Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
An audience analysis is needed to identify the characteristics that affect trainee learning. The analysis includes information about learners’ educational background, previous training/learning experiences, relevant work experiences, and motivation for training/learning. This information helps instructional designers customize training for the intended audience.
Audience analysis also identifies training/learning requirements and training/learning outcomes. Training/learning requirements are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) that must be taught during training. Training/learning outcomes are the tasks that learners must demonstrate to ensure competent performance.
The purpose of the audience analysis is to determine instruction methods, materials, and media that will appeal to all learning styles. The objective is to describe the target population’s specific characteristics and entry level skills.
An effective plan for an Audience Analysis will focus on the following:
- Entry Behaviors. It is important to know what the learners should already know how to do in order to be able to achieve the established goals for the course. Entry behaviors are skills related to the learning goals that must already be mastered. Entry behaviors may not be specific to the learning objectives, but they may be required in order for the learners to achieve the new learning objectives.
- Prior Knowledge. Prior knowledge has to do with what the learners must already know about the subject matter.
- Attitudes Toward Training. It’s important to know what the learners think about the subject matter. They may come into a training session and consider the topic unimportant or irrelevant to their jobs. Learners must be able to see that training is relevant. If they don’t, it is the responsibility of the instructional designer to build the “what’s in it for me” factor into the training.
- Motivation. Learners must have some motivation to learn the subject matter. Using the ARCS model can gain attention, state the relevance, give the learner confidence that they can achieve the learning goal, and satisfaction that the learning goal has been obtained. It is important to ask the learner about their personal interest in the learning goal.
- Prior Achievement and Ability Levels. It is important to find out what the learners have already accomplished that is related to the learning goals. This is important to know so that the course does not begin at a level at which the learners have not yet achieved (the learners will become confused and frustrated), or at a level at which the learners have already achieved (the learners will become bored and uninterested).
- Health or Special Needs. Learners should be asked about health or special needs so that appropriate accommodations can be made. Learners with visual or hearing impairments may need to be seated at the front of the class, for example.
- Learning Preferences. All learners have their own individual learning preference. It is important to be aware of the individual learning preferences so that a learning context is created that is comfortable and conducive to learning. The instructor must be careful not to impose his/her own preferred learning style onto the group. It is also important to take adult learner characteristics into consideration when designing training.
- Group Characteristics. Group characteristics are also important. Finding out individual learner characteristics helps to identify diversity that may require special training accommodations.