Analysing the needs of EFL/ESL learners in developing academic presentation competence

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The literature on how to develop competence in giving academic presentations (AP) (e.g. Zappa-Hollman, 2007) shows that apart from basic communication skills (i.e. the ability to speak accurately, fluently and appropriately), university students are expected to perform specific roles and develop advanced skills for intellectual exchange and the construction of new knowledge (e.g. skill in expressing their personal voice through evaluation). However, these advanced speaking skills are often neglected by English as a Second Language (ESL)/English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students in Asian contexts, such as Hong Kong, as generally observed by English for Academic Purposes' (EAP) instructors (e.g. Bankowski, 2010). Although there has been some discussion on factors that potentially inhibit the development of ESL/EFL learners (e.g. Confucian education values and an exam-dominated culture), more research is needed on the design of EAP courses to cater for learners' needs. To fill this gap, this article reports the results of a needs analysis of a group of undergraduates (N=81) in Hong Kong. The study was based on a triangulation of data which included sources, and included questionnaires administered to both students and the course instructors of their major subject disciplines to identify the perceived importance of specific AP skills/features and learning needs, semi-structured follow-up interviews, and a diagnosis of students' AP competence using a research-based assessment rubric. The findings reveal gaps in students' understanding of their required roles and performance in both EAP and content courses, gaps in expectations between the students and their content course instructors, and gaps in their AP competence (e.g. ability to use linguistic and discourse features to structure interpretations and facilitate the audience's understanding of the information they present). An EAP instruction course design framework is then proposed to develop ESL/EFL learner competence in AP, based on the teaching and speaking cycle of Goh and Burns (2012). Copyright © 2019 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
JournalRELC Journal
Early online dateNov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 2019


Mak, S. H.-Y. (2019). Analysing the needs of EFL/ESL learners in developing academic presentation competence. RELC Journal. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0033688219879514


  • Academic presentation
  • Oral diagnostic testing
  • Oral English assessment
  • Academic discourse socialization
  • ESL/EFL academic speaking
  • EAP course development
  • Needs analysis

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