Organizations are constantly faced with finding solutions to their problems. Often times they demand training to act as a quick fix to their problems; thus, trainers need to make needs assessment an essential part of their instructional design process. Otherwise, according to Zemke (1998), trainers "could very well end up doing a marvelous job of solving the wrong problems". Therefore, the trainer's challenge is to find the problem and to understand it sufficiently so that it can be solved (Rossett, 1987).
"Analysis or needs assessment is the basis for wise recommendation about instruction and supporting organizational strategies" (Rossett 1992). The terms used may vary. Some may refer it to front-end analysis; others may site a need to gather information, while some are planning, studying or scoping (Rossett 1990). No matter what it is called, Rossett (1987) believes trainers must make professional and convincing cases for analysis prior to particular solutions. This paper will focus on Rossett's Model and look at how each component of the model helps identify an organization's needs in order to provide possible solutions.
Purpose of Needs Assessment
According to Rossett (1995), needs assessment is the "initial pursuit of information about a situation" (pg. 183) in order to provide trainers insight into "what is needed to improve performance" (pg. 184). Conducted at the beginning of any training or development process, needs assessments are intended to identify gaps between what should be happening and what is actually happening (Rossett, 1987).
In her needs assessment model, Rossett states five purposes of the needs assessment process (Rossett, 1987). This process is intended to help trainers gather information about the following purposes:
Actual Performance - What is actually happening? This should describe the current
performance or knowledge of the job being performed.
Optimal Performance - What should be happening? This should describe the desired
performance or knowledge to get the job well done.
Feelings - How do the employees feel about....the new system?... training on the
system? This should focus on opinions about the problem or task or
competence related to it.
Causes - Why is there a problem? What is causing it? This should focus on the
various sources that may be contributing to the problem.
Solutions - What are some ways of ending or diminishing the identified problem?
Solutions should be considered based on the identified causes for
Five Steps of the Needs Assessment Process
Rossett (1987, 1995) outlines the needs assessment process in five steps:
Step 1 - Determine purposes based on initiators;
Step 2 - Identify sources;
Step 3 - Select tools;
Step 4- Conduct the needs assessment in stages; and
Step 5 - Use findings for decision making.
In step one, Rossett (1987, 1985) suggests...