Using environmental scans in educational needs assessment

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Environmental scanning refers to the many methods and resources that continuing professional educators use to assess their internal and external surroundings and the forces at work within the health, social, and political contexts to help them to identiy current and potential learning needs. This article describes the general techniques and sources available for environmental scanning, the advantages and disadvantages of scanning, a checklist for evaluating the quality and usefulness of documents that might be used, and a perspective on the ethics of scanning. Scanning provides apractical and systematic means of using data that is available to improve the continuing professional education effort.

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