Needs Analysis in Language Teaching

Procedures used to collect information about learners' needs are known as needs analysis.


  • To find out what language skills a learner needs.
  • To help determine if a course adequately adresses the needs.
  • To determine which students from a group are most in need.
  • To identify a change of direction.
  • To identify a gap between what students are able to do and what they need to bo able to do.
  • To collect information about a particular problem learners are experiencing.

In many cases, learners' needs may be relatively easy to determine, particularly if learners need a language for very specific purposes.

In other cases, learners' needs may not be so immediate - for example, students learning English as a secondary school subject.

What are needs?

The term "needs" is sometimes used to refer to wants, desires, demands, expectation, motivations, lacks, constraints, and requirements.

The users of needs analysis

A needs analysis may be conducted for a variety of different users:

  • Curriculum officers in the ministry of education
  • Teachers who will teach from the new curriculum
  • Learners who will be taught from the curriculum
  • Writers who are preparing new textbooks
  • Staff or tertiary institutions

The target population

The target population in a needs analysis refers to the people about whom information will be collected.  In language programs these will be language learners or potential language learners.

Administering the needs analysis

Planning a needs analysis involves deciding who will administer the needs analysis and collect and analyze the results.  In some language programs, informal needs analysis is part of a teacher's ongoing responsibilities.

Procedures for conducting needs analysis

A variety of procedures can be used in conducting needs analysis.  Since any one source of information is likely to be incomplete or partial, a triangular approach is advisable.

  • Questionnaires: one of the most common instrument.
  • Self-ratings: these consist of scales that students or others use to rate their knowledge or abilities.
  • Interviews: allow for a more in-depth exploration of issues than with questionnaires.
  • Meetings: allow a large amount of information to be collected in a fairly short time.
  • Observation: observations of learners' behavior is another way of assessing their needs.

Designing the needs analysis

Decisions have to be made on the practical procedures involved in collecting, organizing, analysing, and reporting the information collected.  There needs to be a clear reason for collecting different kinds of information.

In a smal scale needs analysis may consist of:

  • Initial questionnaire
  • Follow-up individual and group interviews
  • Meetings with students
  • Meetings with other teachers
  • Ongoing classromm observation
  • Tests

Making use of the information obtained

The results of a needs analysis will generally consist of information taken from several different sources and summarized in the form of ranked lists of different kinds.

There is no direct application of the information obtained from needs analysis.  Although the information gathered is useful, it still has to be subjected to a greatr deal of interpretation before it can be usefully applied in program planning.

The primay goal of analysis is to bring meaning to the obtained information.

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