Identifying language needs of ESL students in a Canadian university based intensive English language program
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This study investigated the needs of adult ESL learners intending to pursue higher education in Canada. Its chief purpose was to enable educators and administrators to design ESL programs that would prepare students to function at optimal levels in academic and social settings during their university studies. The study adopted a mixed research method that was predominantly qualitative in its orientation and narrative in its implementation. It focused on an Intensive English Language Program (IELP) offered at an Ontario university. Using a holistic approach, the study sought to represent the various perspectives of all the participants in the program: the students, the instructors, and the administrators. Analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data gathered from 17 students, 6 instructors, and 1 administrator in the IELP showed that to a large extent the academic needs ofESL learners in the IELP were generally not being met. Most notably, the study found that learners were not receiving sufficient training in speaking and listening skills, a factor that contributed to their sense of insecurity and lack of confidence in their ability to communicate successfully in academic and social settings. The study also revealed that the solutions to many of the problems it identified lay not in the classroom but in the way the ESL program was structured administratively. One major recommendation to come out of the study is that programs like the IELP should be restructured so as to give them greater flexibility in meeting individual needs. While the study labored under certain limitations and did not achieve all of its goals, it did succeed in creating awareness ofthe problems and in establishing a methodological approach that can serve as a framework within which future research may be conducted in this somewhat neglected area.