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Needs analysis procedure in language teaching was first introduced and used by Michael West in 1920, but then re-emerged during 1970 as a result of intensive studies conducted by the council of Europe team. Needs analysis was developed and was emphasized in ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and it is argued that it is not possible to specify the needs of general English learners. Hutchinson and Walters (1987) describe need analysis as the most characteristic feature of English for Specific Purposes course design. It is also notable that a needs analysis is the starting point for a syllabus/course design. It is a part of a curriculum development, and is required before developing a syllabus. Thus, the information gathered from a need analysis can be used to define the program goals or sometimes to select the most relevant material for the language syllabus.
Johnson K. (2008, pg.200) points out that: ''in order to plan a foreign language teaching we need to find a way of analysing learners' needs. What is going to tell us just how much, and for what purposes our learners will need which foreign languages, it is the process of needs analysis.''
Needs Analysis in language teaching and language programme design, can be defined as a systematic process which helps teachers to collect information and get an accurate and complete picture of their students' needs and preferences. Then they interpret the information collected and they make decisions about what to include in their programme, based on the interpretations in order to meet the students' needs. This process can be used in response to the academic needs of all the students, for improving their achievements and meeting challenged academic standards. However, this process sometimes does not involve looking at the learners' individual needs, but may involve looking at the requirements and expectations of other members involved, such as employees, parents, teachers and financial supporters.
Some probable resources for gathering information are: questionnaires, surveys, tests, observations and individual interviews. Generally a need analysis tries to get information on the situations in which a language is going to be used, the purposes for which that language is needed, the types of communication that are going to be used in the course and the level of proficiency that is required to develop a syllabus.
If a need analysis is used as a current part of teaching, it helps learners to reflect on their learning, to identify their needs, but also control their learning. Additionally, as Amie M. Casper (2003) states: '' The information gleaned from a need analysis can be used to help you define program goals. These goals can be stated as specific teaching objectives, which will function as the foundation on which a teacher will develop the lesson plans, materials, tests, assignments and activities.'' Thus, a need analysis helps you to elucidate the purposes of your learning program.
Syllabus design in TESOL:
All professional people, who are labelled as teachers or are somehow related to language teaching, sometimes in their career path will be responsible of creating a syllabus or at least they have created one. Basically, syllabus design is a key component of their course preparation. To start with, syllabus is defined as a statement of content, denoting what a particular programme is going to cover (Richards et al. 1985, qtd in Johnson K. 2008, pg.215), which means that a syllabus design involves planning course content.
David Nunan (1988, pg.8) comments on syllabus design by stating that: "A traditional syllabus design has been seen as a subsidiary component of the curriculum design. Curriculum is concerned with the planning implementation, evaluation management and administration of education programs, whereas syllabus focuses more narrowly on the selection and grading of context."
Syllabus design procedures are required for deciding what is going to be taught in a language programme. A basic step prior to syllabus design is need analysis. Knowing exactly what to your students want, and why they want to learn English is a basic feature in a syllabus design. Generally, a right syllabus is designed into manageable chunks that can be followed and interact into each other. It is important that the effectiveness of the teacher's class will be largely depending on how the lessons develop over time.
Then, the teacher has to decide the content of his syllabus. He needs to make sure what to include in the syllabus so that it is relevant to what the students need. When it comes to organize the syllabus, the teacher designs his syllabus based on his list of prioritized topics or areas of his study. He has to make sure that his selected topics build up on others, but also that he uses a broad variety of resources and activities. Furthermore, the teacher has to be sure on which of the four skills (listening, speaking, writing, reading) to focus on, and which ones are the most important for his students.
As you have read above, there have been identified three main stages in the process of a language syllabus. The first one is the needs analysis, then content specification and then syllabus organisation.
There are two approaches to syllabus design. Product approach and process approach. Most syllabuses are based on product approach. In the product approach the teacher, teaches the students and then he tests them in order to evaluate them (evaluate their performance). A product syllabus focuses on what is going to be learnt at the end of the learning process (the outcomes) rather than the process itself. Some product-oriented syllabuses are the following: the grammatical syllabus, the functional syllabus and the lexical syllabus. On the other hand, a process approach on a syllabus concentrates on the skills and the processes which are involved in the learning process.
There are different types of syllabuses in TESOL and they are the following: the situational, structural, topical, functional, notional, skills-based, and task based and lexical syllabus.
Description and rational of the syllabus items:
Having considered your needs, we have concluded to a relevant model of a syllabus designed especially for you. Obviously, what you are seeking for is the education of your receptionists for a better communication with your guests. Thus we are going to teach them those parts of English that are most relevant to them.
Our organising principle for the selection and grading of what is going to be taught in this two-week course are notional-functional categories. We have decided to take communicative categories as the main principle of our syllabus. Thus this specific course is based on a notional/functional syllabus as it is the most relevant type of syllabus for this purpose. This program needs to be practical and relevant to your receptionists' jobs. They need to learn how to use language under those several situations they face every day. The communicative functions were very carefully selected and sequenced according their usefulness to the receptionist and the extent to which they will meet the receptionists' communicative needs.
The syllabus is organised under the context hotel, which then is divided under a general heading (at the reception desk), with subheadings for specific activities. Within each situation, your receptionists will learn about aspects of that situation, and what language to use in order to communicate with the guests. We have ordered functions according to a chronological sequence because we think is more relevant to base the syllabus on the sequence of each action (what happens first, second, etc.), rather than grading them based on the associated language or grammar, as we are going to teach them how to use the relevant language under each situation.
At the reception desk:
Greeting the guests/Giving visitors a friendly welcome
Booking a room
Giving advise/ making suggestions
Dealing with complaints
The situations listed in the syllabus are going to be practised through several of activities which will help your receptionists to develop and practise their abilities to communicate more effectively in a variety of real-life situations required in their work.
The assumption that the receptionists already know the grammar has been a basic reason for starting this notional/functional syllabus, because what they need the most is to enhance their communicative skills when using language. Teaching based on this syllabus will add a communicative dimension to their already existing knowledge. We are going to activate this knowledge so that they will use it in order to do things with language (communicate better and learn functions of language under the context 'hotel').
Generally, a notion is a particular context in which people communicate. A function is a specific purpose for a speaker in that given context. In this syllabus the notion of working in a hotel, requires a numerous of functions, such as greeting the guests, giving/ asking information, making suggestions, dealing with complaints etc. Thus, the syllabus items are focused on how the receptionists use English, in which purposes they use it and what exactly they need to learn in order to communicate more effectively with the hotel guests. The syllabus items, based on the contextualised exercises will give your receptionists the chance to improve and enhance their communicative abilities through those numerous functions of language we are going to teach them.
The main reason for including those situations in the syllabus is because those are the most important situations in which a typical receptionist will take part in, and thus they need to work and practise their communicative abilities, but also they need to know what function of language to use under each situation. This is going to be done under several activities designed especially for this course. We think that the receptionists need to work their listening and speaking skills, as they are the most important skills they use in their work. Speaking skills are very important and they will be practised through role-plays between the students and the teacher. Listening skills will be practised through listening real life conversations, and then by completing activities related to the situations. It is important that effective speaking depends on successful listening.
We decided to work on the other skills too, but the main emphasis will be given on listening and speaking skills. Relevant vocabulary, grammar rules and structures, but also pronunciation will be integrated in each situation. Your receptionists will be given the opportunity to practise their skills in real life situations involving authentic language use.
Based on each situation, we have produced some exercises that present relevant instances of language. Vocabulary, grammar and functions derive from the situations selected. However, prior each situation we will teach them the appropriate grammar, vocabulary and structures of language they need to know. Under each situation, the receptionists will practise different functions of language. For example, when greeting visitors they will learn and practise relevant language on how to use language in order to greet their guests. This is also going to be done through listening several of greetings, based on real situations taking place in a hotel and produced by different people. We will give them the chance to practise listening comprehension through different listening activities. The receptionists must complete the comprehensions exercises in order to evaluate their understanding.
Also, after or before a situation, students will be divided into groups and they will be given different scenarios in where they have to practise the topic they are given. Some scenarios examples based on greetings, are the following:
Greet two guests as they approach the reception ( guests are an elderly couple)
Greet two guests as they enter the hotel (these guests are very tired)
Greet two guests as they enter the hotel ( these guests are very famous people)
Greet the guests as they enter the hotel (A family with two young children)
In this way, such a combination of elements will be associated with a fairly predictable language in terms of lexis, structure and function/interaction.
Each situation they are going to listen to or practise it orally, will have a different structure, function and lexical items (taught prior each situation). Thus, all syllabus items are organised in a way which will be closely linked to a practical activity or task that the receptionist may have to undertake during their work.
By the end of this course your receptionists will be able to communicate better under several situations, and they will also improve their communicative abilities.