A Comparison of Two Methods of Needs Assessment: Implications for Continuing Professional Education
Needs identification is an important component of program planning in continuing professional education. Learners, professional associations, and society all have a stake in ensuring that programs are relevant and focused on important educational needs of professionals. This study compared two different methods of identifying learning needs--perceived needs and knowledge-based needs--for a group of practicing pharmacists (N= 113). The Canadian Consensus Asthma Management Guidelines (1996) provided the framework for the needs assessments and the standard against which pharmacists' knowledge of asthma treatment was assessed. Using data collected via a questionnaire, rank correlation tests showed no relationship between perceived needs and knowledge-based needs. While there was correspondence between the two methods on a few items, overall they did not identify the same needs. This confirmed the results of other research that there are some educational needs of which learners are unaware. Even with the limitations of perceived needs, few continuing professional educators would advocate abandoning this method, although most advocate a combination of methods. The following article discusses the implications of these and other research findings, and current literature on needs assessment in continuing professional education. Many questions remain, however, and there is a need for more research on needs assessment in continuing professional education.