Needs Analysis

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A Needs Analysis (NA) is a tool for collecting data to inform the development of a Course Syllabus. It usually consists of a series of questions, either written or verbal, designed to find out information about the learners’ needs. Nunan (1988) identifies two types of data: Objective and Subjective. Objective data includes information like nationality, age, first language etc. Subjective data is all about learner perceptions, and includes information like learner motivations, interests, and learning preferences.

I recommend reading ‘Syllabus Design’ by David Nunan (1988) for examples of NA, and how to use the data to develop a syllabus, but here is a brief list of what information you might want to capture in a NA.

  • Leaner profile: name, age, gender, disabilities, learning difficulties, occupation, DoB, contact details, languages spoken and proficiency
  • Learning history: qualifications, length of study, where studied
  • Learner English proficiency: placement tests, exams previously taken, qualifications
  • Learner motivations: employment, study, travel, pleasure
  • Learner interests: sports, politics, history, art, music etc.
  • Language needs: social, employment, study, everyday activities
  • Learning preferences: teacher, course length, lesson length, lesson frequency, course type, lesson schedule, lesson tasks and content

The data you collect in a NA should be used to inform syllabus design. For example, if you have learners who mostly use English for business, you might want to include content such as roleplays designed to replicate business interactions. Or you might have learners who are interested in politics and so you might include political vocabulary and expressions. The problem of course is that learners are individuals and so will likely have different interests, motivations and ‘needs’, and the teacher has to represent the needs of all the learners in the syllabus. They also need to be aware of their own biases and be careful of making assumptions about what they think is best for the learners.

If you are using in place of a traditional syllabus the lesson content should be random and the lesson activities student led, which means there is less need for a NA. However, I think the data collected in a NA can still be useful. The teacher’s role in a ‘ChanceEnglish’ lesson is that of a mediator and guide. The more the teacher knows about their learners, the better able they are to support them.

I have made a NA to be used in conjunction with using, and you can download it here: Needs Analysis

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