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Nicholas Worth

Distance Delta Module3 (Spring presentation)

Application Task

Assessing student's needs obviously takes place at the beginning of a course. The method usually
involves a questionnaire of some sort, often combined with a discussion. The objective is to
investigate student's requirements and expectations of a course, their use of English outside the
classroom, their motivations, strengths and weaknesses. The analysis and subsequent findings can
then be used to inform decisions regarding course content, aims and materials.

Assessment takes place at various points in the course, typically at the beginning for diagnostic
purposes, at the end for measurement of student achievement and at various points during the
course to assess progress and check understanding.

In my experience Needs Analysis is often ignored for General English courses, despite the current
trend for a 'learner-centred' approach to EFL teaching. However, for Business and Special Purposes
courses analysis of needs is usually essential as, to be effective, the content of these courses needs
to be closely tailored to the students' requirements.

Regarding assessment, I have experienced several different regimes. Personally I regard accurate
placement testing prior to course commencement as essential. This testing should consist of an
assessment of each of the 4 skills with optional inclusion of grammar knowledge. A student might
well have differing levels of ability for different skills/systems and placing a student in a particular
band may involve a fine judgement. Unfortunately commercial considerations often result in
students being allowed to enter courses for which they are unsuited, to the detriment of all

During a course, mid-point is often a favourite time to assess how well or otherwise students are
mastering the course content. Usually a good teacher will have a fairly accurate idea of each
student's progress, having subtly assessed understanding and progress on a continuing basis using a
range of objective and subjective measurement methods. However a semi-formal mid-point test is
often motivating for, and expected by, the students themselves.

Testing of final achievement is important both in terms of the future study options of individual
students but also as a confirmation of the value of the course itself and the commitment which
students have shown. It is ironic that despite the popularity of the Communicative Approach to
language teaching Speaking ability often remains untested, presumably due to the practical
difficulties involved in administering and grading such tests.