Here Rothwell and Kazanas “describe selecting learner characteristics for assessment, suggest methods of identifying appropriate learner characteristics, discuss ways of conducting learner assessment, and provide suggestions about developing learner profiles” (67). On the whole, I found this chapter a thought-provoking one—at the very least (for someone like me, with little training/understanding of this part of the process/field) an excellent starting-off-point for further investigation. I’m thinking of this in qualified terms because, for example, the authors’ consideration of “geographical location” seems as though it is in great need of issues related to online learning. Considerations of learning disabilities and/or learning differences are also in need of some updating or additional thought. Rothwell and Kazanas only broadly and briefly considers this category as “the physically disabled and those suffering from special learning problems” (80). They note that it is “wise to indicate reasonable accommodation that can be made” for these learners; but, more than wise, it’s the law—and has been (in some form or another) for over two decades now (80).
In this chapter, Rothwell and Kazanas lay out a thorough-but-concise overview of the various ways one can/should conduct a needs assessment. This process is very much a diagnostic one, looking to “uncover precisely what the performance problem is, who it affects, how it affects them, and what results are to be achieved by instruction” (p. 66). I found interesting, and appreciated, the sheer variety of ways one can do this, dependent on the practicalities of the situation you’re trying to work in (and not based on one, ideal way to conduct such an assessment).