How much at the front end?

Found this instructional designer (and teacher) produced blog (Metacogitation) through a technorati search, and thought it was high time I buck up with a little Schoolin’ talk…it’s been a while
A post (one of two on the apparently new blog) talks about situational analysis and needs assessment and their utility in designing instruction – instruction ought to fit the audience first…the needs of the designer are a distant second (or more…).
I think the teachers of evidence-based medicine and population/preventive medicine have a lot to learn about this.  As I struggle to make both courses more relevant to students, I routinely ask the question – "What should your average practicing physician understand about power analysis, odds ratios and how to evaluate a screening program?"  What I DON’T routinely say is – "I wonder how many visual learners (as opposed to kinesthetic learners, for example) there are in this class, and how many of them were biology (versus chemistry majors)."  This is how I cut the utility of front-end analysis techniques…good instructional theory and practice should overcome individual learner differences so that the instructional designer should just have to concentrate on the "big-picture" needs and situational analysis.
However, I do find that it helps to challenge and be challenged in these notions every once in a while to make sure they still make sense…usually our learners help us with that.