Needs analysis is the basis for a good educational programme and should be the foundation stone for any curriculum development activity. The needs that are identified can be from many sources and the methods that are used in deriving these needs can also vary to a great extent.
Among these methods, identifying ‘learning needs’ would be an effective means of performing a ‘needs analysis’ and there are several types of learning needs that should be assessed in different instances.
This refers to the expected standards in knowledge in relation to a trained individual in a particular discipline. Licensing exams such as General Medical Council, UK and Australian Medical Council can be thought as bodies which would determine the normative needs of a designated medical professional in developing their assessments.
Curriculum revisions can be thought of as being based on prescribed needs and would derived through the identified deficiencies of the current educational programme. In most institutions, such needs would be identified mainly by the subject matter experts who functions as trainers as well as in instances when educational experts review educational programmes to improve their quality outcomes. Such revisions would be rather useful in keeping the in-service programmes up-to-date and to address foreign supervisor and examiner suggestions.
When the students are assessed to gather their perception on what they want to learn, it can be defined as assessing perceived needs.
Similar to perceived needs, the expressed needs would also be derived from the students and is what the students say that they want to learn. It will be rather useful in planning out individual training sessions.
When certain deficiencies in a cohort of trainees are identified as a whole, this would most likely to be based on analyzing comparative needs. As such, the ones who derive such a need would most likely to be the trainers or the programme coordinators and would be useful in planning out strategies to correct any deficiency related to learning.
When there are certain elements which usually are not recognized by the students as needing to learn, these are considered as unperceived needs. In most instances, these are relevant outside elements to a specific learning programme and therefore would derive some important objectives for the learning programme. This may be evident in courses such as Bio Medical Informatics in which the areas included in the programme are overlapping and inter-related which makes it difficult to clearly identify the ‘need to know’ areas relevant to the course of study.
Following recognizing different types of learning needs, it is vital to decide on a type of a needs assessment which provides both accurate, as well as practical, means of information to study the needs. As such, the above methods are rather useful in order to capture the needs from relevant stake holders.