Author Topic: Needs Assessment  (Read 1804 times)

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Offline sanfran

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Needs Assessment
« on: January 28, 2016, 11:56:48 PM »
 :bluestar [Quick Needs Assessment Guide] :bluestar

After discovering the term “needs assessment,” I felt it necessary to compile a general guide for any teachers interested in knowing more about such a helpful tool comprised of an array of techniques (more than I even list here) suitable for your style of teaching. Additionally, I hope to provide some tips and tricks for implementing it in the classroom. 
So, if for some reason this page has caught your eye, let us begin by defining that a “needs assessment” is essentially an examination of the language learner and their background. This may include anything from a student’s native language, their perceived level of L2 proficiency, and a few realistic goals for the future, etc. It is, at the heart of it, a way for the teacher to premeditate the course structure before delving into a curriculum that could be strengthened with a little awareness of the of people you are instructing. To quote The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers “it provides information to the instructor and leaner about:

1.    What the learner brings to the course
2.    What has been accomplished
3.   What the learner wants and needs to know next”

As an important side note, a needs assessment may or may not be a survey. It most certainly can be, but there are many more methods that can take precedence. This, of course, is entirely dependent on your classroom and the specific variables that are at play.
Some possible techniques are listed and detailed down below. Again, this is by no means a complete list and you should feel free to expand upon the ideas presented to you.

Focus groups
Students get into small groups and follow a basic protocol of what to discuss. At the end of this, the teacher is able to note any patterns and/or similarities between different groups.
Individual Interviews
These are usually one-on-one or small group interviews conducted in either the native language or in English. During this, a teacher can have set of questions to ask the students. The teacher can also choose to converse with them naturally. Whatever the case, it’s important to focus your attention on recognizing any valuable information on what they hope to do with the L2 language and their interests. Build a rapport with your students! Learn their faces and names!
Inventories of Language and Literacy Use
Students keep diaries or lists of anything notable that they’ve learned via the L2 and/or how it’s contributing to their overall literacy in the language. It can even be more open-ended then that with the inclusion of experiences outside the classroom. This could be a great end of the week write up activity!
Students can create their own personal timelines, mapping out major past events as well as goals for the future and what the class can do to meet them.
As a class, you can brainstorm ideas with the students to get a general sense of what they’re hoping to achieve through the class and language. This can also coincide with generating an inventory, but unlike the list-keeping, it doesn’t have to be updated periodically and can just be done at the very beginning of the course instruction.

Offline msmiszoglad

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Re: Needs Assessment
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2016, 12:03:32 PM »
This is such a great idea! I do this every time with my students when I first meet them. I think it is so important in assessing students' knowledge, i.e. the knowledge they come with.
What I usually do is different based on what the focus of the class is.
For grammar, I have surveys to see what grammar tenses and aspects they have already mastered, so I created just a grammar focused questionnaire for that (see attachment for beginners--also ignore the Hungarian translation part)
For communication classes, I usually do interviews to try to get a gauge on what their strengths and weaknesses are. With these I usually go with very easy and personal topics so that they do not necessarily need to concentrate on what they are saying (meaning that they do not need to think hard on the content itself as it is something they already know (themselves)--plus, everybody's favorite topic is themselves.
Depending on whether it is a pronunciation class, I also have them maybe read out loud something to see where some of the more difficult areas are--and record it, which I also use to show them how they have progressed over the course of the time they spent with me.
I absolutely agree with this--it really is crucial for the teacher to see the knowledge students come with to tailor the curriculum accordingly.

In the writing courses I teach no, I always ask my students to write an essay reflecting on 3 different things:
1. Their strengths in writing and what they enjoy about it
2. What areas they want to improve and why
3. How they are planning to contribute to their growth as writers throughout the semester.

Thanks for sharing this!

Offline Randall Sadler

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Re: Needs Assessment
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2016, 01:27:56 PM »
Great post
Randall Sadler, Site Owner
Asst. Prof, Linguistics, U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Offline vabbott2

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Re: Needs Assessment
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 02:06:39 PM »
This is a really great post. I enjoyed reading it and learning that many other people have the same approach in building rapport. When you have this information about the students, you can draw upon their knowledge or expertise as you go through different topics during the semester. I find that helps them stay engaged, and it acknowledges them as people (with lives outside the classroom) and not just as students.