierer asked us what our experiences had been with statistics, presentations and more before class began and I vaguely remember a questionnaire before the beginning of our first semester. Knowing your audience is always a great idea although not always feasible as I see in other's posts. The article with Rossett's plans on needs assessment is very useful and Smith and Ragan's categories are quite applicable to any teaching situation. The emphasis on careful planning in needs assessment and delineation of group and individual needs was interesting in second article. I think the phrase needs analysis better fits this topic.

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