Number one for English language teachers

Needs analysis: Part 1

Type: Reference material

Needs analysis: what is it?


"There is no such thing as General English."

The statement above is not an actual quote, but more a summary of a point of view that comes from the world of teaching English for Specific Purposes (of which Business English is really just a part). The idea behind it is that nobody needs ‘General English’, because they all have their own specific needs for the language. I think that General English textbooks still serve most of my ‘General English’ students fairly well, but it does give an idea of how an ESP approach, and ESP students, are different. 


The magic word is the word ‘needs’. We can only start teaching an ESP student when we know what their needs for the language are. This is also true of all students of course, even if the only thing we find out is that they have no specific needs. The other thing we need to know before starting is what the students want. These two things are often very different from each other!

We can find out student needs and student wants by asking the students questions about themselves and the language (which is what we will be calling ‘needs analysis’ here) and then finding out how much you agree with what they just said (‘diagnostic testing’). Given the definition of diagnostic testing used here it seems obvious to tackle it after needs analysis, and it will be dealt with in the second article, on the subject of ‘First Classes’. 

Needs Analysis

When we are deciding how to go about needs analysis with a student/group of students, we need to think about two questions:

  1. What do we want/need to know about them?
  2. How can we find it out?

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