Conducting a needs analysis may just about be the most important thing you do for your class. This applies particularly to smaller groups or individuals. So what is it?
Basically, it’s a way of finding out what your students want and need to learn. It consists of gauging their current ability level, and what they want to achieve. It goes back in part to finding out the reason why your students are learning English. If the answer they give to this question is too generic to be useful, some well-pointed questions will help you get the most from them. A needs analysis can be conducted either in conversation or by getting your students to fill out a form. However, it should be engaging, and you should maintain a written record for your own benefit.
Carol Rueckert, in her highly informative ESL blog, describes in detail what you need to ask in a needs analysis. In summary, you should gauge their ability in terms of reading, writing, speaking, listening, pronunciation and grammar, and try to find out which of these they are most keen to improve. Business English students may want to work on specific aspects of communication, such as reading and responding to business e-mails, telephone conversations or other business matters.
Similarly, Handouts Online recommends asking a series of questions including:
· What do you use English for now?
· What will/might you use English for in the future?
· What is your current level of English?
· What do you particularly want to study?
The advantages of using a needs analysis
A needs analysis is something that should be updated regularly, especially if students make either rapid or little progress.
Following on from a needs analysis, you can incorporate this information into your lesson plans so as to teach in a more structured and progressive way. Especially if students are at a higher level, lessons can sometimes become formless – in which case analyzing their uses and needs of the English language gives you the upper hand in helping them to level up.
A further summary of a needs analysis can be found over at TEFL.net. Check it out.
Do you use needs analyses in your classes? How do you conduct it? What benefits does it have?