Something I have always wanted to create, as a teacher educator, coach and ELT freelancer, is a so called [perfect? universal? systematic?] ‘Needs Analysis Session’ in which I would be able to ‘break the ice’ with the new people in a simple and meaningful way, let them feel the excitement of a new project being started, and (most importantly!) learn about their needs and aspirations for what is coming.
The most logical suggestion (and something I keep doing, with more or less success) is asking people to complete a form before we meet. This form can ask direct questions, e.g. ‘What are your expectations from the coming 3 weeks of the course?’ ‘List three important goals you are setting for yourself for this month’, etc. It often depends on the culture, but I noticed that all these questions may be answered really briefly, without too much thought and detail. Why so? For many, many reasons, and I think the main one is seeing this task as a formality, some kind of ‘paper work’ to get through, something that no-one is likely going to read (or respond to?)
Is there an alternative way to approach ‘Needs Analysis’? Make it a process, a flow, from which everyone in the group could be learning (about the needs of the others, about ways to find out the needs and expectations of the audience, and hopefully, some ways of incorporating those needs into program/curriculum goals and outcomes).
One simple, even simplistic idea is to offer a conversation about this in a training session for teachers, and let them work in small groups, or pairs (or share on a visible display, e.g. Padlet Board, responses to the questions about themselves). Ask them to compare, find things in common, discuss differences. All together, discuss how the information shared may impact the process of the future course/project.
[Note: I am using the Hands idea and listed this activity in the ‘It’s in (Y)Our Hands‘ project, however, I am still deciding how exactly the template can be used online. Maybe, just in the slides this time.]
Then, together again, work on the specific outcomes and objectives. My theory is that if the group members are asked to complete the answers to those ‘Needs Analysis’ questions as a piece of homework after this kind of session, chances are that their answers will be more complete and detailed, and therefore, helpful for the facilitator/leader.
It may be a good idea to come back to those answers and discussion (or a Padlet Board?) some time around the midpoint of the course/project, to see what has been working well, and what needs possible adjustments and changes.
While it may look like a longer and more unstructured process at the beginning, it could save time and energy later, and help the group make decisions using the ‘data’ they all contributed to.
I am hoping to ‘test’ this theory very soon, with a new project I am starting. Hopefully, the sky will be clear again.
Your thoughts, ideas, feedback and questions are highly appreciated, and will help me in the planning/prep process. How do you conduct Needs Analysis with a new group, a new course, a new project?
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