Needs Analysis in Course Design: Converging Learners’, Instructors’ and Developers’ Voices
Needs analysis (NA), which is considered central to English for Academic Purposes course development, normally precedes course design. It includes the identification of potential students' motivation, needs and lacks. However, this approach has such drawbacks as present-moment orientation and distortion of results due to learners' misconceptions and set beliefs. This paper demonstrates that needs analysis can be extended to the materials evaluation stage and account for the needs identified by language learners, course developers and language teachers, thus mitigating possible distortions. The methods implemented in the needs analysis in focus involved surveys and questionnaires administered to potential learners at different stages of course design, questionnaires for teachers, and the authors’ understanding of the learners’ characteristics and the environment they function in. It is illustrated how the triangulation of NA sources assisted in developing new and improving existing materials in the international “English for Academics” project. Needs analysis is process-oriented and multidimensional when it penetrates the course design process actively engaging all the parties such as course developers, potential learners and instructors. It allows course designers to introduce improvements on different levels and to meet the needs of all the participants.