Edtech 503 Discussion 2 Need Analysis Learners

Research indicated that the single most important information an instructional designer must consider is prior knowledge (Streamlined ID, p. 53). What are some strategies instructional designers can use to discover prior knowledge?  How can educators access this information?

Having limited experience in developing assessments I would start with a good tool to collect and store the information.  Examining the ID projects done by students from the previous years, a majority of them used Survey Monkey as a way to create assessments.  The tool allows you to create questions, gather information, and analyze the data.  In addition it may have other resources and tips to explore.  Professor — in our intro video said it starts with collecting data using a variety of methods.  I would begin by thinking about the type of information that I would need to collect and identify what constitutes prior knowledge.  Doing a thorough needs analysis would help clarify this.  But I would start by understanding the learners and evaluating the textbook and identifying the necessary knowledge and skills needed to reach each of the lesson objectives.   Using the the assessment that others have created such as in the case by the Watson and Belland could be a good strategy.  They used a nationally administered Self-Assessment Examination to test the prior knowledge of physician assistants.  Examining other assessments could be a better way to manage time and provide a good model to follow.  You could see the type of information they collected, how the questions were asked, and how they were categorized.

When accessing prior information, educators should directly interact with the learners either in person or through some sort of correspondence such as a survey.  Another option mentioned in Streamlined ID said to speak to people who have regular contact with the learners such as teachers, managers, or peers.  This could be a good way to verify and compare the data.  I would also look into existing data in academic journals.  Many of these journals have information for contacting the author so it may be possible to get additional insight for interpreting the data. 

a) In case study 7, critique the steps Maya took to identify the needs in the case. What are some things she did well? What would you suggest to improve her practice?
b) In general, is a needs analysis always necessary when planning an instructional design project? Why or why not?

In case study 7, Maya used five steps to better understand the situation and identify the needs. 

1.       She made an appointment to meet the client to get a better understanding of the problem from the client’s perspective. 

2.       She spoke with a variety of students and teachers.

3.       She reviewed the state standards and compared them with the textbook.

4.       She compared the students’ performance on test scores with the socioeconomic background of their parents.
5.       She met with the client again to analyze the data and offer possible solutions. 

Streamlined ID states that “any instructional effort begins with a thorough understanding of the problem and needs.”  In this case Maya illustrates this by looking at the causes of the problem from multiple angles.   She spoke with a variety of key people directly involved or affected by the case.  Maya spoke with the instructor, the students, other teachers, and the assistant principal to better understand the problem and how they perceived the current situation.  She then examined the content of the textbook and compared it the requirements of the state standards.  She found out that the two did not match well, which then had a negative impact on students’ test scores. Students were not learning the concepts they were required to be tested on from the state standards.  Finally, she examined the problem from a non-instructional perspective.  Students from a lower socioeconomic background performed worse on test scores because the parents from these backgrounds did not feel that math was important.  As a result it contributed to their poor attitudes and a lack of motivation.
I thought overall Maya used a great process by examining the problem from three distinct areas.  In particular I liked that fact that she looked at a non-instructional problem.  This is an area that can easily be overlooked but may in fact be significant in understanding the cause of the problem.  Motivation is one of the key elements needed for successful learning (Streamlined ID p. 53), and in the above example a poor attitude affected it negatively.  The example showed that even though the source of a problem was not related to the instruction, it still needed to be addressed because it was affecting how the students were learning (or not learning).  If I could give a recommendation to Maya I would suggest that she include the feedback from the other teachers.  In the text it stated that she spoke with other teachers, but there opinions were missing from the notes.  This could be valuable information to see if other teachers experienced similar problems, and if not, learn some of the ways that they were carrying out their lessons. 
When a person does planning for an instructional design, I think it’s wise to do a needs analysis.  This is especially important if you’re not sure where the problem is coming from.  Like the book said you have to do some detective work by researching and gathering data to better understand the problem.  Doing a needs analysis identifies the problem but in this case showed that the problem stemmed from multiple sources.  In addition to identifying the problems, a needs analysis will also help with the solutions because you will know what it is that needs to be fixed.  This case explained that a second problem was the instructor, and how she was delivering the content.  She was teaching in a method that was ineffective but was uncomfortable in trying other ideas.  Maya could suggest possible options for resolving this problem or further analyze the specific things which made her feel uncomfortable.  However, a further development of a needs analysis does lead to a problem, which is a lack of time.  From my experience a lot of the materials I need to create are done the night before or even hours before class.  So ideally it would be nice to do close examinations of the each of the problems associated with teaching but because of a lack of time and resources, it’s often not feasible.   


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