Needs Assessment Plan
Never before has there been such encouragement for Inuit students to graduate from high school in order to enter into post-secondary educational programs. In April of 1999, the Nunavut Government came to unite the Inuit communities into the solidarity of one territory with an Inuit controlled government. There was much enthusiasm in the initial development phase of planning. Many people were hopeful that at last they could look forward to more Inuit taking positions of power in government. Unfortunately, when the time came to hire employees, there was (and still is) a lack of qualified people to fill the various positions.
Despite the creation of community high schools in the isolated communities across Nunavut, there are very high rates of dropout. What is disturbing is that most students who leave school do not choose other avenues; for the most part, these students are not enrolled in other programs (like vocational programs, Arctic College, or upgrading). They simply stay at home.
Unfortunately, this high rate of dropout is a result of a number of various factors. Nevertheless, it is not outrageous to believe that the choice to dropout could be influenced by the creation of appropriate Career and Program Plans for individual students. In the older grades, lack of motivation is often a factor in leaving school early. Career and Program Plans could help students see a goal to their work in school and thus encourage them to continue in their programs.
The Career and Program Plan (CPP) is mandated for use in Alberta and NWT schools and it takes into account requirements for graduation, career in the work world and admission to post secondary institutions (Storey, 1997). It is a plan that is created by the student and parents "with the assistance of the school, career development officers, partners in the community and mentors for the student prior to entrance into Grade 10" (Storey, 1997, p. 3). It is a plan that is continually revised throughout high school.
It is for these reasons that the Kitikmeot Board of Education has requested a Needs Assessment Plan to focus on improving the quality of the CPP. The following is a needs assessment plan which explores how Career and Program Plans can become more beneficial for students of the Kitikmeot Region.
Getting to know the clients perspective is very important in the beginning stages of the relationship between client and consultant. In this case the consultant is also a high school teacher at Netsilik School in the Kitikmeot Board of Education, who is the client. I, the consultant, have taught at Netsilik School for the last seven years and have seen the changes happen with the creation of community high schools and the birth of Nunavut. I have struggled with helping students develop their CPP and have experienced the disappointment and frustration when students decide to leave school without plans for their future. To create a non-bias Needs Assessment Plan for the Kitikmeot Board of Education, I must be able to step away from my role as teacher and become an onlooker with an open mind to change. It will be in this objective tone that I will explore the issue of improving the quality of the CPP process for my client, the Kitikmeot Board of Education. One positive aspect of my being a teacher, in the same board that is requesting assistance, is that I will feel a clear sense of ownership in the success of the problem - solving.
The following are some questions that were necessary to explore in the initial discussions with my client:
What are the expectations for a CPP (student, parent, teacher, principal, community)?
What resources are available for the teacher responsible for the completion of the CPP and where can they be found?
What people are involved in the process? What are their responsibilities?
What do parents and students need to know to complete the plan?
What funding is made available for the process?
What is the time allotment for this process and how does it fit into the scheduling of a students school life?
When is this process supposed to happen?
Who is going to do this? Who is responsible for implementing it?
Are there any considerations for teacher qualification or training?
Answering these questions helped in determining that the project is appropriate for instructional design solutions. Below, I have looked at 1) what should be happening with CPP, 2) what is happening with CPP, and 3) what the gap is between what should be happening and what is happening.
Firstly, CPP should be a process that starts in grade 9 and continues through to graduation; the long-term plan is to involve the student, parents, teachers, and the principal. The CPP is to be initiated in Grade 9 with the student participating in a half day workshop to introduce the concept of career to students and to make the connection between secondary school education and post-secondary training and careers; another expectation is that this workshop will "sell the importance of High School to the students [sic] future" (Storey, 1997, p. 12).
A Parent Night is to follow which will share information with parents about the variety of choices and options and will encourage parents to be involved in the CPP process. Next, an individual meeting with the student and parent will occur which is to encourage the student to dream of future and learn more about themselves (Storey, 1997).
Finally, ongoing activities are to occur which are to allow the student to gain experience and information about various post secondary options. This grade nine year is very important in the initial stages of the planning; items to complete include: a written form (listing strengths/difficulties/interests, and possible options/directions), a long term tentative course mapping plan, an interest inventory, and other such forms).
Beyond grade nine, the CPP is to be reviewed every report period and course selections are to be made as to follow the plan. Teachers are to stress career options in a variety of subjects and offer opportunities for job shadowing and work experience when possible (Storey, 1997).
It is expected that through this process teachers are knowledgeable about the qualification for programs and courses. Teachers are to communicate well with parents and students through CPP process and to be culturally sensitive to the relatively newness of careers options for Inuit students. Teachers are also expected to be able to access appropriate material for students and guide the process throughout the high school years.
What is happening is slightly different and, according the client, is creating difficulties for potential graduates. For the most part, any formal lessons and activities on career choices are considered by the students as dream planning so the resulting goals are often unrealistic or irrelevant; in reality, most students have an enormous difficulty envisioning themselves going out of the community for any substantial length of time so they often treat career planning as a fictional scenario. Although the majority of Inuit parents wish to participate in this process for their childrens future, it is difficult for them to address the issues involved. For example, many of the families now in Taloyoak have only recently abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and moved into town; they have strong family ties and the idea of their children leaving home for any extended period of time may be a horrifying idea.
For teachers, the CPP is often considered an add on to the already packed curriculum; CPP is not an accredited course so it is not provided the necessary amount of time within the school year to fulfil all the requirements of the program. The CPP is not formally reviewed each reporting period primarily due to time and interest by students. Teachers have not been given formal inservicing on the CPP process and few teachers have career counselling training. There is no funding that is specifically allotted for this process. Teachers feel they are doing their best in providing career information to students within their classes given the resources that are available (internet, course catalogues, personal experience) and the logistics of fitting career topics into already full course curriculums. Unfortunately, teachers feel that the process is quite haphazard in implementation and the teacher expectations are too great when compared to their knowledge and ability to access information.
These pre assessment questions answered, I believe the top key issues are: student ability in realistic goal setting; parent attitudes to post secondary careers; and, teacher time and training. At this point in the needs assessment plan process it was time to approach the client and ask them look at their priorities. Although there are obvious gaps between what should be happening and what is actually happening with respect to student and parent participation in the CPP process, the Kitikmeot Board of Education feels that the most tangible plan of attack to improving the CPP is to focus on the teacher element in the issue. The client was able to frame a question that will tackle their most pressing priority: What can be done to help teachers improve the CPP process for students of the Kitikmeot Board of Education?
With this focus in mind, I agreed to continue with the creation of a needs assessment plan; my pre assessment discussions leads me to believe that there exists sufficient justification to solve the performance problem by focusing on teachers. What follows is a needs assessment plan based on the question above.
A needs assessment plan is "a blueprint for collecting information about instructional needs" (Kazanas & Rothwell,1998, p. 57) The first step in a needs assessment plan is to determine objectives by exploring the desired results. In this case, the objective of the needs assessment plan is to find effective ways to better the performance of teachers in the guiding of students through the CPP. The needs assessment plan will provide recommendations for a variety of things that teachers must know, do and feel to overcome the deficiency of knowledge causing the performance problem (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998). Finally the needs assessment plan will give suggestions for the content of the workshop oriented inservice for teachers which is to be the final work product.
As the project is demanding organizational change, the objectives of the Needs Assessment Plan are written in question form (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998). The needs assessment plan will collect information to answer the following questions:
Knowledge: What do teachers need to know about careers and career planning? In what ways can teachers approach students and parents about CPP?
Resources: What information is available? How can it be assessed? Who can be contacted outside of the school?
Time: How much time should be allotted to complete the CPP during the various grades? Where should this time be taken? What important times or seasonal dates should teachers be aware of (applications to programs, career fairs, course decisions etc)?
Phrasing the objectives of the needs assessment plan as questions in these three categories allows one to visualize the type of material that can be presented to teachers in a workshop situation.
As this is situation - specific or a micro needs assessment plan which focuses on a single work unit (implementation of the CPP), the performance problem affects only a few people. In this case the two target audiences are 1) the performers which are the Junior High / Senior High team teachers of the Kitikmeot Board of Education, and 2) the decision makers which are: the Kitikmeot Board of Education, directors, supervisor of school, board consultants and the school principals.
As performers, the Junior High / Senior High team teachers will be most affected by the needs assessment process. They are the people who will directly undergo any performance change because at this point lack knowledge of how to best fulfil their role in the CPP process.
The decision-makers are important because without their support the needs assessment plan cannot be carried out successfully. The Kitikmeot Board of Education is responsible obtaining instructional support for the intended workshop and for accessing funding for the learning to occur. The Kitikmeot Board of Education will have to approve any time required away from regular duty so that the performers can undergo instruction.
It is important that all members of the target audience reflect on their personal values and beliefs about CPP because this will effect the interpretation of the results of this needs assessment (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998).
The Kitikmeot Board of Education has approximately 25 Junior High / Senior High teachers and five principals from the regions five schools. The Kitikmeot Board of Education is currently in flux and thus it includes approximately five members (directors and consultants). Within this population, there are number of subsets that need to be acknowledged in the sample:
long term teachers/ principals to the region (over 5 years, including transfers between regional communities)
long term teachers / principals to the community (over 5 years in the same community)
short term teachers / principals (less than 5 years)
new teachers / principals to the north
first year teachers / principals
teachers / principals with previous career counselling training or experience
teachers / principals who teach Career and Life Management courses
Kitikmeot of Education board employees
With so many subsets, it is important that all have an equal chance at participating in the study. Although it would be nice to be able to sample the entire population, it is unlikely that this is cost effective. Thus I will use a systematic sampling method to select fifty percent of this population (Kazanas & Rothwell,1998 ).
I will make a random list of all members of the population involved. I will systematically select every second name on the list to participate. According to Kazanas & Rothwell (1998), this is as good as a simple random sample and yet it is also easy to administer, understand and communicate to the decision makers who may not have had experience in complex research methods.
This section deals with how I will gather information about CPP needs. There are extensive distances between these isolated Inuit communities and the schools within them. Therefore, the data collection methods must be able to accommodate these logistical restraints. I purpose to use thirty-minute interviews with the sample population. These interviews will be telephone interviews; an initial list of questions will be sent via E-mail to the participants to allow them to prepare their thoughts before the interview takes place.
I will contact a specialist who is knowledgeable about career planning to participate in the actual telephone interview process. This expert will be involved in posing questions to the individuals and providing feedback. The expert will be external to the region and have no supervisory roles over the participating individuals and the sampling population will remain anonymous (names, schools, community). An expert is included in the study design because it is hoped that they will be able to pick up on the underlying issues in the interviews that may be left unnoticed by outside observers. An expert will be able to draw upon their previous career counselling experience when analysing the interviews during debriefing.
I will be responsible for collecting data during and after the interview using tapes and transcribing of dialogue. It is hoped that these conversations are relatively informal so that the individuals feel open to expressing their thoughts and feelings without fear of reprisal. The tone to be used in the interview will be positive and non-threatening. The questions will be termed to promote constructive feedback about CPP rather than venting or placing blame.
Questions in the interview will reflect ideas found in the critical incident method (Kazanas & Rothwell,1998). The participants will be encouraged to relate anecdotes from their firsthand experience about their situations in the CPP process. They will be given opportunity to discuss their challenges, successes and concerns about CPP. The stories will be compared to identify common themes and ideas about what is perceived as best practice and what is lacking in the performance. Any needed follow up to the questions will be communicated via E-mail.
A post-interview survey will be requested from the participants via E-mail so that they can relate any thoughts that they wished they might have included in the oral interview session. The survey will fall in line with the questioning style used in the interview. It is expected that this survey may undercover underlying negative feelings that were not originally communicated in the oral interview stage. It is hoped that these two types of information gathering techniques will create a well-rounded picture of the situation, expectations, and attitudes to CPP implementation by performers.
This data collection strategy is beneficial because it allows those who will be most affected by the needs assessment plan to participate in identifying needs. This participation will foster ownership in the project by those who are directly responsible for its success. The method also gives an opportunity to those in management positions (school principals, school supervisors etc) to be involved and give feedback. Interviews have a high incumbent involvement and a low management involvement (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998).
The time required to collect data for fifteen - thirty minute interviews is 7.5 hours (15 interviews x 30 minutes/interview = 450 minutes = 7.5 hours). Data compilation will take much longer; however, from the conversations in the pre assessment phase, it is suspected that certain themes will become evident early in the compilation. The post-interview survey will also require coding of evident themes. Although the prevailing attitude is that interview methods require a great deal of time when compared to other data collection methods (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998), I believe that the time spent is justified because it allows those most affected by the needs assessment plan to participate and gain ownership in the project.
The greater part of cost will be in the long distance phone calls and in the hiring of the expert involved. Whenever possible, interviews will be held after 6:00 pm when the rates for long distance calls is more economical. Holding interviews in the evening will also avoid the need to hire substitute teachers for those who are in class. Any exception to this time will require substitute teachers; the cost of this will be absorbed by the Board of Education. The expert will be paid for their time while interviewing (7.5 hours) and the time to debrief after each interview, approximately ten minutes each interview (2.5 hours). The cost to have the expert available will need to be negotiated. The overall cost of this data collection is estimated to be relatively high (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998).
The type of data collected is qualitative in nature (anecdotes, stories, cases). Thus fifteen - thirty minute interviews will produce a large of amount data. The information collected will yield information about the current situation, the challenges for CPP implementation, best practices, and suggestions for improvement. According to Kazanas & Rothwell (1998), interviews submit a moderate level of relevant quantifiable data when compared to other data collection methods.
As stated earlier, the telephone interviews are hoped to generate conversations that are informal and free flowing in nature. The topics and issues that are to be discussed will be written in question format and be sent to the participant ahead of time. These questions will be predetermined and listed in an interview guide. The questions are to be used as a guide to help the interviewer keep the conversation flowing freely and the participant on topic. I believe it is important not to bombard the participant with dozens of questions, so I will limit the questions to a maximum of eight open-ended questions to allow for participants to expand on their answers from their perspectives. The issues to be discussed focus on the topics of 1) experience and effectiveness of CPP; 2) teacher training or guidance; 3) resources; 4) challenges; and, 5) best practices. Below are examples of the types of questions to be used during the interview:
What experience have you had with the Career and Program Plan program?
How effective is the CPP program in your school / community?
What training or guidance (if any) is provided in this area?
What type of training or guidance do you feel would be valuable?
What are the resources that are available in your school / community?
What do you believe to be the major challenges in CPP projects?
What successes have you experienced with CPP projects?
If you could change the CPP process, what would you do?
These questions may or may not be asked straight out during the interview. In some cases the participant may talk to the issues without prompting in the course of the dialogue. There is no set order to the questions above.
There are also protocol issues to deal with in implementing this needs assessment plan. Because the participants involved in the study are part of the Federation of Nunavut Teachers, certain approval will have to be achieved to allow teachers to participate in the interview process. It should be clear that the information gained through the interview process is not evaluative in nature to individual teachers or principals. As it is the Kitikmeot Board of Education that is the client, their approval for the study should be obtained without difficulty. As well, each community has a District Educational Authority (an elected group of local people who oversee the school activities under the Kitikmeot Board of Education), which will need to approve the needs assessment process.
Results of the needs assessment will be reported to these bodies as well as a final report to be issued to all teachers and principals region wide . The results will be reported in a one page newsletter which will include how the results are intended to be used in future developments. It is hoped that ownership in the project will grow due to the inclusion of the participants in this feedback cycle. To promote open dialogue between the performers and the consultant, E-mail addresses and telephone numbers will be provided on all correspondence dealing with the needs assessment plan.
It is important in this needs assessment planning phase to decide how the data collected in the interviews will undergo analysis. Because the study design is primarily descriptive in nature, (using stories, anecdotes and personal accounts), I purpose that data be analyzed using a qualitative approaches. I will be observant to the various themes that appear frequently while reviewing the interview transcripts. Kazanas & Rothwell (1998) explain that qualitative data can be presented using frequencies or "the count of how often a problem occurs or an event happens" (p. 71). With this sort of numerical frequency count available, it is also possible to use means, modes and medians (Kazanas & Rothwell, 1998).
Thus, data will be analyzed using numerical frequency counts as well as narrative themes to capture a true picture of CPP across the region. These two methods of data analysis (generation of themes and numerical frequency) are favoured over other methods because they relatively easy to explain to decision makers (using charts, graphs) and yet retain the voice of the participants (stories, personal accounts).
The needs of the teachers with respect to CPP will be identified using the results of the data collection and analysis. At this point in the needs assessment plan it is important to remember that the needs assessment plan is to focus specifically on what can be done to help teachers improve the CPP process. The decisions that are made from the data must also focus on the performance problem of teachers. With this in mind, decision-makers will have to look carefully at the data analysis to look at the prevalent areas of concern that relate directly to teachers.
I believe that this Needs Assessment Plan is a feasible plan for looking at the instructional needs of teachers in working on CPP in the Kitikmeot region. The needs assessment plan requires resources that are currently available in the arctic: telephone conference calls, facsimile machine, E-mail access, teachers and principals. Only one external resource is needed which is the career planning expert who can be included in the interview process from Yellowknife, NWT.
Education is one organizational culture that seems to always be striving to better performance. This type of study is not unusual for teachers and principals; with the promise of confidentiality, the study is workable in the organizational culture of Kitikmeot schools. In the past similar needs assessments have been carried out by the North West Territories Teachers Association (NWTTA) which resulted in decision makers facilitating appropriate inservice or teaching training time and funding to carry out improvement programs.
Again, Nunavut requires educated Inuit youth to persevere in the existence of the new territory. Students need to become involved in their educational goals and Career and Program Plans are intended to help guide students in this process. Teachers are key to the CPP process so it is important to consider their needs. This needs assessment plan is intended to determine just what can be done to help teachers improve the CPP process for students of the Kitikmeot Region.
Storey, G. (1997). The Nuts n Bolts of Career and Program Plan Implementation Guide. draft #2. (unpublished).