Needs and Skills Assessment During the First Business English Lesson
ESL teachers when they meet their class for the first time should learn what students know and what they need to know. Even for General English in schools or university classrooms where students have more or less the same level of English. There should be some short tests to determine students’ gaps in knowledge, personal objectives or institutional requirements. Especially assessment is needed when teaching Business English. This essay will discuss types of assessments in the early stages of teaching Business English to students.
Students’ Reasons to Learn and Their Language Level
ESL teachers are often hired by companies to improve the English knowledge of employees. Every adult student has a different level of language knowledge due to background and learning experience at schools or universities. Hence, it is crucial for a teacher to undertake a level test, find out about students’ knowledge and therefore develop an individual course for everyone. Since the aim is to ascertain the English proficiency, a General English level test should be conducted, with no specific Business topics. Five level scale system is suggested: Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate, Lower Advanced, and Advanced.
Also Read: Why is English Important in Business?
An example of a level test taken from ITTT Specialized Course Teaching Business English is below:
Depending on the number of correct answers, an only approximate level can be indicated: Elementary (1 or 2 correct), Pre-Intermediate (3 to 5 correct), Intermediate (6 to 8 correct), Lower Advanced (9 correct), Advanced (all correct).
After completing the level test, the next step would be conducting a needs analysis. Mostly it is for gaining an understanding of what your student uses English for and what he/she wants to focus on. Business English is usually taught for adults, needs analysis with them can help to develop together a potential syllabus and fruitful learning experience. The analysis itself can be in a written questionnaire form and should be translated for lower-level students who can not understand what is asked from them. Also, it can be in the form of informal class discussion with the focus on students’ language needs.
An example of needs analysis from ITTT Specialized Course Teaching Business English is below:
This is only an extract from the full analysis test.
Also, a very important part of needs analysis is to discuss with students why are they learning English? How often and who do they communicate with at work? Under what conditions and circumstances? Is the goal to master fluency skills or to improve in specific areas and topics such as conducting interviews, writing emails, and giving presentations? For someone who is preparing for a business trip, it would useful to go over such topics as cross-cultural communication and awareness and so on.
Having the results of both level test and needs analysis a teacher can arrange groupings of students, bearing in mind Human Resources Department, as the company may have own requirements, too.
After all, the syllabus should be designed. It is important to choose materials wisely so that there is an authentic atmosphere in the classroom. Besides, the most important resource is the learner himself. They can provide case studies from their company, real materials they need to read and understand or prepare a presentation for example.
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Nevertheless, it is also important to be flexible with a syllabus and focus on the goals and needs of each student!
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