Identifying Student Needs

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How does your child learn best? 
In an educational setting, a learning needs analysis helps students identify where they are in terms of their knowledge, skills and competencies, versus where they wish to be - what are their learning goals?

''Adults learn better when they can see a reason or relevance as to why they are following a programme of study. By conducting a learning needs analysis with prospective students, the learning provider can identify what programmes are needed. Including learners from the outset will help ensure that course content, schedules, etc., are in line with the needs of the student. By assisting the learner to identify the gaps in his/her own learning, the provider will be better able to support the student''. ~ Learner Centred Methodologies, by Rhonda Wynne, Ireland

A learning needs analysis will help:
  • Identify what skills and knowledge the learners already have
  • Highlight skills/knowledge/competencies that need developing
  • Identify clearly what students wish to achieve
  • Outline and define expectations and goals
  • Establish need and demand for the course you have in mind
  • Determine what can realistically be achieved given the available resources
  • Identify any obstacles or difficulties which may arise
  • Increase the sense of ownership and involvement of the students
  • Provide information about your student group - know your audience
  • Achieve a correct fit between the provider and student, i.e., the course matches student needs and expectations
  • Identify the content that best suits students needs
  • Determine what is the most appropriate delivery format - class based, online or a mix of these and other formats
  • Determine what skill set and knowledge base is required of the tutor
  • Develop a budget and cost benefit analysis
  • Establish when is the most suitable time to deliver the programme and over what time frame
  • Ascertain the most suitable evaluation mechanisms
  • Outline what results can be expected and if/how these can be measured
"Teachers plant seeds of knowledge that last forever" Antonise Crawford. As in a garden we need the right environment for the seed to flower, our students will need much more than just the right environment to flower. We as mentors need to first map the needs of each child, as each of us is different and often it is said no two people in the world are alike. The biggest challenge to help a child to learn is thus in taking the right steps to help him/her to grow not only in mind and body, but in heart and soul too. Complete education is only possible if we really know what are the true needs of the students. There is no 'one size fit all' when it comes to a curriculum. The teaching methods are what matters and not simply the content forced on to the students. The methodology must fit the needs of the individual student.

 Image courtesy www.sfccmo.edu/
At a very early age our current system of education starts working like an assembly line, and the curriculum rolls out the 'one size fits all' approach. This is where the inherent challenge lies, continuous learning will only happen when we can identify the student needs. The only constant is change, the needs also go through a catalysis and this makes the challenge even bigger. Student needs push us to explore new vistas of learning - study, skills, service and sports all offer avenues for us to find out the needs of the students. Once we have the interest of the student at the core of learning, we will see a quantum leap in learning and will empower the seed of knowledge to develop into holistic learning. The needs of the parents, teachers and all stakeholders will have to supplement the needs of the student alone and not vice versa. We have different forms of learning delivery and most places the mentor as the one who leads the learning process. Need for us to offer the lead to the student and the mentor is there only in a supportive role. 
The school really is a 'piece of land brought of life', a land with freedom, opportunity, joy and space for each individual to find herself/ himself.
There are several questions for the parents, when evaluating a good school for their child, a few are listed here as a  check-list (non exhaustive), please visit www.goodschools.in for a more exhaustive list.
Teacher : student ratio (total strength of school, number of teaching and non teaching staff, class size).
Quality of teachers (Qualifications, experience, levels of motivation, training and development undertaken, competency).
Academic and administrative support available to the teachers.
Access of staff to contemporary research and development and pedagogic trends.
Curriculum design (academic and co-curricular activities).
Hobbies, sports,  and spare time activities.
Involvement of every student in different aspects of the curriculum.
Academic options available to students.  
Does the school offer the opportunity for experimental learning? Best of learning is only possible when we see the facility that will ensure that 'experiential learning' is very much inbuilt in the school design. The school really is a 'piece of land brought of life', a land with freedom, opportunity, joy and space for each individual to find herself/himself. How should parents choose amongst the array of schools available?  Should they opt for an old, established school?  Should they instead try out a new, innovative school?  Is a day school or a residential school better for their child and their family?  What kind of fees should they expect to pay for what kind of facilities?  Is a co-educational school suited to them or a single-sex school? The list of the questions is infinite, the answer lies only in one challenge and that is to first of all 'identify student needs', as this is really the first and the last point of call for each parent/ mentor.
It is imperative for us to understand that the student needs will change over a period of time, and we should not become complacent on our part.
It is imperative for us to understand that the student needs will change over a period of time, and we should not become complacent on our part. Learning itself has a level of dynamism and energy in it, this should propel us even further to our goal of building knowledge and competence in what we love to do. The step one and the final step will always be the student need, and not what the school sets out as a simple timetable or the curriculum set by an education department of any state. The state, the school and the society have often not understood the needs of the students. The economics of the process, the cost effectiveness of delivery of education, the needs of the industry and the nation may direct us to deliver education in one way and this is where the real challenge lies.

Don't Be Afraid To Fail
(This message was published in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies Corporation)
You've failed many times, although you may not remember.
You fell down the first time you tried to walk.
You almost drowned the first time you tired to swim didn't you?
Did you hit the ball the first time you swung the bat?
Heavy hitters, the ones who him the most home runs, also fail to strike out a lot.
R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
English Novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before hi published 564 books.
Bahe Ruth struck out 1330 times, but he also hit 774 home runs.
Don't worry about FAILURE. Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.
~ Thank you Pat Kozra for this quote in your book Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers
There is opportunity in self-learning, collaborative learning, on-line learning and today informal learning is finding its protagonists. The methodology is not the question, it is the objective that matters most, and the bulls eye is to 'indentifying student needs' alone. No effort should ever be spared to help the individual seed flower in the garden of knowledge and the world of opportunity.

The author of the article Sandeep Dutt takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on sd@ebd.in for comments if any.
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For more about the author www.sandeepdutt.com

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