My name is Hsin-Ling (Sonya) Hung, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Research at the University of North Dakota and Program Co-chair for the Needs Assessment (NA) TIG. The main concern I want to share in this blog is that we need to pay more attention to the influence of decision-making in NA work.
Lessons Learned Through Experience:
Decision-making is an essential part of the NA endeavor
- There are many decisions in any NA endeavor. Examples of decisions required relate to the type of needs to be investigated, the selection of methods for data collection, identification of discrepancies, allocation of resources, development of action plans, and others.
Early decision-making has influence on the NA process
- Decisions made in the very beginning determine how the NA would be conducted. Using the three-phase model (Altschuld & Kumar, 2010) as a starting point, you must decide how to go through all three phrases (pre-assessment, assessment, and post-assessment). Sometimes you might minimize or leave out a phase, affecting such things as methods of data collection, personnel, time, and budget.
Decision-making has impact on NA results or quality of NA
- Decision-making has an effect on the overall outcome/quality of NA which in turn may change the program/organization funding the endeavor. One of my students worked with a campus organization to identify graduate students’ health needs. A comprehensive approach was discussed initially, but could not be carried out due to funding concerns of the sponsor. Under pressure to get something quickly, the student was only able to collect data via an online survey near the end of the semester. Its timing resulted in small n’s because most students were busy with school work. The quality of the survey was in question because of the press for quick results. Data were not meaningful and participant representation was a concern. Thus decisions in the actual process of NA have an impact on quality and what it produced.
- For a general overview of the needs assessment see Altschuld, J. W. & Kumar, D. D. (2010). Needs Assessment: An Overview (Needs Assessment Kit 1).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- To understand decision-making methods in post-assessment phrase, see Stevahn, L. A. & King, J. A. (2010). Needs Assessment Phase III: Taking Action for change (Needs Assessment Kit 5). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- To learn more on decision-making tools and techniques, see Watkins, R., West Meiers, M., & Visser, Y. L. (2012). A Guide to Assessing Needs: Essential Tools for Collecting Information, Making Decisions, and Achieving Development Results. Washington DC: The World Bank (available for free online).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.