Meeting Student Needs

Meeting Student Needs

Meeting Student Needs


Meeting student needs.  But which needs and which students?


As with most things in teaching, and indeed in life, it’s all about transparency, compromise and balance.

If we wish to be effective teachers of English as a foreign / second language, we need to take into account a variety of student needs.  Some of these will be obvious, while some will need to be teased out as part of a guided discussion between teacher and student.  Many needs, both individual and as represented within the group, may well be contradictory.

The essential needs which emerge from both conversation and more formal analysis may well be determined by the following aspects: student age, occupation, preferred learning styles, learning objectives, cultural background, examination requirements, motivation.  In addition, we are often challenged by the competing needs of students (as they define them) and the needs of those people who pay the study costs (e.g., parents or employers).  Consultation and persuasion may be necessary with both students and their sponsors in order to reach a clear understanding of needs and how they can best be met.

Ultimately, we, as teachers, are in charge of decision making in the classroom but this should be based on appropriate levels of consultation with individual students and the group, as well as a recognition that both the individual and the group may exhibit a mixture of overlapping and competing needs.  Acknowledging and addressing differences and being transparent about teaching decisions is usually the best policy.  The joint establishment of both individual and group learning goals and an agreed study approach is a valuable starting point.  This may then result, where appropriate and possible, in differentiated learning activities, depending on the preferred learning styles of the students, e.g., visual, auditory, read/write, and kinaesthetic.

Ultimately, as teachers we are seeking to both analyse student needs and enable them to engage in meaningful self-analysis.  The trick is then to turn this awareness into practical and effective solutions that encourage, support, motivate and excite our students and ensure the success of the learning process.  As the seventeenth century Anglo-Irish author and clergyman, Jonathan Swift, states:

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible to others”.

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