Needs Assessment: A Critical Assessment for Adult ESL Learners

What is a needs assessment? A needs assessment is a group or individual assessment you can give adult ESL learners at the beginning of the semester to determine what their interests are. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the interests of your students. These interests will then identify what the topics of study will be for the semester. Adults are driven by interest just as all other students. So, if you can determine what these are, then the learning will be more effective and meaningful. The usual topics of study for adult ESL learners are community, shopping, work, transportation, time, health, school, and friends and family. As you can see, these topics are part of our everyday lives and therefore crucial for ESL students to learn and talk about. With semesters being relatively short, it is impossible for all the topics to be covered. Therefore, your class should select three or four topics to cover within the semester. It is important to explain to your students that not all topics will be covered.  This is especially important for them to know if they have a book because they will see that they didn’t get through all of it. How can you assess your students?

· Students can vote on their top four topics of interest.

· A survey can be given where students choose their top interests.

· Students can interview each other and practice asking each other questions about what their interests are at the same time.

· Students can take an individual simple assessment where they circle their top four topics.

Since adults need to learn English rather quickly to communicate with others on a day to day basis, these topics are crucial to helping them get around in the U.S. and be able to communicate with others and participate in their community. Most adult learners are very anxious to learn English and when they are interested in their learning and able to choose their own topics, they are vested in the learning.

Depending on the level of your students, the assessment should be modified. For beginning students, the topics need to be explained in detail as the students may not know what the topics consist of or mean. This can be challenging but not impossible. With the use of visuals and videos, students will be able to determine which topics they would enjoy learning more about. The lessons following the assessment should also be modified depending on the students' language level. Vocabulary in all topics are highly necessary to teach students. Through the use of visuals, dialogue, and role-playing, all students will find the content engaging.


 *Photo courtesy of Flickr


More about Adult ESL asessment needs

Ann Navarro

About Ann Navarro

Ann has teaching experience working with elementary students in the areas of bilingual education, dual language, English as a Second Language, and Reading. Ann holds a Masters Degree in Curriculum & Instruction with a Reading Specialist Concentration. She also has experience evaluating lesson plans for the Smithsonian Institution. In her spare time, Ann enjoys spending time with her family outdoors and reading.

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