A needs assessment of the students of the Department of Tourism and Administration and Hotel Management at Balıkesir University
Lim, Phyllis L.
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English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses should be organized and planned according to the needs of the learners because ESP courses prepare learners for their future careers (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987). In ESP courses, needs, a gap between a current state of affairs and a desired future state, is the basic concept which differentiates them from General English courses. Needs assessment is a systematic way of determining needs (Smith, 1990). The target domain (learners' future work field) is one of the starting points to collect data necessary for needs assessment. Present situation analysis identifies the current proficiency level of the students. A comparison of a target situation analysis (TSA) and a present situation analysis (PSA) identifies the gaps between the current situation and the desired level (Robinson, 1991). This study investigated the target needs of the students (skills and subskills required in the work domain) along with the learning needs of the students (the processes by which people learn these skills and subskills) and whether the curriculum followed in the Department of Tourism Administration and Hotel Management at Balikesir University (BAU) meets the English language needs of the students. One hundred students (50 graduate and 50 undergraduate) and 5 hotel managers were included in the study. A structured questionnaire was administered to students and a semi-structured questionnaire was administered to hotel managers. A comparison of the frequency of the skills practiced in the classroom and the frequency of use in the target domain identified the gaps between the current teaching situation and the target domain. The questionnaire also identified activities which students believed were important for the classroom. Students also expressed their ideas about shortcomings of the English language program in an open-ended question. The results of the student questionnaire indicated that the needs of the students are not fully met by the current curriculum followed at BAU, considering the needs of the target domain and the learning needs of the students. A large majority of students indicated that the required proficiency level of English in the target domain is advanced and that speaking and listening are the most used skills. However, translation, reading, and writing are the most taught skills in the classroom. The answers to the open-ended question revealed that many students believe the content of the English courses is not relevant and skills required in the target domain are not taught in the classroom. Students also reported that there are too few class hours a week in the second, third, and fourth years, and that teaching methods along with materials are inappropriate. Results derived from a questionnaire administered to the hotel managers indicated that students cannot express themselves correctly and that activities to improve speaking and understanding as well should be emphasized in the classroom. The results can be helpful in improving the curriculum and in selecting more relevant books and materials as well as appropriate methodology in English teaching at BAU.