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For any course to be successful, it needs to fulfill the requirements of its students. In this regard, the first step in designing a user centered process is to understand the needs of the users. This gives rise to the concept of needs analysis. Needs analysis is inclusive of all those activities that are used to collect information about the learning needs of the students (Westerfield, 2010). It is concerned with identifying the wants, wishes and the desires of the students so hat better options can be developed for fulfilling their learning requirements. The aim of given project is to analyze the potential role of needs analysis in the process of designing a course for a particular group of learners.
A processional course for 11 weeks is to be designed in the UK. There are a group of 10 to 15 students. Majority of these students are from China. The target is to master in TESOL. TESOL International Association is the largest professional organization for teachers of English as a second or foreign language. This was formerly known as Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Language (Wall, 2009). The students from china are professionals who want a firm foundation in language, literacy and applied linguistics in relation to English language. The main goals of programs at TESOL is to understand a range of second language teaching approaches so that they can be adjusted and made suitable to the needs of different learner populations who are form diverse educational and ethnic backgrounds. The learner population of the present project, for which course is to be designed, belongs majorly to China.
Needs analysis is an approach that is aimed at making attempts regarding the collection of as much information as possible so that a comprehensive understanding of the needs and issues could be developed (Altschuld and Witkin, 2000). It is related to getting a clear picture of the current status of a learner. A user centered approach is about identifying the users, their needs, wants, their experience levels, ad what functions they want and need form a system. Needs analysis is based on certain underlying principles. According to these, the need based requirements of the users are complex and can conflict. Hence, needs analysis, in simpler terms is inclusive of all those activities that aim at identifying the wants, wishes, desires of students. The process can be time consuming or quick depending upon the context. However, it may require certain resources to conduct a needs analysis. These include surveys and questionnaires, interviews etc.
Significant contributions can be made by needs analysis to the course for the learners of this project. The course is a pre-sessional course which is to be designed for 10 to 15 students, majority of whom are Chinese (Clarke, 2003). With needs analysis, the needs of these learners could be identified. This will involve identifying the problems that are being faced by these learners. This will provide a base for the goals of the pre-sessional course that is to be designed for them. The goals can be stated as specific teaching objectives. These will perform the main function of acting as a foundation on which lesson plans, materials, tests, assignments and activities could be developed. These will comprise the pre-sessional course that is to be designed by them. Based on the identified gaps or problems, the needs of the students could be assessed which will help in customizing the course for them (Reed and Vakola, 2006).
There are various methods of conducting needs analysis. These are focus groups, interviews and surveys. For the pre-sessional course that is to be designed, needs analysis can be conducted by interview approach (Diallo, 2007). This will involve intense interviewing with those individuals that meet the specific selection criteria based on their personal experience. In this regard, the selection criteria for the interview will be to include those individuals who have had the same learning needs. as such, for conducting the needs analysis for the pre-sessional course, the previous students who have taken a pre-sessional course can be interviewed. Also, the students who are currently pursuing Med TESOL course can also be interviewed (Long, 2005).
Considering the various approaches for conducting needs analysis and data collection, the individual might feel to be confused and may assume that it is an impossible task to conduct needs analysis. However, it must be remembered that there no single approach for needs analysis (Haskins and Shaffer, 2008). The choice of the approach would depend upon the availability of time, money and other resources. But, the most crucial aspect to this is planning in advance. After identifying the most relevant and necessary components, reasonable amount of time need to be provided for completing the steps of the process.
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