This post was updated to include a shareable version of my needs assessment on 7/09/17!
Conducting a school counseling needs assessment is a crucial step in running a successful counseling program.
What Information do you need?
A comprehensive guidance curriculum is, well, comprehensive and you run the risk of overwhelming your staff if you survey them about every possible topic a counselors could cover.
However, if you can get administrative backing to perform a comprehensive assessment, then I say go for it. (You can find examples of teacher and parent needs assessments based on ASCA’s standards and benchmarks in my school counseling binder on TPT.)
But most of the time, if you want helpful information in a timely manner you will need to narrow down the focus of your assessment.
Have no fear! You can still collect a lot of information in a consolidated needs assessment.
FLASHBACK: I started my first school counseling job in February…YUP! Just shy of 3/4ths through the year…the beginning of our “testing season”…teachers are trying to wrap up the third marking period…everyone’s neck deep in what they have going on…not the best time to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment.
So there I was -> All eager to help, but not sure of where to start!
I narrowed the focus of my first needs assessment by covering social, emotional, and behavioral topics since they were considered my primary duties. This made conducting the survey more manageable for myself and for my teachers.
Communicate with stakeholders
Be clear to your teachers about their role in the process, how the data from the needs assessment will be used including what they can expect in terms of services.
- Include the people who are participating in the survey
- The last day to complete the survey
- How the data will be used
- What they can expect in terms of services you will provide as a result of the data
- A timeline for upcoming services
Newbie Tip: Teachers are planners and are very detail oriented. They appreciate clear communication, advanced notice, and being included in the decision-making process.
I like to send out a brief summary outlining all of the details of the needs assessment. Feel free to borrow the following example and tweak it as needed:
Collect Perspectives Not Directives
In the end, you want to identify the biggest issues facing your students so you can plan your programming to fit their needs.
Data should drive your programming. Be careful to word your survey so that they are asked to gauge the level of need for specific topics rather than how to deliver services.
Rate the level of need for the following topics VERSUS Select the topics you would like covered in guidance lessons.
The first choice will identify the needs of the students and allows you to make decisions based on the school as a whole. In comparison, the second choice only tells you what the teachers would like to see in their individual classes
Use the questions to frame future services.
If you ask what frequency you should hold parent information nights and you offer weekly, monthly, and quarterly as choices…the expectation is that you are ready, willing, and able to hold parent information nights on a weekly basis.
If you are only able to hold parent nights monthly or quarterly then go ahead and leave off the weekly option. Your principal(s) and teachers will respect your strategic use of resources far more than you over promising and spreading yourself too thin.
Below is a copy of the needs assessment I conducted when I started my position in February. Feel free to copy and edit it to fit your needs…just click on the image and you will be prompted to save a copy to your Drive!
Do you ask different questions on your needs assessment? I would love to hear what you ask in the comments below!