Needs Assessment for Professional Development

Tonight I dug up some material on needs assessment from a previous quarter…


These classifications of needs assessments are very familiar, but I haven’t been able to sort out where I’ve seen them before… probably here at Walden.

I did manage to rediscover two other systems I had been exposed to here at Walden, though.

Smaldino, Russel, Heinich, and Molenda (2005) advocate analyzing learners as the first step of their ASSURE model of instructional design.

“Several factors… are critical for making food methods and media decisions:

  • General Characteristics
  • Specific entry competencies
  • Learning Styles

    General characteristics include broad identifying descriptors such as age, grade level, job, or position, and cultural or socioeconomic factors. Specific entry competencies refer to knowledge and skills that learners either possess or lack: prerequisite skills, target skills, and attitudes/ The third factor, learning style, refers to the spectrum of psychological traits that affect how we perceive and respond to different stimuli, such as anxiety, aptitude, visual or auditory preference, motivation, and so on.” (*p. 49)

  • Before even reaching this step in their analysis, Morrison, Ross, and Kemp (2004) suggest that the instructional designer first needs to identify the problem in order to determine whether or not instruction should indeed be part of the solution. (p. 31) As part of this needs assessment process, they consider normative needs, comparative needs, felt needs, expressed needs, anticipate or future needs, and critical incident needs.

    “A normative need is identified by comparing the target audience against a national standard.” (p. 32)

    “Comparative needs are similar to normative needs… a comparative need, however is identified by comparing the target group to a peer that is another company or school as opposed to a norm.” (p. 33)

    “A felt need is a desire or want that an individual has to improve either his or her performance or that of the target audience. Felt needs express a gap between current performance or skill level and desired performance or skill level.” (p. 34)

    An expressed need is “a felt need turned into action.” (p. 34)

    Anticipated needs are a means of identifying changes that will occur in the future. Identifying such needs should be part of any planned change so training can be designed prior to implementation of the change.” (p. 35)

    Critical incident needs [are] failures that are rare but have significant consequences – for instance, chemical spills, nuclear accidents, medical treatment errors, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados.” (p. 35)

    I know this is a lot of copied text, but I hope these needs assessment concepts will add something to our discussion of professional development planning.



    Morrison, G.R., Ross S. M., and Kemp, J.E. (2004). Designing Effective Instruction. (4th Ed.) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    Smaldino, S.E., Russell, J. D., Heinich, R., Molenda, M. (2005). Instructional Technology and Media for Learning. (8th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

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