Most learners today have specific needs and, regardless of their level, want to feel that those needs are addressed in their English courses. That can sound daunting to a new EFL teacher, but have no fear! You can do quite a bit of customization for a learners needs even while working with our set curriculum. How exactly? Well, the first step is finding out what your learners’ needs actually are!
Enter The TEFL Lab’s Learner Needs Analysis.
The Learner Needs Analysis is a presentation that you can use when you begin a new course to interview your learners and see where they’d really like to focus their efforts in class. Are they learning English to reach a professional goal? Are they more interested in working on their listening or speaking skills? Your learners’ answers to the questions in this needs analysis will also tell you more about their motivation to learn English, how much time they can dedicate to independent studies, and what their expectations and objectives are.
We’ve got a handy note-taking page you can download here so you have an easy way to organize the notes you take throughout the process. Being able to refer back to the information you glean from this process throughout your time with a learner is essential, and having it all organized neatly is key. Print a few copies of these and keep them in a folder or binder with your other teacher admin papers so you’re always ready to run a needs analysis!
When it’s time to actually perform the needs analysis with one of your learners (or group of learners), take your time! It’s important to get as much information as possible from your learners during this process, so don’t rush. Also remember that the essential objective of this activity is to get information about what the learner needs, so if they use a bit of L1 or a translation tool to help get some of their ideas across, or if they make a lot of errors, don’t worry about those (you can note the errors for later, though!). Sharing your screen, you can open the Learner Needs Analysis presentation and tell your learners that you’d like to get some information from them about how to make this course enjoyable, relevant, and successful for them. Let them know that you are interested in hearing their honest answers to the questions on the page. Make sure you’ve got a notebook and pen handy, too! You’re going to want to take lots of notes during this activity so you can organize them later and refer back to them throughout the course!
Start with the questions in the light blue box. Ask each learner to answer those questions and make notes as you go along. It can also be helpful hear to make a few notes about any errors you hear– you might be picking up on fossilized errors or knowledge gaps that you can address in the next few lessons, or at another time in the course, so listen carefully!
After your learners have answered those initial questions, ask them to think carefully about their answers to the next questions, because this will help you to customize their English course to meet their needs. Click on the first circle and ask a learner to read the question that you see in the pop-up box. Allow learners to provide their answers freely, taking notes as you go. Ask for clarification or more information whenever you hear a suggestion or request that you don’t fully understand. Repeat this process for the other 4 questions in this section, too.
At the end, confirm the main points that you see on your page of notes, and let your learners know that you’ll use these to shape the course for them. It’s also a good idea to let them know that you will have several course checkpoints throughout the course where they can share their feedback about the course and you can make any adjustments necessary to keep things on track!
Once you’ve finished that class, it’s a good idea to organize those notes further. Make a clear outline of what students have said they like and don’t like about English courses, what skills they feel most and least comfortable with, what their expectations and objectives are, etc. Seeing this information put together in a cleaner way will give you a great idea of what types of activities you’d like to implement, what type of self-study assignments you can give them, and the things you’ll really focus on in your lessons.
Whether your learners are looking for more speaking, immediate error correction, review games every so often, study materials, podcast recommendations, grammar charts, discussion questions, or roleplays, knowing is half the battle! Once you know what motivates them and what they’re hoping to achieve in this course, you’ll have a much better idea of how to make it happen.