Needs Analysis [NA] came in with the advent of ESP in the late 1970s and conducting a Needs Analysis is especially popular in Business English courses.
There are a number of ways to do a NA but most involve an instrument of some kind which students complete and you then analyze.
Is a NA necessary or can it be counter-productive?
It all depends.
There is no point doing a NA if you cannot change the course to reflect the students’ needs. Some teachers do a NA on the first lesson and raise the students’ hopes of a tailored course, which may or may not be met. If they are not met then frustration can ensue.
If doing a NA is just a routine because a NA should be seen to be done, then it might be better not to do one.
1. You do a NA in the first lesson but your options for changing the course are limited. Is it worth doing? In this situation it might be better to fit the students to the course rather than pretending you can tailor the course [beyond the usual adjustments] to the students.
2. You do a NA analysis before the course starts and can write/tailor the course content to reflect the students’ needs: a NA is worth doing.
3. You do a NA analysis before the students are even selected for a language course and work with the institution/company to select which students would benefit from a language course. In this way you can help the institution/company make best use of scarce training resources. Who should be trained? Why should they be trained? What kind of training would they benefit from? These are the kind of questions you can help training managers answer. Then you can design the course.
The documents below will give you some ideas of different options for Needs Analysis instruments, though perhaps the best instrument is a blank piece of paper and an open mind and some good questions.
- A Self-Assessment Grid based on the CEFR: Self-Assessment Grid
- A different kind of self-assessment document: Self-Assessment 2
- An English Profile questionnaire for prospective students: English Profile
- A rationale and notes document about the English Profile document: Rationale and Notes
- An English Language Priorities document designed to help training managers priorities who should receive training: English Language Priorities
- A summary and decision sheet for training managers: Summary and Decision Sheet