Long time no post… Not the first time on this blog.
In this post I want to briefly explore a recent needs assessment that I performed in a K-8 setting, specifically in a grade 5 classroom.
I wrapped up my Instructional Design and Educational Technology Masters degree this past June at the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout the program, we talked about and explored needs assessments. Many of our assigned reading and practical experiences were outside of a public education setting. Most often, the design process was in corporate or higher education contexts. As my most extensive experience, for a large ID project, I performed a thorough needs assessment of a second language learner program unique to my district and local school. And in my professional life as a teacher librarian, I regularly perform micro needs assessments when working with local administration, teachers, students, and community. It is a process in which I feel comfortable although because of the daily press (as described by Jamie McKenzie) I never really feel as if all the useful information becomes unearthed.
When my inquiry project colleague and I sat down to talk about the project I wanted to tackle the needs assessment immediately. Using probing questions and open communication we explored her needs, wants, and hopes and compared these to those of the students, parents, and community. In our conversation, some of the major considerations that emerged were:
- learning outcomes
student integration requirements
student language needs
teacher’s desires to motivate students to be agents of change
and as you can imagine, much more…
After a short 20 minute conversation, we were looking at an impressive overview of needs and desires for the inquiry project. Throughout the conversation, I personally thought about the perceived and real differences in this scenario and tried to keep designer arrogance to a minimum. Specifically, I relied on effective questions to move us beyond what was visible at the surface to some of the crucial information that could move this project from good to great. Ultimately, we both agreed that because it was so early in the school year, there was a limited amount of knowledge about the learners and that we would need to make adjustments as necessary during the project. It felt good to leave the needs assessment at that point of completion. For me, Instructional Design is a ongoing process that is anything but linear. Having the ability to review and refine of effort enables us to be responsive and to strive for excellence.
If you are interested in reading more about designer arrogance, I would suggest Dr Schwier’s collaborative e-book: The Red Book written with Boling and Gibbons. It hasn’t been officially released although he shared it with my Advanced Instructional Design class and might share it with you also if you ask politely.
If you are interested in reading more about needs assessments, I found the brief overview presented in Julie Dirksen in Design for How People Learn to adequately cover the essentials. If you want a more in-depth exploration I would check out Instructional Design by Smith and Ragan although it’s probably more then you want to know.