FOCI-XIII: @ Pamukkale University, Denizli, 12th & Friday 13th May, 2016
Review by Jonathan Smith
Despite being the thirteenth FOCI event held on Friday the thirteenth, this Forum on Curricular Issues (FOCI) focusing on the theme of Analyzing the Needs and Needing the Analysis went off without a hitch (well, maybe there were a few mishaps along the way but these were smoothed over the very welcoming hosts, Pamukkale University School of Foreign Languages). Curriculum developers from 23 different universities attended the two-day event.
As with all FOCI events, the participants spent much of the first day and the second morning in small focus groups addressing a particular aspect of the theme. In this case the three groups discussed: “Principles and Models of Needs Analysis”, “Data Collection methods in Needs Analysis” and “Implementation of Needs Analysis in the Curriculum”. Each focus group prepared a presentation for the whole group on the afternoon of the second day. As we were in Denizli, the hosts also organized a trip to Pamukkale on the day after the event.
As usual this was a welcome chance for participants to share ideas and effective practices and to focus on the “nitty gritty” of how different institutions have gone about conducting needs analysis. Some of the issues which I thought were interesting are as follows:
Needs analysis vs course evaluation
There was a lot of discussion about where on-going course evaluation stops and needs analysis begins. Maybe needs analysis really is a “way of life” rather than just a discrete all-encompassing research project that happens only once in a while. We need to be continuously comparing the implementation of our curriculum and the results achieved against the findings of our needs analysis. There is also room for more small-scale, focused collection of data (e.g on one particular skill or aspect of the target situation). I felt that many people left the event with maybe a broader definition of needs analysis than they had had when they arrived.
Not just a questionnaire…
Another point which I think was important was the fact that we often think of needs analysis in terms of doing questionnaires and focus groups for lecturers and students. However, one thing which came out during the discussions is the role of observation of lectures and recitations in faculty which can shed a lot of light onto the type of tasks learners will have to perform in the target situation.
What is truth?
When discussing how to reconcile all the different opinions different stakeholders have about the issues around language teaching, we found the concept of a defensible curriculum described in the pre-event reading (Brown, J. D. (2009) “Foreign & Second Language Needs Analysis” in Long, M.H & Doughty, C.J. Handbook of Language Teaching, Blackwell: Chichester); acknowledging that there is no one “correct” answer and not everyone will be happy with the final decision, but making sure that we make can claim that our curriculum meets learners’ needs as we have sound evidence to back up this claim.
The recordings of the focus group presentations from this FOCI event and details of other past events please visit the FOCI website: https://focionline.wordpress.com/ The next FOCI event ‘Technology & the Curriculum: Getting the Blend Right’ is at Doğuş University 15th & 16th December 2016. More details and the link to register are also on the foci website.