Needs analysis and course design in Arabic for academic purposes at a Saudi Arabian university
This study aims to gain deep understanding of the needs of Non-Native Speakers of Arabic (NNSA) and the role of the current Arabic for Academic Purposes (AAP) programme in satisfying students’ needs in a Saudi Arabian university. It also seeks to explore the main challenges that face the application of such courses in the study context, in order to develop the principles and a theoretical framework that can be used for developing AAP courses that can meet the needs of students at Saudi universities. To this end, using the case study methodology and the Learning-Centred Approach (LCA) for needs analysis and course design in this study, students’ needs have been analysed and the AAP has been evaluated, thus identifying the major challenges facing their development. A triangulation method of qualitative data collection was used, including semi-structured interviews with NNSA students and AAP programme leaders, focus group interviews with AAP teachers, classrooms observations, and analysis of official documents. The findings of the analysis show that the perspectives of participants in this study, including students, teachers, and programme leaders, are slightly different with regard to determining the students’ target academic needs. While the analysis of the students’ learning needs reveals that religious needs are the dominant purpose motivating students to learn Arabic, Arabic for General Academic Purposes (AGAP) courses are the preferred approach to learning Arabic among students. The findings also reveal that the programme has focused on fulfilling students’ academic religious learning needs, but it has not succeeded in satisfying most of their target academic and learning demands. They also reveal that the programme’s failure to satisfy students’ analysed needs have been attributed to human elements, including students' needs and teachers’ experience, and non-human elements, including the teaching and learning materials, teaching methods, and the programme duration and location. The findings also found that there are pedagogical, linguistic and contextual challenges faced the implementation of AAP courses in the study context. In conclusion, based on these findings, a proposed principles and a theoretical framework for developing the AAP courses at Saudi universities is presented.