Thursday, 19 January 2012

ELTchat Summary Your experience using needs analysis with adult learners in EFL:

       Your experience using needs analysis with adult learners in EFL:
The ifs, whys and hows.
Let’s start with the IFs and Hows? 
I asked how many of us used some form of Needs Analysis with our adult students and received a variety of answers.
@Shaunwilden used them in-company but not in-school in the last place he worked.
@barbsaka does NA with conversation classes too, which she believes helps with the illusion of control.
@PatrickAndrews thought that teacher observation of needs was more useful than surveys.
@rliberni assesses the needs, and wants, of her students pre-arrival, sometimes by Skype.
@sueannan: My school asks for NA from the 1-2-1 students pre-course and does
in-class negotiations for the others. It is better to negotiate the syllabus with a class as they all
seem to want something different!
@DebCapras sends out her NA by email to give her students time to prepare.
@Marisa_C suggested that there were more informal techniques than questionnaires and
@michaelgriffin proposed getting to know you type activities as a way of collecting NA info
in an informal way.
@barbsaka: I try to give students what they really need in the context of what they think
they need/want
@SaeedMobarak believed that a NA wasn’t necessary as his students trust him to deliver what
they need. This wasn’t agreeable to everyone as some thought that this was a perfect opportunity to use a NA. He said that he gave the adult students a choice of what they wanted to learn too,
but not so formally.
@Marisa_C made the point that it appeared that NA were used in ESP more than in school/ university classes.

Is there room for student input in an auth way? eg grading, projects, collaborative

or group work?
@jankenb2 would replace discourse analysis by using what Evan calls simulation,
and challenge them with case-based learning scenarios, depending on level of students.
Now let’s look at the WHYs:
Do we work within a set framework, or use it to create the syllabus?
@Shaunwilden asked whether we should do a survey to find out what people’s needs are.
@rliberni uses them to identify where a student is, and to create a programme
to get them to where they want to be.
It was also decided that a NA will aid the syllabus design, although this threw up a
whole range of questions about whether Syllabus Design was taught to teachers these days.
More of this later..

@esolcourses: IMO, it's important to focus on learner needs rather than course/org

requirements - otherwise, there is little (if any) point to doing them.
@jankenb2 made a good point re different types of NA--formal ( to help get Ss to meet standards) and informal ( to help direct the class) When it comes to NA how much tacit knowledge of teaching is needed ?

What are the Difficulties?

@rliberni: I tend to assess the needs (and wants) of my students remotely before they arrive
so I can be ready - can be risky though
@theteacherjames: I had some trouble with negotiated syllabus. "You're the teacher,
tell us what to do!" I had to explain, "sorry, not my style!”
@PatrickAndrews: people are not always linguistically aware of their needs.

@barbsaka agreed, and said that her students loved to be asked about their needs
but their perception didn’t match the reality. I think most of us had experienced this
scenario at some time. She mentioned that her older kids were more aware, in many cases,
than the adults. @michaelgriffin recommended a need for training the learners to recognise
their needs.
@esolcourses suggested that even when students do have an idea the school/teacher is
not always placed to offer what they require.
@rliberni agreed that doing a NA during the first lesson gave the teacher no time to prepare,
and also takes time away from lessons. Many tests are made to test the grammar and
vocabulary and it isn’t always easy to test the writing.

@evanfrendo reminded us that needs are very different to wants. However, not all

private students are able to differentiate, although they will enter wholeheartedly into a programme
that has been tailored for them.
There was also the question of Who pays the piper? This can be at the root of many problems.
What if the employer perceives the needs wrongly, or sets unrealistic targets?
A discussion started about what to do when the employer insisted on a syllabus before the
teacher meets the students.

@esolcourses categorically refuses to do so, and explains her reasoning to the company.

@evanfrendo suggested making it as vague as possible, if a provisional plan would not be
acceptable. This would allow adaptation on meeting the students or at least could give an
example of what would be delivered.
@esolcourses thought that it was a waste of the teacher’s time.

@rliberni had a problem where the needs of the student and the employer were at odds.

@evanfrendo reminded us that there were many stakeholders to consider,
including the teacher. He suggested that the sponsors might observe a class so that everyone could agree on the priorities.

@theteacherjames thought he would look for a middle way and concentrate
on the student, while ticking some of the employer’s boxes.
It all boiled down to compromise!
 What should a Needs Analysis contain?
@Marisa_C: should learning preferences go in a NA questionnaire? This was seen as
very useful, as was a way of finding out what they can, and can’t already do.@jankenb2, a new participant, said that the construction of a good Analysis requires knowledge of qualitative and quantative measures, Bloom’s taxonomy or similar, the students’ environments and required standards. Producing the right kind of questions is paramount.

@  @michaelgriffin thought of a needs analysis as a menu of things for students
 to choose, select or rank for later work.  @DebCapras reminded us to check the students’ access
to technology and their comfort level with it as well as their language needs. She suggested that it might be possible to customise an off-the-shelf- company-driven course by using a good NA.
@rliberni suggested that a NA was a great way to take a snap shot of the starting point.
@DebCapras: Design a flexible syllabus and revisit NA regularly - make sure you're on track.
Regular feedback - not just at end
@jankenb2 :the right sort of questions are important as the NA will lead to an instructional framework.

     What do you do with the results?
      Personally, I design a syllabus and then take it back to the student for modification or agreement.
      This provides you with a working contract.  I also think that you must revisit the NA later in
      the course to see if needs have changed-as Marisa called it ‘stocktaking’! 
      This safeguards the teacher from problems and  any changes can be negotiated with the student. 
       It seems that it is not unusual for students to change their priorities in the middle of a lengthy
       course – it was suggested that this could be caused by: promotion, a new job, a new boss,
       changedexpectations or insight! @Shaunwilden pointed out that this was a problem for
       inexperienced teachers to recognise. We came back to the problem mentioned before:
       What skills do our newly- qualified or still-in-training teachers have access to?
       @Marisa_C asked whether all teachers had test and syllabus design skills.   @esolcourses agreed
       that it would be wrong to make assumptions as it was not always focussed on in training.
       @evanfrendo suggested that few teachers have studied discourse analysis and would find it 
       difficult to analyse future language needs.
       @theteacherjames taught himself and puts it to use, designing as and when he needs to.
       Marisa offered to provide examples of syllabus designs done by her Delta Candidates, providing
        they were happy to do so as it is now covered in DELTA and DIP level syllabi.

A final point from @theteacherjames:
Whatever the result of a Needs Analysis is, we shouldn't underestimate
the effect of simply asking the students what they want.
It's all too rare.

Syllabus Design and NA)       recommended reading by michaelgriffin

michaelegriffin comfort survey
( this could be used as a self-assessment tool at the end of a course too)

This book has an excellent chapter on needs analysis

Evanfrendo’s blog NA tools
critical needs analysis           

Alex case on NA                    
R.West article                                                      
Needs Analysis for BE                    
Thanks to @leoselivan


C (2009) Jonassen on how post secondary education should structure
lessons in argumentation. With thanks to @jankenb2

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