How to do a needs analysis with a 1-1 student

Why do a needs analysis?

In the niche market of one to one tuition, students have the wonderful opportunity to pursue what matters to them personally while teachers have the stimulating challenge of flexibly tailoring each course to a subtly different set of needs and wishes. Not meeting a student’s expectations can be a source of dissatisfaction, but meeting needs effectively leads to a fulfilling experience for student and teacher alike. Happy customers are also more likely to be repeat customers.

Although a needs analysis is typically most appropriate in a business environment where specific uses and targets are well defined, a needs analysis on a general English course will still help you provide more value to the home tuition student.

How can I find out my incoming student’s language needs?

Wherever possible contact your student before the course starts to discuss their language needs and priorities. This will help you prepare for their course. A needs analysis helps to guide you in the kind of work which will generate the most value for that student, also tending to improve the student’s motivation and level of engagement. Finding out the student’s needs also helps to ensure that work can be targeted at the appropriate competency level, so it is suitable and also challenging.

What information can Homelingua give you about the student?

In most cases we can give you their approximate level of speaking. This is sometimes self-assessed, sometimes given to us by their booking agent; it may also come from completing our online placement test before arrival. We recommend emailing the student personally before they come as that sometimes reveals much more than self-assessment or online assessment.

Doing the needs analysis

There is no one right way to do this. Especially with 1-1 home tuition, students can have incredibly varied interests and motivations. Alex Case’s article on includes some suggestions on how to conduct a needs analysis.

1. Open-ended questions

  • What do you want to learn?
  • When do you need to use English?
  • Where do you want to use English?
  • Who do you need to communicate with?
  • Which topics are you interested in?
  • etc.

2. Skills / functions / grammar

  • Reading, writing, speaking, listening
  • Fluency in functional language, e.g. shopping, cooking, marketing, negotiating,  presentations, social conversation, sounding more natural, language of sequencing, etc.
  • Fluency and accuracy in grammatical structures, e.g. modal verbs, conditionals, tenses.
  • Formal and informal styles of speaking and writing.

3. Time / tense

  • Do you particularly need language relating to past, present or future?

4. By place

  • Do you mainly use your English at work or outside work?

5. Future goals

  • Are you working toward a specific exam?
  • Do you hope to get a promotion in your workplace?
  • How do you want to use English in the future?

6. Attitude

  • Do you prefer to learn by reading & writing, listening & speaking, experiencing & doing?
  • List the following in order of importance: speaking / reading / writing / listening / grammar / vocabulary / pronunciation.
  • What kind of activities do you like during lessons?
  • What kind of activities don’t you like?
  • What do you already do to improve your English – read magazines or internet articles/blogs, watch films, listen to music, use social media in English
  • Have you learned any other languages?
  • What is the best way to learn a language?

A needs analysis isn’t once-and-for-all

Students are giving us feedback all the time, whether explicit or not, about what’s working and what’s not working. Nevertheless it’s helpful to ask frequently about what they find useful and what they would like to do next. In addition, a more formal review could be carried out at the end of the first week, in which the teacher and student plan together what to cover in the following week’s lesson time.

Be realistic

Be sure to negotiate if students seem to have unrealistic expectations, and for your part, don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. Although it’s helpful to have a somewhat generic plan at the beginning to get the programme started, be prepared to throw out that plan if other needs, wishes or topics become relevant.

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