ESP Course Design

Needs Analysis and
ESP Curriculum Design
Chiou-lan Chern
Department of English
National Taiwan Normal University
The key steps of curriculum planning include gathering learner
information (needs analysis), designing course tasks, activities,
and choosing course materials, as well as assessing learners and
the program as a whole (Nunan, 1990).
• Review definitions and models of needs analysis with sample
questions on needs analysis surveys.
• Review empirical studies of needs analysis.
• Discuss course designs and syllabuses.
Definitions and Models of Needs Analysis
• Hutchinson and Waters (1987) discuss three kinds of target
needs: necessities, lacks, and wants.
Figure1. Hutchinson & Waters’ model of target needs
• The information of needs analysis will come from different
• Necessities can be explored at the workplace.
• Lacks can be identified by analyzing what learners can do and
match those skills with those needed in the field (i.e.,
• Wants are learners’ perceptions and are usually tapped through
questionnaires and interviews.
• Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) explained the
importance of collecting the following
information as part of a needs analysis:
Personal information
English language information
Professional information
Language learning information
Personal information
• Table 1. Sample personal information items on questionnaire
1. Gender: Male__, Female__
2. Age: under 20___, 21-25___, 26-30___, over 30___
3. Department: International Trade ____, Business Administration ___
Finance ___, Other (please specify) ___
4. Years spent learning English: 3 years___, 4-6 years___, 7-12 years,
5. English proficiency tests taken and scores:
IELTS ___, TOEFL ___, TOEIC____, Other tests (e.g., GEPT) ___
6. Why do you want to learn English?
to study___, to take exams____ , to apply for jobs____ , others______
English language information
• Table 2. Sample English language information items on a
Please rank your English language skills from 1 to 5, with 1
being not fluent at all and 5 being very fluent.
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
Professional information
• Table 3. Sample professional information questionnaire for an
EBP course
Language learning information
• Table 4. Sample language learning information items on a
Please rank how much you agree with the following statements from 1 to 5, with
1 indicating that you strongly disagree and 5 indicating that you strongly agree to
the statement.
1. I learn better when I see the words written down.
1 2 3 4 5
2. I learn better when I say the words out loud.
1 2 3 4 5
3. I learn better when I write the words down.
1 2 3 4 5
4. I learn better when I work in a group.
1 2 3 4 5
5. I learn better when I work alone.
1 2 3 4 5
6. I learn better when I actually carry out a task.
1 2 3 4 5
7. I use English words in sentences to remember them.
1 2 3 4 5
8. I try not to translate word for word.
1 2 3 4 5
9. I read English without looking up every new word.
1 2 3 4 5
10. I pay attention when someone is speaking English.
1 2 3 4 5
11. I try to relax when I feel afraid of speaking English.
1 2 3 4 5
12. I ask for help when speaking English.
1 2 3 4 5
• The following table shows examples of questionnaire items for
an EBP course that are aimed at workplace staff.
Please rank the frequency of the following tasks conducted in English at your
workplace, with1 indicating not frequent at all and 5 indicating very
1. Email
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
2. Memos
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
3. Financial reports
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
4. Minutes
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
5. Forms
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1. Phone conversation
2. Meetings
3. Product promotions
4. Video conference
5. Chat with coworkers
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
To find out workplace need:
• What English skills are needed most at work?
• What are some occasions in which English is required at work?
• What are some tasks that you have to perform in English on a
daily basis?
To discover instructors’ perceptions of students’ needs in a
specific field:
• What tasks do you ask students to perform in English?
• What do you ask students to read in English?
• What English skills do students need in order to learn content
knowledge in the field?
• How proficient should students be in English reading, writing,
listening, and speaking skills to learn content knowledge?
Summary of Needs Analysis
• Needs analysis is important in ESP contexts because students
coming from different fields have domain-specific needs. A
needs analysis includes more than just finding out about the
language students have to acquire. It involves knowing where
students come from and where they are heading to (Holme,
1996). Therefore, learners, instructors, workplace
administrators, and colleagues need to be involved in the
needs-analysis process.
Empirical Studies on Needs Analysis
Mazdayasna and Tahririan (2008)
Negrea (2010)
Lin (2013)
The data collected from needs analyses allow
course designers to set the main goal for the
program, choose an appropriate syllabus for
different courses, and select instructional methods
and tasks that match students’ needs as well as
industry requirements.
ESP Course Design
• Content-based instruction (CBI) approach.
• Task-based language teaching (TBLT)
• Hutchinson and Waters (1987): language-centered,
skills-centered, and learning-centered course
• Dudley-Evans and St John (1998): intensive and
extensive courses.
ESP course design:
Content-Based Instruction
• Content and language are on an equal footing, and
the type of language used is dependent on the
content. Content-based English instruction is
about teaching English in a specific
content/context, academic or occupational, to
learners with a specific purpose in mind.
ESP course design:
Task-Based Instruction
• The task itself is placed at the center of
instruction. Brown (2007) further emphasizes the
difference between pedagogical tasks and target
tasks, with the former being classroom activities
and the latter extending beyond classrooms (i.e.,
to mirror real-world tasks). Pedagogical tasks are
similar to role play activities that are commonly
found in language classrooms.
Three types of ESP course design
(Hutchinson and Waters, 1987)
• language-centered: identify linguistic features of
target situations in order to create syllabi and to
design instructional materials
• skills-centered: focus on learner performance
and competence, and language skills needed
• learning-centered: the learners as well as the
whole learning context (e.g., the learning process
and all interactions among the learners and with
the teacher, the material, and learning activities,
etc.) are taken into consideration
Two types of ESP courses (Dudley-Evans and St
• Intensive vs. Extensive courses:
In an intensive course, the learners are immersed in the
course for a specific period of time. An extensive course
runs in conjunction with other courses and takes up a small
proportion of learners’ schedule.
Most ESP courses are run intensively either to prepare
students with language and skills needed for a specific
content area study or to train company staff for specific
workforce tasks. However, in most university contexts, ESP
courses are offered along with other content courses and
therefore can be considered extensive in nature.
Roles of ESP teachers
• There are also different roles ESP teachers can play, either as
providers of input or facilitators/consultants. The former is a
traditional role of a teacher, who organizes the course and
controls the class activities and momentum; in the latter, the
teacher manages the class, with students or other instructors
providing necessary support in content knowledge or skills.
• Teachers as facilitators are common in team-taught ESP
classes where content-area professors focus on content
knowledge and English language teachers offer language
support to students.
Summary on ESP course design
• ESP courses can be designed based on content or tasks; they
can also be designed as language-centered, skills-centered, or
learning-centered courses. Finally, they can be organized
either intensively or extensively.
ESP Syllabus Selection
• The following is a list of different syllabuses found in the
literature that can be applied in an ESP context (Basturkmen,
2006; Carver, 1983; Flowerdew & Peacock, 2001; Hall &
Crabbe, 1994; Hutchinson & Waters, 1987):
– Lexicogrammar-based syllabus, which is form-focused and
centers around teaching structures and technical vocabulary
– Functional notional syllabus, which focuses on language
– Discourse-based syllabus, which emphasizes text cohesion and
coherence at the discourse level rather than at the sentence level
– Learning-centered syllabus, which focuses on the processes of
learning meaningful content rather than skills and linguistic units
– Genre-based syllabus, which focuses on materials and tasks from
authentic data in a specific genre
– Skill-based syllabus, which focuses on particular language skills
like listening, speaking, reading, or writing
– Content-based syllabus, which uses informational content and
contextualized language
– Task-based syllabus, which centers around tasks that students
will perform in a specific context (e.g., giving a presentation to
promote a product).
• Carver (1983) identifies three characteristics of ESP syllabus
design: the inclusion of authentic material, a purpose-related
orientation, and instruction on self-directed learning.
Classroom examples
• Yin and Wong (1990)
• Business communication course outline (Adapted from Yin
and Wong, 1990)
Business meetings
Face-to-face interactions
Business reports
Research techniques
Graphic aids
Business memos/letters
Oral presentations
chairing and participating in meetings, writing the agenda
and minutes
appraising, getting information, and counseling
investigating problems, evaluating alternatives, and
proposing solutions
Gathering information, drawing up surveys and
questionnaires, writing reports
selecting and designing forms to best represent quantitative
inquiring, informing, promoting and selling products
giving short individual or team presentations, and selling
• In Taiwan, Chen, Chiu and Lin (2011) conducted a study to
establish a curriculum model for tourism and hospitality
courses. They conducted an in-depth interview with experts in
tourism and hospitality and identified four curriculum
dimensions in the field: English for food and beverage services,
English for air flight services, English for hotel services, and
English for tour managers and guides. For each of these four
specific sub-fields of tourism and hospitality, different courses
were designed. For example, the English for Hotel Services
course included reception counter services, hotel telephone
services, customer services, transportation services, medical
and emergency management, and crisis management.
• The two examples of courses and classroom
practices were all based on a needs analysis in a
particular context that led to a course designed to
meet those specific needs. From the results of a
needs analysis, specific course objectives and
syllabuses can be drawn up and pedagogical
activities designed. Once a program is
implemented, ongoing evaluation is important to
maintain its quality.
• In this presentation, the importance of planning ESP courses
with data on necessities, lacks, and wants that match the needs
and common purposes of a specific field have been highlighted.
When the needs are identified, they should be worked into
concrete goals and objectives in a logical sequence. The next
step is to develop instructional plans, or a syllabus that
specifies the content of course materials, teaching activities
and tasks, as well as assignments for students to accomplish.
Finally, ways to evaluate students and assess their ability to
perform the tasks specified in the course are needed. Similarly,
courses need to be evaluated to see if the goals set out at the
beginning of a course have been achieved.
Thank you for your

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