Learner Centred Methodologies
Written by Rhonda Wynne, Ireland
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Learner Support
Valuing Diversity
Learner Centred Methodologies
Before the Course
Characteristics of Adult Learners
Anxieties of Adult Learners
Motivating Factors in Adult Learning
Recognition of Prior Learning
The Learning Provider
Learning Needs Analysis
Overview of Course Design and Planning Process
During the Course
Creating an Adult-friendly Environment
Teaching Strategies
Experiential Learning
Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
After the Course
Tutor Self-evaluation
Management Review
Learning Needs Analysis

Learning needs analyses are undertaken in industry and business to determine the gap between the existing skills, knowledge and abilities of staff and those that are needed for the organisation to function at the desired level. Once this gap is determined, decisions can be taken as to the type of training required (if this is the preferred action) and the form of delivery.

Likewise, 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.

Why conduct a learning needs analysis?

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

Ideally, a learning needs analysis is conducted with a group of students before a course takes place. The consultation determines what type of course is needed. However, in many cases it may not be possible to conduct a learning needs analysis as a prescribed curriculum may be in place, or funding may be secured for running a predetermined programme. In such instances, providers may not have the luxury of developing the content with the students, or of changing elements of the course design. Instead they may need to persuade learners why a particular course is of value. Tutors should still consult the group to determine what their expectations are and to consider the most suitable methodologies to adopt.

Steps in Learning Needs Analysis: Design - Conduct - Analyse


When designing the learning needs analysis, the aim is to:

Assess the current situation

Define the problem - what gaps exist?
Determine if there is a need for training/learning
Determine what is driving this need for training/learning
Evaluate existing training
Assess the possible learning solutions
Ascertain information about logistical considerations/constraints


The following methods, or a combination of these methods, can be used:


Focus group - a small group is selected to represent the interests of the larger group and a group interview is then conducted
Follow-up surveys from previous students
Action Research

Ensure the culture and context of the respondents is taken into consideration, e.g. questionnaires may not be appropriate for learners with limited literacy levels. It is important to use open ended and descriptive questions that will elicit information. Pilot the questionnaires/ interview forms that have been devised so as to ensure sufficient information is received, as this will allow for revision if necessary.


Gather the information and sort it into categories that help you identify themes/topics that need to be addressed.

What topics/issues can be prioritised?

Which, if any, elements are common to all responses?
Are there any inconsistencies in the responses?
Are there any numerical values of relevance?
Is there a fit between the trends emerging and the capabilities of the learning provider?

Suggestions for Reflection

  What factors does the education provider need to consider when planning a course?
  How do you involve learners before you launch your programme?
  How do you analyse your learner's needs?
  How might you consider involving your learners in future?
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