|English for Specific Purposes (ESP): Teaching English for Specific Purposes (Peace Corps, 1986, 110 p.)|
|Chapter Two: Analyzing needs|
Three reasons you should conduct a needs assessment prior to development of an ESP course are:
1) to become acquainted with the institution and its requirements,
2) to identify how learners will use English in their technical fields, and
3) to assess the students' current level of understanding of spoken English.
A series of interviews and observations, as suggested here, will allow you to take advantage of the resources available at your institution to help you identify the particular skills that the learners will need to perform in English, and to create opportunities for students to engage in activities that give them practice in understanding and using language structures to perform those skills. The process outlined here will prepare you to select activities and materials which are appropriate to the learners' needs and level of proficiency.
The needs assessment phase of ESP program development will give you a better understanding of your students' needs and capabilities as English learners. Identifying these needs and capabilities involves identifying the functions for which the students will use English and collecting samples of authentic language. In analyzing this language your focus should not just be on the grammar of the language, but also on how it is used in the academic or professional context: that is, what role English plays in that specialty field and what students must learn to be able to use English in their technical work.
The main questions answered by the needs assessment, then, are:
What are the purposes for which the students will use
Will it be mainly for oral communication, written communication, reading, or to do research?
What language skills will the students need to develop in order to perform these tasks?
Will the receptive skills of reading and listening be most important, or the productive skills of writing and speaking -- or some other combination?
Your needs assessment will help you to answer these questions.