Before an instructional designer or a performance improvement specialist can determine a course of action to address a perceived need, data must be gathered and analyzed. Some may argue this is the most critical part of the entire process, since what is discovered in the data collection and analysis phases will determine the direction that the solution or intervention should take.
Whether the intention is to conduct an instructional needs analysis or a performance needs analysis, the intended outcome is the same: to identify the gaps (if any) that exist between where the target audience is now compared to where they could or should be.
All of the data collection and analysis practices described in this chapter should achieve this outcome. The skill lies in knowing what data collection tools to use and how to analyze the results of the data collection process.
Before deciding what data to collect and how it should be analyzed, we need to agree on a few basic concepts related to the nature of data itself. Guerra-Lopez (2008) points out that data must meet three basic characteristics:
Guerra-Lopez distinguishes between “hard” and “soft” data (an important consideration ...