An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Roll number: 60690R
Date of inspection: 17 September 2007
Date of issue of report: 12 March 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Dominican College, Drumcondra. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over one day during which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspectors interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspectors reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and relevant staff. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Dominican College, Drumcondra is an all girls’ secondary school with an enrolment of 706 students. The curricular programmes on offer in the school are: the Junior Certificate (JC), the Transition Year (TY) programme and the Leaving Certificate established (LC). German is offered in all curricular programmes.
German, French and Spanish are the modern languages on offer in Dominican College. Modern languages are core in Dominican College and all students study at least one foreign language. This is very good practice. Over the last number of years the uptake for German had fallen. There is no third-year class and the numbers presently in senior cycle are very low. This was a cause for concern among members of the German department. However due to a proactive approach taken by the German department this trend has been reversed and the numbers of students in first and second year have increased dramatically. Members of the German department set about raising the profile of German through participation in information evenings for parents of incoming first-year students. This is to be commended.
The time allocation for German is generally good. In senior cycle five class periods are allocated to the subject. In TY and first year three class periods are allocated to German. In second and third year students have four class periods per week.
There is a base classroom for German. This is available most of the time for students of German.
This classroom is very well decorated with maps and posters. A large amount of student work is displayed. This is very good practice as it increases the learners’ sense of ownership over their environment.
There are good resources to support the teaching and learning of the subject. These include many textbooks, tapes, videos, short novels and films. It is recommended that a list of existing resources be compiled and included in the planning documentation. This will assist in the review of resources and planning for new resources in the future. The library contains a selection of books and all students of German have been brought to the library and shown the books. This is exemplary as it encourages students to avail of these resources and engage in independent learning.
There are also good information and communications technology (ICT) resources. Data projectors are available to the German department. Students of German have access to a computer room in the school and it is hoped to set up an e mail project between the Dominican College and a school in Germany. This type of integration of ICT and the German curriculum is good practice.
An exchange with Germany is provided as part of the TY programme. This gives students the possibility of visiting the country, attending school, and experiencing the language and culture at first hand. The German department is to be commended for organising such a beneficial educational opportunity.
The school is engaged in development planning. Subject departments have been established. Modern language teachers work together. Formal planning meetings take place three times a year. Agendas are set and minutes of meetings are kept. These minutes are given to senior management ensuring that there is a good flow of communication. This is effective practice. The German department holds weekly planning meetings. This is to be highly commended.
Yearly plans for the teaching and learning of German were made available in the course of the inspection. For junior cycle the general aims, grammar topics and information on homework and assessment were stated. The curriculum content for these classes was also stated. It is recommended that the plans for senior cycle classes be developed to include information on the themes that will be covered. The plans for the TY programme for German were good. These contained information on cross-curricular themes which is central to the ethos of the TY. For all long term plans it is recommended that the student learning outcomes be stated in terms of the skills of language acquisition. It should be clear what is expected of students in terms of reading, writing, speaking and listening. In general the planning for differentiation was excellent.
Individual lessons were very well planned. Individual planning documentation was supplied during the evaluation. This was comprehensive and detailed all activities including the projected time line for the lesson. In addition differentiation was well planned for and supplementary materials were prepared. It was evident that a lot of time had been spent on preparing handouts and materials for display using the laptop and digital projector. This level of planning and lesson preparation is highly commendable.
Lesson content was good in all lessons. Themes such as the school system in Germany, weather and food were covered in different year groups. Lesson content was in line with syllabus requirements and matched the students’ interests. In general structure and pace of lessons were good. It was noted that all activities given to students in the course of lessons were timed. The learners were given a clear indication of how long they had to complete a task and were also given a reminder shortly before the time was up. This was very effective. This practice is exemplary and ensured that students remained very focussed.
A variety of teaching methodologies was used in the course of the lessons observed. Students worked in pairs to prepare a role-play in German. This task involved students receiving an envelope containing sentences which had to be put in order. This was a very effective method of ensuring that the learners were actively engaged. In another lesson students listened to a song which served to reinforce vocabulary which had been presented to them. The use of music in language learning is good practice and to be commended. It would also be beneficial to encourage the learners to sing songs in the target language as this would further reinforce new words and expressions.
At the beginning of all lessons students were introduced to the aims of the lesson. These were presented both visually and orally. It was noted that a poster on display in the classroom posed the question ‘What did you learn today? At the end of tasks students were always asked whether they found the task easy or difficult. All of these strategies encourage the learner to engage in self-assessment and equip learners with learning strategies. This is an example of best practice and is most praiseworthy.
The use of the target language was generally very good. Classroom activities were managed through the medium of German although this was sometimes followed by English translation. It is recommended that translation be kept to a minimum and also that the amount of written translation exercises given to students be reduced. In order to maximise students’ use of the target language it is recommended that the learners be given more opportunity to practise new phrases and expressions in class.
ICT was successfully integrated into all lessons observed. A laptop and data projector were used to present new vocabulary, points of grammar and a wide variety of exercises. The use of graphics to introduce new words was particularly impressive and enabled new materials to be covered entirely through German. Students responded well to the clear and interesting presentations.
Students with special educational needs were well catered for in all lessons. Additional handouts to support tasks had been prepared in advance and were distributed to students with special educational needs. It was evident that additional materials assisted the learners in completing the tasks. Students were also given individual help in the course of the lesson.
The different skills of language acquisition i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening were developed in all lessons. In some lessons an integrated approach was evident. Students were asked to speak on a topic followed by listening and reading activities. This is very good practice. On some occasions these skills were developed in isolation. This is less effective. It is recommended that as many of the skills as possible be integrated in lessons.
Discipline was maintained to perfection in the classes observed. Student-teacher rapport was excellent and a positive learning atmosphere was observed. Students were repeatedly affirmed and encouraged during the lessons. Time was given to students to answer questions and prompts used to encourage them. Classroom displays from a variety of different year groups added to the classroom atmosphere creating an environment conducive to teaching and learning. These were also used as a teaching resource during some of the lessons. Excellent teacher circulation was observed which ensured inclusion of all students in the teaching and learning process.
Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in the summer for students who are not taking the state examinations. For the remainder of the student cohort formal assessment occurs at the time of the ‘mock’ examinations in early spring. Formal assessment always includes the assessment of the four skills of language acquisition. This is very good practice and to be commended. Parents receive written reports. Students in the TY programme receive a different type of report which reflects the ethos of the programme and reports on students’ progress in terms of participation, attitude and personal development. This is very good practice.
A parent-teacher meeting is held for all year groups with the exception of those following the TY programme. It is recommended that a parent-teacher meeting for the parents of the students participating in this programme be held. It is important that parents have a formal opportunity to discuss students’ progress.
Homework was assigned in all lessons observed. This was explained clearly and was linked to lesson content in an appropriate manner. In some lessons the learners were offered a choice of homework tasks. This is excellent practice and is evidence of a differentiated approach to assessment. A sample of copybooks was viewed in the course of the inspection. It was evident that homework is being monitored on a very regular basis. Students in junior cycle receive stickers on their copybooks in recognition of their endeavours. This is motivational for the students. Learners receive comprehensive feedback on written work. It is recommended that the learners be required to follow up on mistakes in line with the approach of assessment for learning (AfL). Further information on AfL can be found at the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assesment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· All students have access to modern languages which are part of the core curriculum in the school.
· There is good provision for German and the uptake in junior cycle has shown significant increase in the recent past.
· Subject departments have been established and regular planning meetings are held on a formal and informal basis.
· Students with special educational needs are well catered for.
· A wide variety of teaching methodologies was used to good effect in the lessons observed.
· Formal and informal assessments take place on a regular basis.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that subject plans for German be developed to include themes in senior cycle and to include intended student learning outcomes at all levels.
· An integrated approach to the development of the skills of language acquisition should be taken.
· In order to build on the good use of the target language observed in the lessons, translation exercises should be kept to a minimum.
· It is recommended that the principles of assessment for learning be adopted and that students be encouraged to follow up on their errors.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of German, the deputy-principal and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of management of Dominican College is delighted that this subject inspection recognises the excellent teaching that we provide in the college.