|Training and Teaching: Learn how to do it (Tool)|
|4 The base-line situation|
The purpose of a target group analysis is to analyze the characteristics and features of the target group you will have to take into account if you wish to provide satisfactory and effective lessons.
If you are not aware of how the target group is structured, how the course is viewed, what previous experience the students have had and if you pay no attention to the wants and needs of your pupils your educational goals will most likely not be fulfilled. Although this is quite obvious, many trainers do not reserve enough time to make a thorough target group analysis.
The target group analysis has three aspects:
1 Group features
2 Individual features
3 Cultural analysis
4.2.1 Group features
With the help of a target group analysis you can in the first place bring out features common to the group. When you know the features of the group you know the entry behaviour of your class or training group to a large extent. Some important aspects you have to find out are for example:
Key questions the relations in the group the sex distribution cliques that must be broken up differences in authority differences in knowledge previous participation in courses
Questions to be asked
- What is the sex distribution?
- Has the group already participated in other courses or lessons?
- Are the group members familiar with each other?
- Is the group homogenous rather than heterogenous with regard to previous training?
The answer to these and similar questions will affect the manner in which you formulate your lesson plan.
4.2.2 Individual features
It is also important to determine the entry behaviour of the individual student. An assessment of individual students will naturally also highlight a number of features common to the group. It has the advantage that your valuation of the students becomes more finely tuned. Following an individual analysis you become more aware of the differences between the students and are able to act on this.
This phase in target group analysis should result in an overview of the past learning experiences of your students. These may have been achieved during previous schooling or during other courses that have been taken. Extracurricular learning experiences should also be brought into the picture. In addition it is important to find out about the learning methods the students have experienced in the past. Such an overview is called a learning history.
By conducting a learning history the following aspect may be taken in to account:
Which courses have been followed up till now? Did past courses
What kind of activities were called for in past courses?
Which things did the student like about past courses and which things did he/she dislike (for example a great deal of self-study, a lot of practical work, a lot of practice)?
What motivated the student to take previous courses and what is the motivation for this course?
The entry behaviour of the individual student consists of knowledge, motor skills and attitude
First knowledge and mental skills. Mental skills cover a wide range of cognitive processes. Included are problem solving, creativity, logical thinking, word and number skills. You have to find out whether the student or trainee appears to have the knowledge and mental skills necessary to undertake and complete the course.
KEY QUESTIONS: Questions to be asked
- What does the student know about the subject?
- What is the student's standard of literacy?
- What are the student's particular mental skills?
Especially in vocational training or technical education, where the emphasis is on learning a craft, it is important to analyze which motor skills the student has already acquired. You have to find out whether the student has the motor skills necessary to undertake the course.
Key questions Questions to be asked
- What manual dexterity does the student have?
- What specific motor skills does the student have?
- What previous scholing has the student had in use of these motor skills?
Finally you have to consider the student's attitude. Is the student enthusiastic, diligent, motivated, cooperative, social etc. Sometimes it is not the trainee's or student's own choice to follow a course. If forced, a negative attitude might result. It's also important to find out how your students learn and how they view the course.
Key questions Questions to be asked
- How does the student get on with the other students?
- Is the student diligent?
- Is the student enthusiastic and motivated?
- How does the student respond to advice?
- How does the student react on correction?
- How does the student learn?
Expectations with respect to content
A number of questions that should provide information about the expectations the student has about the course content can be added to those in the previous section. The important point is to clarify the aims the students have. What do they want or have to learn, what do they find important, what not and what reasons do they have for this.
Do you feel they are justified?
It is also important in this phase of your target group analysis to review whether your students share your interpretation of the way the subjects included in the course are elaborated. Suppose you are introducing new technologies at the beginning of the course, than it is important to determine there and then what your students conception of these technologies are and how these technologies will influence the local environment.
Try to estimate to what extent your perceptions compare to those of your students. If, for example, your course focuses on family planning, it is necessary to verify which of the themes you will be covering fall into a taboo area and are not open to discussion. It is unlikely that you will get answers to these facts by way of direct questioning. Perhaps it is wiser to approach and ask other trainers about their experiences.
The motivation of your students will be positively affected if you include the results of your analyses in your lessons. Since the type of questions that you should pose in this phase of your target group analysis depends strongly on the course you will be giving, no further examples will be given here.
4.2.3 Cultural analysis
Especially in the case you are not from the same area as your students and a long-term course must be conducted, it is of great importance to have some insight into the culture, the values and the norms of the people with whom you are dealing. If you do not, you will not be able to understand many of the things you notice. Irritations may result. The cultural analysis that you should make in preparing your lessons will probably be of a limited nature. It is sensible to focus on a number of practical points that influence the lifestyle of your students and are part of their culture. For the trainer it is important to estimate what effect these lifestyle elements may have on the lessons that he/she is preparing. Prior to commencing the course one could therefore pose the following questions:
1 What is the living situation?
There are a number of reasons why it is important to know the answer to this question. For example, if the student lives far away he or she may have to walk a considerable distance in order to attend the course. As a trainer you will have to take into account that a student may therefore already be fatigued even before the lesson begins. Furthermore, if a student lives in a house without a suitable space to complete homework or where there is no electricity, making it impossible to work after sunset, it might also affect the student's participation in the course.
2 What is the family situation?
You can inquire into the responsibilities a student has at home and into the amount of time which remains to study, if necessary. This question can also give you an impression of the family's financial resources. Can you expect your student to contribute to lesson costs, or more essentially, can you assume that the student has enough to eat and is therefore physically able to pay attention? Is it necessary to make provisions for the supply of sandwiches during the lunch break in your course planning?
3 What is the work situation?
In many cases students hold down a job as well. Their work will certainly influence their study performance. On the one hand, they may be tired because the work is strenuous. On the other hand, their job may provide extra motivation because they expect that the course will have a positive influence on their career.
4 What extra-curricular activities does the student have?
Extra-curricular activities may in.luence the behaviour of students during the lessons and must therefore be taken into account. If, for example, a student is very active in a political party or a trade union, he or she usually has a great deal of prestige, knows influential people, can arrange things through friends, etc. Such a student may (want to) occupy a special position with regard to the other students in the course. Extra curricular activities can also influence the students performance and the energy they have to follow the lesson.
5 What are the direct reasons for following the course?
Questions such as this one are not threatening to the student and can be asked directly, for example in an introductory interview. An individual contact realized in this manner is very useful, but you will have to exert some energy to bring it about.
Other points contributing to a cultural analysis which you could pay attention to in such an interview are:
Can you distinguish norms and values which appear to be important to the student in the area of religion, role patterns, respect for elders and/or superiors?
How does the student expresses himself or herself? Is the student open or reserved? Do you feel this is a personal quality or does it have to do with certain values and norms?
Do you have the feeling that you easily understand each other? Or do you notice a culture gap which causes you to misapprehend each others language (literally as well as figuratively).
Which forms of cultural expression do you notice in clothing, make up, hair style and so on? Do you have the feeling that the student is oriented towards western culture, or do clothing and other signals indicate, for example, an Islamic backeround?
4.2.4 How to conduct a target group analysis?
When conducting this type of evaluation it is important not to view the students as instruments to be used in showing off yourself as a teacher or trainer. You must actually involve them in the determination of the lesson plan and continuously strive to maintain communication. During discussions you should always try to keep an open mind for information supplied by your students.
A target group analysis can be conducted through personal discussions with your students and supplemented with information from your colleagues. During the discussions you should observe your students keeping in mind the questions exemplified above. It is logical that you will also want to collect concrete information on matters such as the knowledge level of your students and on knowledge gaps. You can acquire this information at the beginning of the course by giving a test.
The method described in this chapter gives you the opportunity to zoom in on your target group. Often the problem is that a comprehensive analysis takes more time than one has at one's disposal. If time is short, choose a number of questions to use for a personal interview and include the remainder in a sort of questionnaire. In any case try to have a personal talk with each of your students, however brief it may be.
A target group analysis is an essential part of the proper evaluation of the entry behaviour of the students and the group. The other aspects of the base-line situation have not been discussed yet and call for further consideration.