This process will give you, your colleagues, administrators, and most of all, your students great confidence in what you and your colleagues are teaching your students. It will serve as a legitimate basis for the goals and outcomes of your courses.
This empowering process is called a needs analysis. It is one of the most important things I have ever done as a professional, and I’ve done this everywhere I’ve taught.
And on top of all that, it can be stimulating and rewarding to do.
In brief, a needs analysis in an ESL context means finding out what skills students will need in order to be successful in the future. The future can be the following term when they will be in the next level of a program; it can be when they finish their ESL instruction and will be in college courses (e..g. English Comp); it can be when they are traveling abroad; it can be when they enter the workforce.
These range from simple surveys of a small group of former students to more involved interviews with college instructors.
How to find out what skills students need to know once they leave our course or our program
“I just feel that this is what students need to learn.”
“When I was in college, we had to do that.”
After the second day of a term, a distraught colleague told me that her high-intermediate level writing-students were totally unprepared for her course. Her course was supposed to build on what they had learned the previous level, but she discovered that the students had little awareness of what a thesis statement was or what topic sentences were. Many had trouble writing cohesive sentences.
We asked their previous instructor if he had followed the curriculum and worked on these with the students. He replied that he had decided to have them write a research paper instead. His reason: “When I was in college, I had to write research papers, so I decide that it was important that they know how to do that.”
Another instructor who was supposed to teach discussion skills for students to use in small groups, instead spent half the term having the student do presentations. Her reason: “I just felt that it was good for them to do this since they will probably have to do presentations in the future.”
Why these reasons have little or no credibility concerning what/how we should teach ESL