Preparing a training course, seminar or any learning experience should be based on the learners’ needs and their interpretation. It is important for a trainer to identify the main ways and methods to identify learners’ needs and to be aware of the importance of doing this process to base the learning intervention on solid foundations.
We can distinguish between “perceived” learning needs and “true” or “real” learning needs. Integral to the identification of perceived learning needs is a process of self-assessment of the learners’ current abilities. This process may be facilitated as part of an externally informed reflective assessment process where the learners can identify where he/she stands in their personal and professional development plan.
In this sense, the perceived needs are the ones that are not referring to a specific and objective need, but more on the perception to need something that is still not defined and clear. Here it is the space for the trainers to take over with tools and guidance for exploring and supporting in refine these perceived needs and bringing to a more defined area of understanding. These perceived needs are in the field of non-formal learning the basis for building the learning process of a training or a seminar. True learning needs, on the other hand, are objectively determined by an independent assessment of a learner’s performance against an optimum. This involves triangulation of information from multiple sources, methods and collection strategies. A useful way of thinking about perceived and true learning needs is in the context of the Johari window.
It was developed by and named after psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 (Joe + Harry =Johari).
In the context of learning needs, panes Open and Hidden reflect the trainee’s ability to admit self-recognized limits and therefore can be thought of as areas of improvements and developments, while the blind spot and unknown to all represent areas where there is more a need of personal development on a long term. The professional development linked to the key competencies to create and perform a training cycle normally is based on the Open and Hidden panes. In fact, in these two areas, there are plenty of opportunities to raise awareness about items already known, but also provide the opportunity to explore new needs that could be a basis for the learning.
It is useful in training to provide time and opportunity to trainees to explore more the hidden part with some exercises that could help to raise unusual topics or more depth needs (maybe not linked immediately with the professional development).
Exercises: how to apply it in everyday work
Based on this model, try to list how you would proceed for making “visible” the different levels of needs in a training group.
- How much do you feel comfortable in touching not visible items in your training?
- Why is it important in your opinion not to stay on the surface of needs analysis?
- How you create a trust relationship for emerging needs?
- Do you think that the needs of participants are relevant or your perception is more fundamental dye your experience?