We can ask healthcare providers what they need to learn – and educators are asking this question often. The interesting part is we often get what people want to learn, not necessarily what they need to learn. Sometimes, they aren’t even sure.
The Missing Question
There are tons of evaluation/survey questions asking about what you want to learn or what topics you find interesting.
However, what if you included, “who do you want to be?”
If this is too existential for learners, you can ask what they hope to accomplish in 1 (or 5) years and look at their goals.
I wonder what types of answers you’d start getting with this one change. If we want better answers, we need to ask better questions.
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Knowing what your audience needs to learn (or wants to learn) is an important first step in creating content. In the world of healthcare education, it is also a required component for any education you create. While this topic may appear dull at first, there is a simple reframe for it – you get to connect with your learners, hear what they need to learn and you build trust by continuing to listen to them and create education they are looking for.
The two most common forms of needs assessment we see are the Annual needs assessment survey and a post-course evaluation, which includes a question on what topics learners would like. These are also known as verbalized needs.
Needs can also be identified by looking at gaps in care when reviewing recent research or reading literature from different National Organizations (e.g. CDC, AHRQ, etc.).
However, there is a gap in the data you are collecting, especially with verbalized needs. People do not always know what they want. Typically, you are interrupting learners to get their feedback or adding it into an evaluation – the problem is that you are asking at one point in time. Often, they skip the section on the survey asking what topics they want to learn more about.
How can you connect with learners when they don’t tell you what they want to learn? First, you start with people who are telling you. Second, at a live conference you spend time talking with attendees about the sessions and listen to their responses – it’s a good indication of a needs assessment as you’ll get.
A good needs assessment looks at where the learner is and where they want to go. One of the roles of an educator is to help them meet their professional development goals. Not only will taking the time to ask deeper questions help you identify more engaging and meaningful content but you’ll also build a stronger connection to your audience by seeking enrollment.
Listening, asking better questions, and providing a survey that isn’t an interruption – start with these three tools and you’ll be on your way to developing more meaningful education.
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