Needs Assessment TIG Week: Five Must Read Articles on Needs Assessment by Ryan Watkins

I’m Ryan Watkins, Professor at George Washington University. Today’s article is a re-post, with updated links, of a 2012 AEA365 post.

Lessons Learned:

Get familiar with needs assessment literature. Even if you only occasionally conduct needs assessments, it is important to be aware of the research literature that supports your theories, processes, and tools. I’ve summarized five “classic” articles on needs assessment that should be on your spring reading list.

 Altschuld, J. W. (2003/2004). Emerging dimensions of needs assessment. Performance Improvement, 10-15.

Summary: Needs assessment could have important effects on how an organization goes about its business. They can affect jobs, relationships among staff members, the balance of power, allocations of resources, and many other aspects of organizational life. Therefore, we may have to think more deeply about the delicate fabric of the needs assessment enterprise.

 Kaufman, R. (2008). A needs assessment audit. Proven: Human Integration. 1(1), p. 1-3.

Summary: This pragmatic audit identifies the essential elements for a useful needs assessment, and provides the criteria to be used to identify what might be missing from the current process.

Lee, Y-F., Altschuld, J. W., & White, J.L. (2007). Problems in needs assessment data: Discrepancy analysis. Evaluation and Program Planning, 30(3), 258-266.

Summary: Needs assessment is generally based on the discrepancy between two conditions—the desired and present states. To date, there has not been an extensive research regarding a number of subtle problems in discrepancy analysis. The results of this study should be valuable to needs assessors and evaluators responsible for assessing needs.

 Watkins, R. and Kaufman, R. (2002). Assessing and evaluating: Differentiating perspectives. Performance Improvement Journal, 41(2), 22-28.

Summary: Data make the world go ’round, or at least useful data do. Therefore, it is essential that data relate to important questions, so that useful decisions can be made about what works, what doesn’t, what to keep, and what to change. Data meeting these criteria are the result of two similar yet distinctive perspectives. One is an assessment perspective of data and the other is an evaluation perspective.

 Watkins, R., Leigh, D., Platt, W., and Kaufman, R. (1998). Needs assessment: A digest, review, and comparison of needs assessment literature. Performance Improvement Journal, 37(7), 40–53.

Summary: This research digest integrates the major literature in an effort to review and compare many models and case studies that relate to needs assessment.

 Rad Resources:

In addition to being members of AEA, readers who are interested in performance improvement might be interested in joining the International Society for Performance Improvement which publishes the Performance Improvement Journal, one of the journals where you’ll find three of the above articles.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the NA AEA 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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