Volunteers & Service Learning
Exploratory Exercises
Needs Analysis
Project Overview

What is needs analysis? How is it completed? Why is it important?

In simplest terms, a needs analysis includes all the activities used to collect information about your students' learning needs, wants, wishes, desires, etc… The process also sometimes involves looking at the expectations and requirements of other interested parties such as the teacher/teacher's aid/ tutor (you), administrators, financial supporters, and other people who may be impacted by the program (such as students' family members or employers). A needs analysis can be very formal, extensive and time consuming, or it can be informal, narrowly focused and quick. Some of resources for conducting a needs analysis may include surveys and questionnaires, test scores, and interviews.

The information gleaned from a needs analysis can be used to help you define program goals. These goals can then be stated as specific teaching objectives, which in turn will function as the foundation on which to develop lesson plans, materials, tests, assignments and activities. Basically, a needs analysis will help you to clarify the purposes of your language program.

How a needs analysis is completed will depend on the situation, who is doing it, why it is being done, etc… For example, in the first class I ever taught as a student teacher, my team-teacher and I really wanted to customize our instruction. We wanted our students to feel like we valued their input and opinions. We wanted them to see that we would implement suggestions that they gave us so that they would feel that this was really their class.

We put together a survey and a questionnaire to give our students on the first day as a sort of informal needs analysis that we could then use to help develop our lessons. We handed them out, and immediately panicked when we realized our students couldn't understand a lick of what we had just given them and that half of our first day's lesson was shot.

We ended up quickly sketching a mouth, an ear, a pencil, and an open book. By using our simple drawings and gestures we were able to get our students to raise their hands for the skill that was most important to them. After most of our students raised their hands for the mouth (speaking) and the ear (listening) we recognized that our detailed questionnaire and probing survey that focused primarily on reading and writing was not the right tool for needs analysis for that class.

We learned from that initial needs analyses, and as we continued to implement needs analysis through informal assessment over the semester to tweak our lesson planning, we became more flexible and better at figuring out our students needs and how best to meet them.

Complete the exercise of your choice and email it to Dr. Strong-Krause at diane_strong-krause@byu.edu.


  • Complete a needs analysis for your volunteer situation:
    Figure out the demographics of your students and what they need to get out of the class. Describe this in detail as well as how you obtained your information (Don't underestimate the value of talking with other teachers-or others who currently are or have been in your same situation!).

    Following are two links to BYU hosted sites that may help guide your collection: http://humanities.byu.edu/elc/teacher/syllabus
    The "Background and Pre-Assessment" module of:

  • Find out how the needs of the students in your classroom were assessed. Describe why you think it was completed the way it was. Do you think the needs analysis was sufficient? Why or why not?


  • What do you believe to be the most pressing need of your students? How did you determine this? Why do you think it is important? Is this need being proportionately addressed in your lesson plans? How? If it is not, how will you modify your objectives and lessons to attend to that need?
  • What do you really know about your students' needs? Before or after class or during a break, ask a student in your class why he or she needs to learn English. Describe what he or she tells you and then write a brief reaction (1-2 paragraphs) about it.


  • Think about the situation in which you are currently volunteering. What student needs is the language program meeting? What are some of the needs your students have that are not being met? How do you think the program administrators, teachers, etc. chose which needs to address? If you could determine the content of the language program, how would you go about doing so?
  • Have you ever taken a class that has made you wonder, "Why am I here?" How do you think students can help convey to their teachers what their needs are? When you are in a class, do you think about what you need to get out of it? What things do you do to either make your needs known or meet those needs on your own?


Exploratory Exercises

Project Overview

© Amie N. Casper 2003