The purpose of conducting this needs analysis is to find out what students already know, what they need to know, and what their preferences are. These needs assessments seek information related to language skills needed and known, preferences in learning, prior experiences, and common problems. The intended audience of these materials is teachers of these students, or teachers of students in situations much like the ones in which these targeted students are. The first analysis instrument is a survey for the other instructors in the institution. The second analysis instrument is a survey to be distributed to students on the first day of class. Since this course was designed for a multi-level elective class in the Program in Intensive English, you may want to modify the survey to suit your needs.
The responses from these instruments should be collected and analyzed to find patterns, groups of students, students who may struggle, or students who may need extra help. This information will guide the instruction that takes place in the classroom, as well. For example, if all students have a fairly difficult time speaking in English in front of others, the teacher will need to incorporate strategies into the lessons to help students feel more comfortable taking risks in language. If, on the other hand, students lack writing skills, the class can focus more on aspects of scriptwriting. These instruments will also inform the teacher of students’ learning preferences, and the teacher can address this in some way.
Unfortunately, needs instruments have limitations, and these are not without. These instruments cannot account for learners’ inaccurate perceptions of their needs. While it is extremely important to get feedback from the students themselves, teachers must realize that self-perceptions can be misleading. Another possible limitation of these needs analyses is that students’ needs change. Students may start with one set of needs, but several weeks later, have a new set of needs. One set of needs analysis instruments cannot fully account for these changes, so it is the responsibility of the teachers to continually assess the students’ needs.
The following table (adapted from Richards 2001, and Nunan 1989) highlights the hypothesized initial and long-term needs of the students. It also hypothesizes some of the unspoken agendas of the students. These needs and agendas are categorized into the following: language skills needed, situations where English is frequently used, situations where English is difficult, frequencies with which different transactions are carried out, perceived difficulties, kind of interaction, and whether or not communicative language use is important to success.
The following list hypothesizes the types of information required for a needs analysis of this group of students. The Pre-Class needs analysis instrument and the Initial Class needs analysis instrument seek to acquire this information.
Types of information required
1. Survey of students’ expectations
2. Survey of students’ motivation
3. Survey of students’ affective factors
4. Survey of students’ attitudes
5. Observation of gap between students needs and abilities
6. Survey of specific problems students have
7. Language proficiency and language difficulties
8. Subjective needs including learning strategy preferences, affective needs, learning activity preferences, pace of learning, attitude toward correction
(adapted from Nunan, 1989)