Discuss the role of needs analysis in an ESL programme for adults.give answer in points

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'Needs analysis' is an essential part of successful language acquisition and retention in adults. It identifies valid objectives related to real-life situations. Language is often used as a measure of a person's intelligence - hence, people have difficulty trusting doctors with what they perceive to be poor language skills. It is usually inflection and accent and a lack of vocabulary that hamper a person's fluency - definitely not intelligence.

A person's social standing is significant when doing a 'needs analysis'.  

 ..social background can be significant in how a person speaks.

and there is , according to William Littlewood's Communicative Language Theory, a

need to give learners extensive opportunities to use the target language for real communicative purposes.

As such, scientists, for example, 

necessarily make extensive use of such acts as definition, classification, deduction, and so on.

It was with this in mind that Widdowson (1978) in his book `Teaching Language as Communication’ proposed a different outlook and hence different method by which to teach  

built around a graded selection of rhetorical (or communicational) acts which the learner would have to perform in using English for his particular purpose.

Similarly, those in other professions or who learned English for other reasons can beneft from such

situational language teaching

thereby encouraging the teaching of grammar and vocabulary in various situations rather than for the simple purpose of teaching grammar and vocabulary:

– phrase books are a good example where the buyer of a phrase book is presented with the expected vocabulary he will need in the hotel, at the airport, in a shop or at a bar and so on.

When speaking about 'needs analysis', both subjective and objective needs must be considered. Parameters are set in consultation with learners themselves and are not based solely on academic purposes but a whole holistic approach.

Thus to list the essentials of a needs analysis consider :

  • subjective goals (centred around the person himself and his circumstances, his attitude, social status, etc)
  • objective goals (what must be achieved, levels of competence,etc)
  • the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • cognitive skills of the learner (how much he can retain and remember)
  • the needs and interests of the learner (associated with subjective goals)
  • language content (associated with objective goals)

Most practitioners have similar methods of analysis. Brindley recommends a 

multiplicity of (affective of) cognitive variables which affect learning, such as learner’s attitudes, motivation,  awareness, personality, want, expectations, and learning styles.

The eNotes questions and answers do cover some of the aspects relevant to a needs analysis in a contemporary environment.