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Needs Analysis Literature Review

Yuanyuan Sun, Sarah van Nostrand, & Courtney Van Evera

Colorado State University



This paper was submitted as a part of requirements for E634 English for Specific

Purposes course. The literature review was written prior to a needs analysis that was conducted

on the Natural Resources, Recreation, and Tourism 320 course (NRRT 320), within the Master

of Tourism Management (MTM) Pathway program at INTO CSU (the Intensive English

program at Colorado State University). This literature review focuses on researching some of the

approaches to conducting needs analyses for English language learners (ELLs). This research has

helped my colleagues and I choose approaches to conducting our needs analysis on the MTM

pathways program effectively. Moreover, my colleagues and I developed our supplemental

modules addressing the specific needs identified for English learners in the MTM pathways

program based on the results of our need analysis. The supplemental materials development

report can be found under the Instruction domain in my portfolio. This paper concludes with a

brief summary of the needs analysis we conducted.

Literature Review

Needs analyses are not only beneficial to creating effective ESP courses, they are a

necessity, as discussed by Johns and Price-Machado (2000). Needs analyses are viewed as an

integral part of the development of ESP courses, as well as a valuable tool to be utilized as an

ongoing process to assess student progress. Over time, needs analyses have grown in complexity.

While target language use was the primary focus in earlier needs analyses, they have evolved to

include other analyses such as discourse analysis and learner factor analysis (Basturkmen, 2010).

The target situation, present situation, learner factor, and discourse factor analysis were all

analyses that the analysts described in detail as it relates to the needs analysis report of NRRT



Nation & Macalister (2010) describes needs analyses as revolving around two major

components: target needs and learning needs. While target needs focus on what the student needs

to be able to achieve in the target situation, learning needs refer to what the student must do to be

able to learn. These needs can be further subdivided into needs, lacks, and wants. What does the

student need to know in order to be successful in the course? What knowledge or information are

students lacking when they enter the course? What do students want to get out of the course?

These are all questions that should be asked to address these three components. In order to

answer these questions, various types of information must be gathered and analyzed. Conducting

observations, interviews, corpus analysis, and formal and informal assessments are just a few

possible ways to gather this necessary data.

While the goal of a needs analysis is ultimately intended to address the needs of the

target population, it is important to note that needs analyses are not always completely objective

in their goals. Benesch (2001) explains that they are often used by institutions to get students to

follow well-known communicative practices, which is why there has been criticism that needs

analyses encourage the notion that needs analyses value language training over language

education (Widdowson, 1983).

Nation & Macalister (2010) also discusses the importance of evaluating whether or not a

needs analysis is reliable and practical. In order for a needs analysis to be reliable, data must be

collected from several different sources. Moreover, methods of collecting data must be

systematic. That is, for example, during one-on-one interviews with current students, analysts

should use checklists and be sure to ask the same questions to every student in order to ensure

consistency. With regard to practicality, Nation & Macalister (2010) considers how it may be

worth creating a method for ranking the types of data being gathered in order to guarantee that


the most important information has the time and resources required to be collected. Nation warns

against falling into the trap of collecting data simply because it is convenient. Every piece of data

gathered during the needs analysis process should have a clear purpose.

Jasso-Aguilars (2005) study of Waikiki hotel maids discusses the importance of

utilizing multiple sources and methods of data collection in a needs analysis, as well as

employing triangulation, in order to provide a well-rounded, multi-sided assessment of student

needs. Triangulation, a more current and encompassing approach to needs analysis, is a process

involving systematic comparison between multiple sources that can aid in eliminating

institutional or other outsider bias from the analysis (Jasso-Aguilar, 2005). Similarly, Maxwell

(1996), defines triangulation as collecting information from a diverse range of individuals

and setting by using a variety of methods (p. 93). Triangulation was used by Jasso-Aguilar in

his study of Waikiki hotel maids where he cross-analyzed data between three distinct sources:

workers, guests, and administrators. In another study, Hudspath-Niemi (2008) examined the

effectiveness of English as a second language (ESL) staff development programs in an

elementary, middle, and high school located in western Pennsylvania by employing

triangulation. In order for Hudspath-Niemi to enhance the reliability of her needs analysis, she

used triangulation to cross-analyze her three major data collection sources, which included

teacher focus groups, administrator interviews, and document analysis (Hudspath-Niemi, 2008).

This approach to conducting a needs analysis is appealing, in part, because it allows for a

broader view and multiple perspectives of the issue (Hudspath-Niemi, 2008, p. 60).


Currently, there are no published needs analyses conducted that apply to the specific

domain of Tourism Management. Therefore, the analyses conducted in our needs analysis stand


alone and are not meant to expand upon results of previous studies. The results gathered from the

needs analysis were used solely for the purpose of addressing the specific needs of future

pathway students entering NRRT 320 and developing supplemental materials.

My colleagues and I conducted the needs analysis during the spring semester of 2016.

The types of needs examined are closely related to the goals of needs analysis. Generally

speaking, target situation analysis and learner factor analysis help with indicating indispensable

tasks and skills in the course for students to master for the sake of academic success.

Furthermore, learner factor analysis and present situation analysis help with locating gaps

students have regarding NRRT 320 in terms of language skills and content specifically. Corpus-

based analysis serves as a supplemental tool to stress crucial vocabulary required to be known

and understood in NRRT 320. All of those stated above contribute to achieving the ultimate goal

of need analysis to create supplemental materials for students in NRRT 320, which provides

students with what they should already know going into the course, such as fundamental topical

knowledge and vocabulary that appears most frequently in the tourism management domain.

They also benefit students in self study, helping them with comprehension of course content and


The quality of data can influence the result of need analysis dramatically. Several data

collection techniques were employed by the analysts in order to gather information effectively

and efficiently. The main methods used in the need analysis are listed in the Table 1 below,

along with the main corresponding considerations of using the method.

Table 1

Methods and Considerations


Methods Considerations

Classroom observations Identifying the significant class contexts, required

(Language class at INTO AEP 152 ability and skills to complete most common class tasks,

and content class NRRT 320) students performance and lacks from the objective


Interviews Gaining in-depth information from the most closely

(Previous and present students in related stakeholders specifically students and

the pathway program, content instructors.

teachers, language teachers,

administrators etc.)

Analysis of classroom assessments Identifying most challenging tasks with clear criteria;

(course syllabus, assignment identifying the important moves for students to

guidelines and students submitted complete in the assignments and tasks; judging required

and graded class works, etc.) skills in the tasks based on the class objectives;

identifying possible challenges students face in terms of

language in the assignment.

Analysis of class materials Identifying the significant vocabulary in the target

(course readings, PowerPoints etc.) language use domain



Basturkmen, H. (2010). Developing courses in English for specific purposes. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Benesch, S. (2001). Critical English for academic purposes: Theory, politics and practice. New

Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Hudspath-Niemi, H. (2008). Historical case analysis of ESL staff development for mainstream

content area teachers in a pennsylvania school district (Order No. 3315393). Available

from Education Database; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: Social Sciences.

(304405034). Retrieved from https://search-proquest

Jasso-Aguilar, R. (2005). Sources, methods, and triangulation in needs analysis: A critical

perspective in a case study of Waikiki hotel maids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johns, A. M., & Price-Machado, D. (2001). English for specific purposes: Tailoring courses to

student needsand to the outside world. Teaching English as a second or foreign

language, 3, 43-54.

Maxwell, J.A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks,

CA: Sage.

Nation, I. S., & Macalister, J. (2010). Language curriculum design. New York, NY: Routledge.

Widdowson, H.G. (1983). Learning purpose and language use. Oxford: Oxford University