Learning Needs Assessment

Grant, J.(2002). Learning needs assessment: assessing the need.  BMJ. 324(7330) 156-159. 

This post is to compliment the ‘just in time’ resource using Kern’s 6 Step Curriculum Design for healthcare educators on setting up an education program or session.

Learning needs assessment can be done on an individual or group level as part of education and training design. They can help:

  • Identify any problem/s
  • Target needs assessment
  • Set goals & objectives


“Learning needs assessment has a fundamental role in education and training, but care is needed to prevent it becoming a straitjacket.”

Types of Need Assessment

  1. Gap or discrepancy analysis: compare performance to intended competencies.
  2. Reflection on action and reflection in action: identify what was done well and what could have been done better.
  3. Self assessment: reflection through diaries, journals, log books, weekly reviews
  4. Peer review: assessing each other’s practice and giving feedback about possible education, training, or organisational strategies to improve performance. 
  5. Observation: learning needs are identified by a peer or a senior.
  6. Critical incident review and significant event auditing: identify the competencies of a profession or for quality assurance by reviewing clinical incidents.
  7. Practice review: review of all cares aspects, including care records can identify learning needs.

Situated learning in the clinical setting through practice and learning (“situated learning”) identifies real challenges in making learning appropriate to professional practice.


  • “Learning needs assessment is a crucial stage in the educational process that leads to changes in practice, and has become part of government policy for continuing professional development
  • Learning needs assessment can be undertaken for many reasons, so its purpose should be defined and should determine the method used and the use made of findings
  • Exclusive reliance on formal needs assessment could render education an instrumental and narrow process rather than a creative, professional one
  • Different learning methods tend to suit different doctors and different identified learning needs
  • Doctors already use a wide range of formal and informal ways of identifying their own learning needs as part of their ordinary practice
  • These should be the starting point in designing formalised educational systems for professional improvement.”


Grant, J.(2002). Learning needs assessment: assessing the need.  BMJ. 324(7330) 156-159. 

Thomas, P. A., Kern, D. E., Hughes, M. T., & Chen, B. Y. (Eds.). (2016). Curriculum Development for Medical Education: a six-step approach. JHU Press.

Saperstein, A., Reed, D., Smith, C., & Andrew, B. (2017). Beginning with the End-User in Mind: Application of Kern’s Six-Step Approach to Design and Create a Literary Journal for Healthcare StudentsMedEdPublish6.

Nursing Education Network. 2020. Curriculum Design.