Needs assessment

Needs assessment

Needs assessment

Larger institutions have more resources and, potentially, a greater number of students accessing peer support programs. As such, larger institutions may find it beneficial to have multiple programs that can offer more specific services. In contrast, smaller institutions may benefit from a single peer support program that offers multiple services. Determining the needs of the campus and the availability of resources may help in developing a program that can be integrated into other campus services.

One of the first steps that should be taken prior to the implementation of a peer support program within a campus setting is a needs assessment. The purpose of a needs assessment is to understand which type of peer support services might be beneficial to the student population, what needs the student population is facing, and specific delivery technicalities of the peer support program.

Examples of the information that should be captured within a needs assessment include:

  • Whether students prefer individual or group peer support
  • Length of peer support sessions
  • Areas of concern about which students wish to speak to a peer supporter
  • Days and times that would be most accessible to students
  • Barriers that students can envision facing when trying to access peer support services
  • How students would like to learn about peer support services

Engaging in a needs assessment sets the tone for creating responsive peer support programming and helps to ensure students are empowered to influence programming that best meets their needs.

Questions should only be asked within a needs assessment if they can realistically be offered to students. For instance, if only group peer support will be realistic for the post-secondary institution to facilitate, then students shouldn’t be asked whether they are interested in receiving individual peer support. The only exception to this is if the post-secondary institution envisions that it may be possible in the future to facilitate these projected peer support services.

The needs assessment should not be limited to current service users, but instead opened to all students to gain the perspective of the entire campus population. It may also be valuable to deliver a needs assessment to campus support staff (such as health and wellness centre staff, residence staff, accessibility advisors, off-campus housing support staff, etc.) to ascertain what they perceive as being crucial for peer support services on campus.

Once a needs assessment has been completed, it is vital that the information gained is actually applied to programming decisions. It is also crucial that opportunities for feedback be made accessible to service user, and continuous evaluation of peer support programming takes place (see the “Evaluation” section).

See Appendix B for a sample peer support needs assessment.

Guide: PDF Version