Vol. 8. No. 4 A-3 March 2005
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Using Focus Group Methodology to Understand International Students' Academic Language Needs: A Comparison of Perspectives

Wei Zhu

Jeffra Flaitz

University of South Florida


Assessing students' language needs is the indispensable first step in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) curriculum development. In this article, we report a portion of the results from a needs assessment study whose ultimate purpose was to inform curriculum development in EAP contexts. We used the focus group methodology to examine learner needs from different perspectives and conducted discussions on international students' academic language needs with three groups: international students, university faculty members, and university administrative personnel. Analysis of the focus group discussions showed that while the perceptions of the three groups converged to some extent, each group also had different concerns, thus indicating the need to examine multiple perspectives in student needs assessment. Results also showed that writing was perceived to be a crucial area of need, that academic language needs extended beyond the classroom, and that cultural skills were seen as an important part of academic language competence.

Keywords: ESL,EFL,EAP, English for Specific Purposes, curriculum development, culture


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