National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program

Interpretation and Education Needs Assessment Project

A park ranger shrugging her shoulders in a desert landscape. - NPS Photo - CC 3.0 Attribution

“ the future interpretation will very possibly become the most important single function of the National Park Service.”

D. Otis Beasley,
Ass't. Secretary of the Interior
April 1964

Interpretation and education in the NPS have been undergoing continual changes and evolutions for over fifty years.

As professionals, we change and revise who we are and what we do all the time.And as the field changes and evolves, training needs to shift and adapt as well. The Interpretive Development Program and the larger fields of interpretation and education face important and pressing evolutions, incorporating emerging scholarship and trends in response to wide-spread societal changes.

While individual advances and innovation exist throughout the Service, dramatic shifts towards globalization, digitization, and a learner-centered world impact the effectiveness of many of our current practices and require interpreters and educators to gain new skills to reach new audiences in the 21st century.

2014 I&E Needs Assessment 

In response to these evolving trends, and to provide an updated understanding of field training needs, the IDP team at Mather Training Center initiated an Interpretation and Education Best Practices and Training Needs Assessment project in partnership with the WASO IE&V Office and Clemson University.

Periodic needs assessments serve as critical tools for all NPS career fields to identify training needs and priorities. The last I&E training needs assessment was completed nearly two decades ago. It helped inform the development of the Benchmark Interpretive Competencies and allowed for the first interpretive renaissance.

Evolving from this foundation, it is an appropriate and exciting time to renew our understanding of our professional skills and competencies through this needs assessment project.

The Results Are In!

Thanks to over 1000 of you, we now have robust data to chart a new course for the Interpretive Development Program. See the Needs Assessment Report to review the Top 7 Training Needs (page 2) and many other useful results and insights that the report provides.
What's next for the IDP
The results of the Needs Assessment will be used to help develop and prioritize learning opportunities to meet the evolving needs of I&E practitioners. Learning opportunities will be listed on the Training page of this website, in the quarterly IDP newsletter, and in the new comprehensive Learning and Development Training Calendar. In addition, we will use the results of the Needs Assessment to begin updating and revising existing competencies and learning resources.
What's next for you? 
Work with your supervisor to complete your Individual Development Plan (the other IDP) using the Needs Assessment results to make a case for your training needs. In addition to learning opportunities offered by the IDP, check out our training grants opportunities, where you can identify training from other sources that will help you develop or hone your 21st century interpretive skills. Also, watch for opportunities in the coming year to contribute to the evolution of our professional competencies and standards -- the IDP newsletter is the best place to watch for these opportunities as they arise. (Contact to be added to the newsletter mailing list.)


Thank you!

Sincere thanks to all of you who took the time to complete the Needs Assessment Survey -- all those who contributed to the development of the survey questions -- and to the excellent work of our collaborators at Clemson University who conducted the survey and provided the report of the results. It is an exciting time in the history of the NPS and our professions of I&E, and we are excited that at almost 20 years since its inception, the NPS Interpretive Development Program has your support to continue pushing the envelope! Let's go!

A park ranger pointing toward a white building, with school children in the foreground. - NPS Photo - CC 3.0 Attribution

Legacy Documents and Resources

As we explore the way into the evolving interpretive standards and competencies, it is important to remember what came before and how we have already been moving toward this change. The documents below are some of these legacy resources, as well as information that the new I&E Learning and Development Advisory Committee used in developing this needs assessment.


The Needs Assessment Competency Lists & Tools: Other Useful Resources:
  • Original "Unfiltered" Competency list [DOCX, 45KB
    (Wow--our work is complex! This is the list from
    which the needs assessment survey was distilled)

Initial PowerPoints