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Business English, Professional English, Legal English, Medical English, Academic English etc.
Online peer-reviewed Journal for Teachers

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World)

English for Specific Purposes World

ISSN 1682-3257

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World) Home    Information   ESP Encyclopaedia    Resources    Contacts

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3.1 The role of needs analysis in an academic context

With the development of the field of English for Academic Purposes (and more generally of ESP) there emerged a tendency that students needs must be examined and considered in the design of materials. Hutchinson & Waters (1987) classifying needs as necessities, lacks and wants cover a range of interpretations. Necessities can be described as a what the learner has to know to function effectively in the target situation, and are seen by Richterich (1973:32) as objective needs. Lacks are analysed in what is called a deficiency analysis (Allwright & Allwright, 1977) where what a learner already knows is set against necessities. Wants then are what learners feel they need in order to operate in a target situation and are also called subjective needs. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) expand on the idea of needs by classifying them into target needs (what the learner needs to do in the target situation) and learning needs (1987:58). Some researchers also make reference to what they call objective and subjective needs (Richterch, 1980). Berwick (1989) provides three categories of needs, which he termed the language proficiency view of needs, the psychological view and the specific purposes view.

The link between needs analysis and language for specific purposes is examined by Mackay and Mountford (1978), Robinson (1980), Hutchinson and Waters (1987),Yalden (1987) etcStevens (1977:115), emphasizing the importance of determining students needs, states: A movement towards learner centered instruction and away from teacher centred instruction and the consequent demand that teaching should be designed to meet the precise need of the learner. According to Munby, 1978 and Yalden, 1983, needs analysis is the starting point for course design. Hutchinson and Waters describe need analysis as the most characteristic feature of ESP course design. (1987:63). Moreover, Richards and Rodgers (1987:47) view needs analysis as central to the processes by which relevant content for specialized language courses was determined.

3.2 Methods of identifying needs

Various methods have been established to identify the needs required and indeed, a number of methods are often used in combination. Berwick (1989) classifies the methods as either deductive, which provide information to be used as a basis for course design, or inductive from which courses can be generalized. Schroder(1981)suggests Questionnaires, interviews, participatory observations and thinking aloud as suitable tools for getting at needs. Other information gathering instruments (West 1994:7), which have been used, are case studies (Schmidt, 1981; James, 1984; Dudley Evans, 1988), learner diaries (OBrien, 1989; Parkinson & Howell Richardson, 1990) and tests (Floyd, 1984; Brooks & Grundy, 1990).

We focus our attention on questionnaires and interviews as these two research tools are used for the present study.

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