Language Learning in Higher Education vol:3 issue:2 pages:267-292
In recent years, the student population enrolling in Flemish higher education has become increasingly diverse. Whereas teacher training institutes used to attract mainly students with a diploma of general secondary education, the proportion of students with a technical or vocational educational background has grown substantially over the past ten years. Unsurprisingly, teacher trainers indicate that first-year students start their academic career with increasingly diverging levels of academic literacy and consequently have learning needs in this domain. This study aimed to explore whether established research methods for analyzing second language (L2) learning needs can be applied to a first language (L1) learning context. Thus, the aim of this study was twofold: 1) to determine the academic literacy needs of first-year teacher trainees in Flanders and 2) to investigate the validity and reliability of a specific methodology used for analyzing language learning needs in the domain of L2 acquisition. Drawing on frameworks described by Long (2005a, 2005b) and Brown (2009), a variety of methods and sources was used to collect the data. Open interviews, a language test, a questionnaire, and focus group interviews were employed as methods; first-year students, third-year students, and lecturers participated in the study as sources. The analyses showed that the methodology for analyzing L2 needs enabled us to determine teacher trainees’ L1 academic literacy needs. However, our findings also revealed that in order to obtain reliable data on language learning needs, sources and methods should not only be carefully sequenced but should be triangulated as well.