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NA TIG Week: Ryan Watkins on Research Paradigms for Needs Assessment (or Evaluation)

Ever thought about doing research on needs assessment (or evaluation for that matter)? My name is Ryan Watkins and what follows is a short description of a basic framework that can help you consider the types of research that could be useful. Based on Briggs (1982) and Driscoll (1995), the following research paradigms can offer choices for your research design:

Experimental and Quasi-Experimental: Experimental research designs can provide educational researchers with the “most effective means of establishing causal influences on a phenomenon of interest” (Driscoll, 1995, p. 323). While quasi-experimental research designs may be less effective in providing evidence of casual relationships, they offer pragmatic alternatives when meeting the requirements of experimental designs are not practical.

Meta -Analysis: The meta-analysis research design is “a widely used method for combining results from different quantitative research studies” (p. 71) on the same phenomenon (Gall, Gall, and Borg, 1999).

Case Study/Ethnography: According to Trochim (2001), “A case study is an intensive study of a specific individual or specific context… There is no single way to conduct a case study, and a combination of methods (such as unstructured interviewing and direct observation) can be uses.” (p. 161)

Technology Development and Evaluation using a Novel Technique: As a field of research focused on useful application, needs assessment research should be active in the development, application, evaluation, and continuous improvement of assessments using technologies (e.g., online surveys).

Cost Analysis: The requirements of decision-makers for data related to the cost-effectiveness of decisions presents researchers with a pragmatic research paradigm with obvious application benefits.

Model Development and Evaluation: Models offer useful tools for conceptualizing the relationships and complexities among the components of a system.

Novel Technique Development and Evaluation: Techniques are the processes used to accomplish results (i.e., produce products, obtain outputs, and/or achieve consequences). The development and validation of a novel technique for accomplishing results within needs assessment (or evaluation) is an essential role of the researcher.

Theory Development: Theories help us explain or predict a phenomenon. In others words, a theory is the answer to why something (such as a behavior) occurs or does not occur within a context. Making and testing theories helps advance research and practice.

Rad Resources:

Briggs, L. (1982). A Comment on the Training of Students in Instructional Design. Educational Technology. 22(8), 25-27.

Driscoll, M. (1995). Paradigms For Research in Instructional Systems. In Angling, G. (1995). Instructional Technology: Past, present, and future. Englewood, Co: Libraries Unlimited.

Gall, J., Gall, M. and Borg, W. (1999). Applying Educational Research: A practical guide (4th ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Trochim, W. (2001). The Research Methods Knowledge Base (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Atomicdog.com Publishing.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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