SOCW 6311 Discussion: Planning a Needs Assessment

Discussion: Planning a Needs Assessment

Social workers are often among the first to identify client problems that have not been addressed by current services in their communities. “Rather than bemoaning the lack of resources, many social workers” promote the addition of new services or modification of current services to address the unmet needs they have discovered.

needs assessment and the benefits that would occur when a need is addressed form the bookends of a program. The activities and interventions you have planned for programs in your logic models form the bridge between needs and the benefits that clients and communities would obtain when the need is addressed.

You may have observed that we are reviewing programs backwards – after studying evaluation methods, we focused on the logic model which describes program investments of resources and services to achieve benefits for clients and communities and provides a structure for evaluations. The logic model is developed in response to the needs we have observed.

Program components are presented in this way to help you understand how each element of a program builds on the previous elements in a logical, systematic manner. Now that you know how logic models are described to stakeholders, you will understand how needs assessments are conducted, leading to decisions about the activities, services, and intended outcomes of our programs.

“Your task for this week [involves] generat[ing] a needs assessment plan for a program that meets an unmet need” related to mental health of students in schools.

Adapted from Week 8 Discussion, SOCW 6311, Walden University



  1. Watch this video: Chapter 2: Conducting a Community Needs Assessment: Part 1( The video describes methods of conducting a needs assessment for a program on reducing distracted driving by teen-agers. 
  2. Read:Chapter 3, Section 1: Developing a plan for assessing local needs and resources. ( Note that these authors maintain that it is important to understand the resources of the community when identifying needs and problems.
  3. Read:Chapter 6: Needs Assessments (pp. 115-143)in Dudley, J.R. (2020). Social work evaluation: Enhancing what we do. (3rd ed.) Oxford University Press.
  4. Skim:Chapter 7: Crafting Goals and Objectives (pp. 149-166) in Dudley, J.R. (2020). Social work evaluation: Enhancing what we do(3rd ed.) Oxford University Press. Read page 166 closely.
  5. Read:Tutty, L. M., & Rothery, M. A. (2010). Needs assessments. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed.,pp. 149-162). Sage. (PDF). A link to the chapter can be found in the Dashboard.
  6. Study this listof key features of a needs assessment (Stombaugh, 2012):
    • Frequency – How often does [the need] happen?
    • Duration – How long do the effects [of the unmet need] last?
    • Scope – How many people does [the need] affect?
    • Severity – How seriously are people affected [by the unmet need]?
    • Perceptions – How do people feel about the [the need]?
    • Understanding – Do we know enough about the need to identify a solution? (Stombaugh, 2012)



  1. The difference between a problem and a need and why it matters in social work practice
  2. How problems and needs fit into the logic model
  3. The types of questions that are asked in a needs assessment
  4. How to conduct a needs assessment
  5. Where to find information about the need I am assessing



By Day 3

To prepare for this Discussion, review the examples of needs assessments presented in the readings and the form entitled the List of Student Mental Health Needs in the Schoolswhich was adapted from the Wisconsin School Mental Health Needs Assessment created by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction with the assistance of social work faculty and students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

As soon as possible, select a need from this List of Student Mental Health Needs in the Schools. This form was selected for this discussion so you can see how an actual social work needs assessment may be conducted. Notice that it is presented in a form completed by the assessor, not a paper.

This format is typical for presenting information in our field and explains why you are asked to write in similar formats in this class.


  1. Select ONE need from this form for your discussion. Only one student per need is permitted.
  2. Describe the type of students who are affected by the mental health problem that you chose. Students may be at any level from pre-school to graduate school (your choice). Include any appropriate and relevant descriptors that may be useful in understanding the impact of the problem on the students you selected, such as approximate age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, appearance, newness to the school or community, language, or any other relevant feature. You may base your description on a real or fictional type of student. If you choose a real type of student, disguise any identifying features to protect their privacy. (1-2 sentences).
  3. Select a relevant need that school staff and/or social workers could meet that would mitigate the problem. Choose the need for your discussion from the list of needshere.

This list was drawn from the Wisconsin School Mental Health Needs Assessment form used by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Keep in mind that the description of the need should help you recommend a strategy for mitigating the problem because the meeting the need forms a bridge between the problem and the solution.

Post your responses to 1, 2, and 3 FIRST as soon as you decide on your problem. Please do not choose a need selected by another scholar in the class so we can have a wide-ranging discussion.

You can finish your discussion in the forum later. The usual deadlines will apply.


Locate a research article or an official government-issued informational report that provides information about the type of mental health need that you selected from the list.

Begin your complete original post by re-posting your responses to # 1, 2, and 3 so your original discussion post is complete without gaps. Then continue with the following questions.

  1. State therecommendations of the authors for meeting the need as described in your article. (3-4 sentences), using the APA in-text citation format. Later, when completing the table below, use the article as the basis of informants’ views on what is needed by your target group of students.
  2. Using the article and your clinical judgment, write a situation statement about the mental health need you selected. Include the target group with the problem you identified. Suggest how a condition will improve or problems will be reduced when the need is met. (2-3 sentences). You may fill in the sentence below for your responseor write something similar:

[Your selected target individual or group] needs [the need you selected from the needs list]. The impact of the [need] affects [the target group] [how much/how often/in these ways/ – refer to the list created by Stombaugh, 2012 above]. The effect of this need on [the target individual or group] includes…..{whatever is relevant]. [Add more information about the need and its impact from the research article here]. Meeting this [need] will [solve or mitigate] the problem [state] for [the target group] by [describe benefits or improvements that you would expect from mitigating the need] ____.

  1. Identify two sources from whom you could gather credible information about the need and enter them in the template below (column 1) and explain what role the source has that provides their unique perspective as teacher, principal, school nurse, school security officer, social worker-therapist in the community, parent, and so on. Place this role information in column 2 of the template.
  2. Select an appropriate data collection method for each source and enter them into the template in the third column. Each data collection method must address one or more of the key elements listed by Stombaugh (2012). See the list in the What to Watch and Read section at the top of this post for more details on these components: frequency, duration, scope, severity, perceptions, capacity of the organization to address the need, and capacity of the organization to sustain a response to the need.

Copy and paste this template into your discussion for your responses to questions 6 and 7.

Sources of information on need, method used, and information obtained
Source What unique role does the source have in relation to the target group? 1.     What data collection method may elicit important and accurate information

about the need from

the source?

2.     What key component of the need (Stombaugh, 2012) would you

explore with this data collection method? (Select one from the list above).

3.     List one advantage and potential disadvantage of using this data collection

method with your selected source, considering characteristics of your source

and the type of information sought.



  1. Identify one new or interesting concept or method you obtained from the video ( Chapter 2: Conducting a Community Needs Assessment: Part 1).




Center for Community Health and Development. (2017). Chapter 3, Section 1: Developing a plan for assessing local needs and resources. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas. https://

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). (2016, September 29). Chapter 2: Conducting a community needs assessment: Part 1. [Video]. Youtube.

Dodson, L. & Luttrell, W. (2011). Families facing untenable choices. Contexts, 10(1), 38-42.

Dudley, J. R. (2020). Social work evaluation: Enhancing what we do (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Krähenbühl, S. (2011). Effective and appropriate communication with children in legal proceedings according to lawyers and intermediaries. Child Abuse Review, 20, 407-420.

Park, H., Zhan, M. & Choi, S. (2019). Associations between after-school arrangements and labour conditions of low-income working mothers in the United States. Journal of Family Studies. [At this time, only the abstract is available online.]

SAMHSA (2019, 5/17). How states can conduct a needs assessment

Stombaugh, H. (2012). Best practices in needs assessments: Six practical steps. [PDF]. [No longer available. Use the lists in the discussion as needed].

Tutty, L. M., & Rothery, M. A. (2010). Needs assessments. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed.,pp. 149-163). Sage. (PDF)

Yank, J. (2021). Common types of data collection methods with advantages and disadvantages. Adapted from Jacobson, M. (2010, February). Information collection tools – advantages and disadvantages. Paper presented at the 2010 ServeMontana Symposium, Helena, MT. Adapted with permission.