Perceived Needs are Tricky

Caution – The assessment of perceived needs is tricky.
By Barry Sweeny, 2003

You may have missed a very critical word in the title immediately above, “perceived”. It is this concept which makes assessment of needs and design of professional growth activities to met those needs such a tricky process. Basically, the challenge is that people can only tell you the needs of which they are aware. Of course, this has implications for assessment of needs for people at the first , who YOU know need to learn something but THEY are not aware of the need yet.

They don’t know what they don’t know. – Some people do NOT know some of what they need to know to be able to answer your questions accurately. That is, your data will contain error, so your mentoring or program must account for that and be prepared to address the needs of those who will be misplaced in the CBAM planned system. In that case, you may only discover that the plan based on the needs assessment is not working after you get into the program.

They know what they need but they won’t tell you. – Some will answer your questions giving you what they think you want to hear, not what they really feel. Try to reduce this by clearly explaining in advance the need for candor and accurate data so planning addresses their real needs. However, unless there is trust, this pattern will happen to some extent anyway.

Therefore, when you develop plans, assume these factors are at work and that they will effect what you want to happen. Plan an alternative track, a make up session, or an information meeting in advance of the training. Then during the training or mentoring, specifically ask, “How many are (or are you) feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this information?” Those who answer ìYesî are advised into the alternative session or receive some form of additional support so that, by the time the whole group is ready for the next class or meeting, so are most of these “overwhelmed” individuals.

Allow for the fact that people learn at different speeds and in different ways. If you provide too much info in a verbally focused mode those who need examples, visuals etc. will not end the meeting at the same place as those whose learning needs were met. In other words, you must plan the BEST staff development you can that addresses all learner needs IF you expect to be able to move people along through the program at somewhat near the same pace (which sure helps in planning and implementing).

Never-the-less, some folks will want to drop out because they feel they can not succeed at the group’s pace. In that case, you can plan program alternatives or one-on-one mentoring to keep them involved and growing at their own pace.