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Needs analysis


: the gap between what is and what should be

Needs analysis involves compiling information both on the individual or groups of individuals
who are to learn a language and on the use which they are expected to make of it when they have
learned it (Richterich, 1983: 2).
Needs analysis (also known as needs assessment) has a vital role in the process of designing and
carrying out any language course, whether it be English for Specific Purposes (ESP) or other general
English courses.


Formal needs analysis is relatively new to the field of language teaching. However, informal
needs analyses have been conducted by teachers in order to assess what language points their students
needed to master.

Target Situation Analysis

In the earlier periods, needs analysis was mainly concerned with linguistic and register
analysis; needs were seen as discrete language items of grammar and vocabulary.
It later moved towards placing the learners purposes in the central position. Consequently,
the notion of target needs became paramount, and research proved that functions and situations were
also fundamental.
The term Target Situation Analysis (TSA) was, in fact, first used by Chambers in his 1980
article in which he tried to clarify the confusion of terminology.
Present Situation Analysis
Present situation analysis (PSA) may be considered as a complement to TSA. If TSA tries to
establish what the learners are expected to be like at the end of the language course, PSA attempts to
identify what they are like at the beginning of it.
A PSA estimates strengths and weaknesses in language, skills, and learning experiences. If the
destination point to which the students need to get is to be established, first the starting point has to be
defined, and this is provided by means of PSA.
The PSA can be carried out by means of established placement tests. However, the
background information, e.g.: years of learning English, level of education, etc. about learners can
provide enough information about their present abilities which can thus be predicted to some extent.
Needs analysis may be seen as a combination of TSA and PSA.

Strategy analysis has to do with the strategies that learners employ in order to learn another
language. This tries to establish how the learners wish to learn rather than what they need to
learn. Learners should be taught skills enabling them to reach the target. Motivation and the
fact that learners learn in different ways should be considered.

Means analysis tries to investigate those considerations regarding matters of logistics and
pedagogy that lead to debate about practicalities and constraints in implementing needs-based
language courses, providing info about the environment in which the course will be run.
Register analysis focuses on vocabulary and grammar (the elements of sentence). The main
motive behind register analysis was the pedagogic one of making the ESP course more
relevant to learners needs. The assumption behind register analysis was that, while the
grammar of scientific and technical writing does not differ from that of general English,
certain grammatical and lexical forms are used much more frequently.

Discourse analysis focuses on the text and the levels above the sentence- rather than on the sentence
itself, and on the writers purpose rather than on form. This approach tended to concentrate on how
sentences are used in the performance of acts of communication and to generate materials based on
functions. One of the shortcomings of the discourse analysis is that its treatment remains fragmentary.
Genre analysis refers to the regularities of structures that distinguish one type of text from another.
The term genre may be considered as the study of linguistic behavior in institutionalized academic
or professional setting, distinguishing four, though systematically related, areas: Knowledge of the
Code, Acquisition of Genre Knowledge, Sensitivity to Cognitive Structures.
1. Environmental situation - information about the situation in which the course will be run
(means analysis);
2. Personal information about learners - factors which may affect the way they learn (wants,
means, subjective needs);
3. Language information about learners - what their current skills and language use are (present
situation analysis);
4. Learner's lacks (the gap between the present situation and professional information about
5. Learner's needs from course - what is wanted from the course (short-term needs);
6. Language learning needs - effective ways of learning the skills and language determined by
7. Professional information about learners - the tasks and activities English learners are/will be
using English for (Target Situation Analysis and objective needs);
8. How to communicate in the target situation knowledge of how language and skills are used
in the target situation (register analysis, discourse analysis, genre analysis).

Getting Started
1. Needs Analysis
This might include surveys and/or interviews with professors or supervisors, prospective
employers, and students.
2. Program Design

This must include a systematic analysis of the English language skills required for the context. In
addition, active on-going input from be obtained from all participants concerning the program.
3. Language Skills and Instructional Strategies.
authentic language and materials, authentic tasks, collaborative small group work, visual support
for teaching, cultural integration, active learning and communicative techniques such as: Total
Physical Response, Language Experience, Approach, role playing, and dialog journal.(Shabaan,

Sample ESP Needs Analysis


Whats your job/intended profession precisely?

How much do you use English?
What fields/ topics do you need to talk about?
In which of these areas do you most need to improve your English?
Are you doing anything to improve your English at the moment?
Do you do anything else in English- CNN, subtitled movies, DVD, newspapers?
What resources do you have at home/ work? (Dictionary- bilingual/ monolingual, Internet access,
TV/ DVD, Press- newspapers or magazines)
8. Whats the next thing you have to do in English?
9. Any conferences/ meetings/ trips/ presentations coming up?
10. How far do you want to go with your English (listening, speaking, reading, writing)?




It is based on the principle that learning is

totally determined by the learner even
though Teachers can influence what is
The learner is one factor to consider in the
learning process, but not the only one.


It is seen as a process in which the

learner use what knowledge or
skills they have to make sense of the
flow of new information.
It is an internal process, which is
crucially dependent upon the
knowledge the learner already have
and their ability an motivation to use
It is a process of negotiation
between individuals and the society.
Society sets the target and the

individuals must do their best to get

as close to that target as is possible.


A learning-centred approach says: we must look beyond the competence that enables students to
perform, because what we really want to discover is not the competence itself, but how student
acquires that competence.

If we took a learning-centered
approach, we would need to ask
further questions and consider other factors, before determining the content and methodology of the


If we took a learning-centered approach, we would need to ask further questions and consider other
factors, before determining the content and methodology of the course


A learning-centered syllabus
requires that you shift from what you, the instructor, are going to cover in your course to a concern for
what information and tools you can provide for your students to promote learning and intellectual
development" (Diamond, p. xi).

Type of information gathered by NEED ANALYSIS

1. Need 2. Lack

3. Want


1. Identity
2. Motivation 3. Level