Needs Assessment

Practice Relevance | CanMEDS roles

Needs Assessment

Needs assessment is the process involved in gathering information to identify the learning needs of the target audience. The learning needs are the basis for identifying appropriate learning objectives and the content and format of the educational activity. To identify the learning gap the SPC should describe the target audience, work environment or work activities, and demonstrate a valid professional practice gap from which the educational needs are identified. Identify preferred learning style and current knowledge or skill level, then determine desired knowledge or skill level.

The most useful needs assessments are those where multiple methods are utilized to identify educational needs linked to improved patient care. Here are some needs assessment strategies to help identify both the perceived and unperceived educational needs of the target audience:

NOTE: With the new National Standard released in Jan 2018, needs assessment tools are required to be submitted with an application (examples include past evaluations, focus group questionnaires etc.).

Perceived Needs

Self-recognized: I know what I want and need to know:

  • Survey
  • Interview
  • Focus Group Interview
  • Key Informant
  • Representative Planning Committee
  • Meetings with Colleagues
  • Evaluation of Previous CPD Activity

Unperceived Needs

Unknown to the learner: I don’t know what I don’t know:

  • Knowledge test
  • Chart Audit
  • Critical Incident Reports
  • Duplicate Prescription/Health Care Diary
  • Expert Advisory Group
  • Patient/Colleague Feedback
  • Direct Observation of Practice Performance
  • Data from Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
  • Provincial and national datasets

To uncover the needs of the target audience, the SPC should discuss the following questions:

  • How common is the need among the target audience?
  • How many different assessment sources indicate this need?
  • How significantly will the unfulfilled learning need hinder health care delivery?
  • How directly is the need related to actual physician performance?
  • How likely is it that a CPD activity will improve practice behaviour?
  • Are sufficient resources available to effectively address this topic?
  • How receptive will the target audience be to a session on this topic?

Practice Relevance

This is part of Quality Criterion 1 – required for Mainpro+ credits, but may be employed by all programs

To be eligible for Mainpro+ certification, all programs must be relevant to the overall practice of family medicine. Relevance is determined by assessing whether the program:

  • Fosters improved patient care by family physicians
  • Addresses at least one of the four principles of family medicine
  • Is within the scope of practice for family physicians
  • Has content and concepts that are evidence-based and/or generally accepted by the Canadian medical community


CPD activities usually address one or two roles FOR THE LEARNER at a time by tying them to the learning objectives.


Application to practice


Medical Expertise


Communicating with Patients


Collaborating with Colleagues


Coordinating Team Care

Health Advocate

Advocating for Improved Care


Contributing to Medical Knowledge Domain


Accountability and Ethical Practice



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