NEEDS ANALYSIS IN ELT by xeniawinifredzoe



                                 NEEDS ANALYSIS IN ELT
                                   By Eleni Bindaka and Marisa Christopoulou

         This paper presents a needs analysis project we have developed for the General
English (GE) class. Needs Analysis (NA) is an important means of carrying out
research prior to designing and evaluating lessons/materials/syllabus and it helps draw
a profile of students/course in order to determine and prioritise the needs for which
students require English (L2). (Richards et al, 1992, cited in Jordan, 1997:20)
     Our NA project aims at establishing the students’:
    personal profile
    motivational profile
    needs and wants
    lacks
    target needs
    learning styles and strategies
    strengths/weaknesses
     In other words NA is the first step carried out before a course and it is the process
of establishing the what and the how of the course/syllabus. (Evans, 1998: 121-26)

      There have been several surveys of approaches to NA in EFL since the term was
first introduced by Michael West in the 1920s but almost all concern ESP mainly
because of two reasons:
1. Early NA focused on English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) which later
     changed to Academic (EAP). (West, 1994: 1)
2. The belief that GE learners’ needs can not be determined (Seedhouse, 1995: 59)
     because it is taken for granted that General English learners learn the language in
     a TENOR (Teaching English for No Obvious Reason) situation. (Abbott &
     Wingard, 1981)
Nowadays NA is an umbrella term covering several approaches, namely:

1. Target-situation Analysis (TSA)
It is the well known Munby’s influential approach and model which focuses on the
learner’s needs at the end of the course and target level performance. (Jordan, 1997:
2. Present-situation Analysis (PSA)
Richterich and Chancerel (1997/80) propose a PSA which focuses on the learners’
competence concerning skills and language at the beginning of the course. (Jordan,
1997: 24)
3. Learning-centered Approaches
Hutchinson and Waters (1987) propose a learning-centered approach as ‘a process of
negotiation between individuals and society’, the latter including syllabus, materials,
teaching method etc., and divide needs into necessities, lacks and wants. (Jordan,
1997: 25)
4. Strategy Analysis (SA)
SA focuses on methods of learning i.e. preferred learning styles and strategies.
(Allwright, 1982; Nunan, 1991) Learning style is identified as any individual’s
preferred way of learning i.e. auditory, visual, kinesthetic/tactile (Reid, 1987), while
learning strategy is the mental process the learner employs to learn the language.
(Nunan, 1991: 168)
5. Deficiency Analysis (DA)
DA maps existing proficiency against target learner proficiency determining
deficiencies/lacks with the use of a three-point rating scale (none/some/lots), which
establishes the priority that should be given. (West, 1994: 10)
6. Means Analysis (MA)
MA attempts to study the local situation i.e. the facilities, teachers and teaching
methods in order to see how the language course can be implemented. (Holliday &
Cook 1982 cited in Jordan, 1997: 27)

   NA can be carried out in a number of different ways which can be classified as
either inductive (case studies, observations etc.) or deductive (questionnaires, surveys
etc.) (Berwick,1989: 56-7) Some of the most common ones are: (West, 1994: 7-8)
1. Pre-course placement/diagnostic tests which estimate the language level of the
2. Entry tests on arrival which can have a diagnostic value and identify learners’
   language weaknesses and lacks.
3. Observation of classes which are of value mainly for deficiency analysis.
4. Surveys based on questionnaires which have been established as the most
   common      method     and    help   us       draw   a   profile   of   our   learners’
   needs/lacks/wants/learning styles/strategies etc. and at the same time make them
   aware of these
   needs/lacks etc.
5. Structured interview which consists of pre-planned questions the answers to
   which can either be recorded or written down.
6. Learner diaries which can be used as supplementary to end-of-course
   questionnaires offering retrospective, qualitative information.
7. Case studies which provide in-depth information about the needs and difficulties
   of individual learners or groups.
8. Final evaluation/feedback usually in the form of questionnaires which provides
   information on the evaluation of the course and helps design/improve the next
It is clear that depending on the method of data collection NA can be (West, 1994: 5):
a. ‘off-line’, which is conducted in advance of the course, so that there is plenty of
   time for syllabus design and materials preparation.
b. ‘on line’ or ‘first-day’, which is carried out when learners start the course.
c. ‘on-going needs re-analysis’ which reformulates objectives periodically as
   awareness of the demands of the target situation increases and the needs become
   more focused.

   With so many approaches and methods of collecting data one might feel frustrated.
However it is important to have in mind that there is no single approach to needs
analysis or method of data collection and that a combination or adaptation to one’s
own teaching situation might be more illuminating. What is of paramount importance
to remember is that what really matters is not perhaps the data collected through a NA
process/project, but how we exploit it to our students’ benefit. In the light of the
above we favour the use of an on-line questionnaire (at the beginning of the school
year) which, as the course progresses and hopefully the needs awareness increases,
can turn into an on-going needs re-analysis. The following questionnaire is an
indicative example of an on-line NA, which can be adapted according to your
students’ needs, interests and profile.

Abbot, G. & P. Wingard (eds1981) The Teaching of English as an International
      Language, Collins.
Allwright, R. (1982) Perceiving and Pursuing Learner’s Needs. In M. Geddes and G.
      Sturtrigde (eds) Individualisation Oxford: Modern English Publications.
Dudley-Evans, T. & M. J. St John (1998) Developments in English for Specific
      Purposes- A multi-disciplinary Approach, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Holliday, A. & T. Cooke (1982) An ecological approach to ESP. Lancaster Practical
      Papers in English Language Education, 5 (Issues in ESP). University of
Hutchinson, T. & A. Waters (1987) English for Specific Purposes, Cambridge:
     Cambridge University Press.
Jordan, R. (1997) English for Academic Purposes Cambridge: Cambridge University
Nunan, D. (1991) Language Teaching Methodology, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice
      Hall International.
Reid, J. M. (1987) “The Learning Style Preferences of ESL Students”. TESOL
      Quarterly, 21(1)
Richards, J. C., J. Platt & H. Platt (1992) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching
      and Applied Linguistics. London: Longman.
Richterich, R. & J. L. Chancerel (1977/80) Identifying the Needs of Adults Learning a
      Foreign Language. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Seedhouse, P. (1995) “Needs Analysis and the General English classroom”, ELTJ,
      49/1, 59-65.
West, R. (1994) “State of the art article: Needs Analysis in Language Teaching”,
     ELTJ, 27/1. 1-29

This paper and the questionnaire were presented on December 6th, 2002 in Patras at
the State School Teachers’ Seminar organised by the School Advisor Nikos
Marisa Christopoulou has been teaching English since 1995 in primary and secondary
Education and has also worked in the private sector. She holds a B.A. from the
University of Athens. She is currently working on her dissertation for the MA degree
in Methodology with the Hellenic Open University and is teaching in secondary
education in Patras.
Helen Bindaka has been teaching English since 1977 in secondary education and TEI
and has also been working as a teacher trainer at Patras’ PEK since 1992-93. She
holds a BA from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and attended Athens
SELME in 1984-85. She has also attended courses on Teacher Training, Methodology
and New Technologies in Cambridge and Brighton. She is currently working on her
dissertation for the MA degree in Methodology with the Hellenic Open University
and is teaching at the Peiramatiko Lyceum of Patras.

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