Conducting a Needs Analysis
Conducting a needs analysis is a way in which you can find out more about the needs of your students.
EFL teachers may find it useful to devise a needs analysis questionnaire, before designing a teaching programme, to make sure that their lessons address the students’ particular needs and individual learning styles.
Performing a needs analysis can be an excellent way for EFL teachers to find out more about their students and make devising lessons for them much easier in the long run.
Why perform a needs analysis?
It is always helpful to find out about students’ motivation, their prior learning experiences, the situations they are likely to use English in and which skills/language items they need to extra practice with.
Armed with this information, the teacher can select and create the most appropriate and useful learning materials and activities.
The needs analysis questionnaire
When creating a needs analysis questionnaire, it is best to use open question forms such as What…? Why…? How…? When… ? rather than closed questions which are likely to result in only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers.
It is also be a good idea to ask for a piece of English writing. The more students express themselves, the easier it is to deduce their capabilities and requirements.
What questions to ask in your needs analysis
A needs analysis questionnaire is often a good way of finding out about your students’ English language experience, their current level of English and their English language requirements.
For example, it is useful to know a little about their job, their company and their responsibilities at work.
If the student is not at work, you need to know where they use English, whether that is at university, at college, at home and/or socially.
You should include questions which allow you to get to know more about them and their interests, so you can make lessons more personally relevant and stimulating.
Example needs analysis questionnaire
Suggested questions for a needs analysis questionnaire:
What experience do you have of learning English?
When do you normally use English?
Who do you communicate in English with?
Do you use English at work? What for?
Do you use or need to use English in these situations:
- social situations
- meetings and discussions
- telephone calls
- report writing
- essay writing
- letter writing
How advanced are you using English generally, on a scale of 1-5? (1= beginner; 2= basic; 3= intermediate; 4= advanced; 5 = very advanced)
How confident are you using English in these situations?
- Introducing yourself
- Ordering food in a restaurant
- Asking for directions
- Talking about your job
- Making general conversation
- Writing a postcard
- Writing a letter of complaint
- Using the telephone
- Disagreeing with someone
What experience do you have of learning other languages?
What are your main 3 reasons for learning English?
What do you find most difficult when learning English? (e.g. speaking, writing, reading, listening)
By studying the answers to needs analysis questionnaire, the teacher can see exactly where the student requires the most help relevant to their individual life and job. Teachers can also see from examples of writing and classroom discussion the general competency level of the student.
Once you know a student’s needs and their current ability level, it is possible to identify the knowledge gaps and set targets for their progress.
The needs analysis can be used as you formulate the lessons so that each session moves the student a step closer to their target level in each language learning skill (reading, writing, speaking and listening).
The lessons should also address the individual goals of the student and consider if they need help with specific vocabulary to do their job.
Using the needs analysis to set targets
You can think about how to teach each point, using books, discussion, grammar exercises and multimedia, along with ways to measure progress (tests, comprehension checks, writing exercises, gap-fill exercises and conversations).
At the end of each month or term, teachers and students can re-visit the needs analysis as a benchmark to compare the starting point against the student’s progress. You can then see how close they are to their target competency level.
It is also important to conduct new needs analyses occasionally as student needs and goals can change. Perhaps they have a new job which requires them to talk to customers or use specific vocabulary, for example related to healthcare, education, finance, beauty or sport.
Measuring the needs analysis
When measuring the needs of students it can be useful to give an area of knowledge a ‘measurement of need’ using a scale of 1 to 5 from least important to most important.
This is especially useful if you are teaching to a curriculum and you want to analyse the competency level of each student within the set framework.
For example, considering the need of writing skills you could consider essay writing, business writing, report writing, letter writing, and social writing for emails and letters to friends. How important are these areas for the individual student?
If a student is working in an office where they need to answer the telephone in English, but their needs analysis questionnaire also states that they aren’t confident speaking on the telephone, their need to improve speaking skills would be ranked as 5 – very important.
The teacher should also make a note of their need for telephone English practice and incorporate this into future lesson plans.
Another example could be a student who has to write essays at university. Their need would be high (ranked as 5), for essay writing skills. Their lessons should focus strongly on improving writing skills within an academic context. So as the student is specifically writing essays at university, lessons could include a discussion of English essay writing practice and essay structure.
Learning words and phrases associated with expressing an opinion can also help the student formulate the arguments in their essays.
Needs analysis for lesson structure
In many cases, the needs analysis does not need to be measured in any formal sense against a set scale. It can simply be used as a general guide for creating lesson plans.
This is especially useful in private lessons where the teacher can structure a lesson specifically to the needs of the individual student.
If a needs analysis questionnaire revealed the student is a nurse and is also lacking confidence in speaking skills, the teacher knows that medical vocabulary is important and lessons could incorporate role-play in hospital settings.
Share your ideas about the needs analysis for TEFL
Do you think that it is always necessary to perform an in-depth needs analysis with a new student?
Are there any other questions you feel should be included in a needs analysis questionnaire for TEFL?
Do you have any tips or advice about lesson preparation?
What are the most common student goals in your experience?
Share your thoughts in the comments box below!