An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of French
Warrenmount, Dublin 8
Roll number: 60792C
Date of inspection: 22 September 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in French
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Presentation College Warrenmount. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in French 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 inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teachers. 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.
Presentation College Warrenmount is an all girls’ secondary school with 292 students. French is a core subject to Leaving Certificate. School management is to be commended for its inclusion of modern languages in the core curriculum.
There is good provision for French with the allocation of time and timetabling in line with best practice. Lessons are single periods spread throughout the week thus providing students with ongoing contact with the language. This is to be commended.
There are two teachers of French in the school. Each is a graduate of French and both have availed of inservice training provided by the Department of Education and Science for teachers of French in recent years. Teachers also reported having attended inservice training organised by the French Teachers’ Association (FTA) and courses on languages and Information Technology (IT) organised in the Education Centre in Drumcondra. Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to ongoing professional development.
Classrooms in Presentation College, Warrenmount are teacher based. Classrooms were bright and stimulating with displays of maps, posters, and students’ work. The display of posters and students’ work is good practice as it affirmed the students as learners of the language and can enhance their knowledge of and interest in French life and culture. It is suggested that the posting up of key expressions be extended in some rooms.
Teachers have access to a range of resources to support the teaching of the language in the school. They have their own CD and cassette players and other audio-visual equipment is available on a booking system. Resources are currently made available on request to school management, who plan to re-introduce subject department budgets in the near future.
The school has a computer room which has been recently fitted out with new computers. Computers are also available to teachers in the staffroom. Students of French doing the Junior Certificate School’s (JCSP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programmes have access to computers in the school library for the purpose of researching projects. Use of the computer room for class groups is facilitated if requested. While teachers reported downloading materials for use in the classroom they expressed a lack of confidence in embracing Information and Communication Technology as a teaching tool with the students. Given the wealth of resources available on the internet to support the teaching and learning of modern languages it is suggested that consideration be given to piloting and evaluating ICT as a teaching tool with one class group. This would allow teachers build up their expertise and confidence in an incremental way before embracing ICT with all students.
Teachers reported involvement in co-curricular activities to enhance the teaching and learning of French. Junior cycle students attend performances given by French Theatre for Schools companies, while senior cycle students are brought, on occasion, to see French films in the Irish Film Institute. JCSP students partake of a French breakfast while other students participate in a French cookery competition organised as part of the One World Week. A French day is also organised for all students. Efforts have been made in the past to develop contact with French students through the use of the pen-pal system. Plans are currently under way to organise a school trip to Paris for the beginning of the next academic year. Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to co-curricular activities, which promote language learning as an enjoyable as well as an educationally enriching experience.
Presentation College Warrenmount has been actively involved in the school development planning process and is currently engaged in subject planning. Teachers meet formally at the beginning and end of the academic year and time is also made available during the year for subject planning purposes and records are kept of such meetings. Teachers of French, as a small department, also meet informally, on an ongoing basis. The commitment to the school development planning process by both school management and staff is to be commended. While the French department, in line with good practice, has a subject co-ordinator, teachers reported that, as a two member department, they work in tandem on all matters concerning French.
A review of the documentation presented indicated that the teachers of French are well advanced in the subject planning process. The yearly plans were simply stated, clear and effective. As a means of building on the good work already achieved, it is recommended that, over time, the aims and objectives for each year group be restated in terms of desired learning outcomes; what the students will be able to do as a result of their learning. The plans should also include the proposed teaching strategies to achieve such outcomes. This will facilitate the process of self-review which underpins ongoing improvement in the teaching and learning of a subject. It is also suggested that the plan include the school context, provision for students with special education needs (SEN) and challenges for French in the future.
There was evidence of careful preparation for the lessons observed with the advance readiness of materials and equipment.
Inspection activities included the observation of four lessons, two at junior cycle, and two at senior cycle. There was also the opportunity to interact with the students at the end of each lesson.
The lesson content was appropriate to the age and abilities of the students in all lessons observed, which were generally well structured and appropriately paced. Most lessons began with the correction of homework. While this is good practice, attention needs to be paid to the management of time to ensure that such corrections do not take up a disproportionate amount of time, thus limiting opportunities for new learning.
There was a high standard of linguistic competence and the target language was effectively used by the teachers in some of the lessons observed. This is good practice and to be commended. There were some lessons however, where classroom interaction was mainly carried out in English and translation was the dominant teaching strategy. In lessons where the target language is not currently being used it is recommended that it be built up through the initial introduction of simple classroom instructions and dialogue in French. Students should also be encouraged to interact in French by giving them the necessary strategies to ask questions, express difficulties or make simple requests. In this way the target language becomes grounded in authentic situations and progressively benefits students’ competence and confidence in communicating orally in the target language.
A variety of methodologies was observed. It is important, however, that in lessons where the use of examination papers forms the main content of the lesson they should be integrated into a thematic approach as recommended by the syllabus guidelines.
Question and answer sessions were used to check on homework and to recap on previous learning. The overhead projector and board were effectively used to consolidate learning. In some lessons, the vocabulary and grammar charts posted up on the walls were appropriately referred to in order to support the learning taking place in the classroom. This is to be commended as it highlights the purpose and value of the print rich environment for the students.
There was good attention to correct pronunciation and intonation in some lessons. This involved not only the correction of errors, but increasing students’ awareness of certain sounds. This is to be commended as correct pronunciation and intonation are essential components of competent and confident language acquisition. It is suggested, however, when correcting an individual student’s pronunciation to allow him/her the opportunity to repeat and thus internalise the corrected version.
Pair-work was used to good effect in some lessons. This is to be commended. It is recommended that the use of pair or group work be extended to all lessons engaging the students in short focused activities which require interaction, albeit simple, in the target language. It will also give students the opportunity to ask questions as well as answer them and will facilitate active and independent learning. Student engagement can also be activated through the assignment of short tasks to be completed individually. Such activities can serve to integrate the different language skills as outlined in the syllabus guidelines. The use of pair or group work also supports a student centred approach to learning rather than the teacher driven lessons which were evidenced in some instances.
There was evidence of a positive and affirmative learning environment with good classroom management throughout. Students generally indicated a good understanding of the work being done in the lesson. They responded well to the teachers’ questions and there was evidence of interest and a willingness to communicate in the lessons observed. A greater emphasis on pre-reading or pre-listening activities is recommended as it would enhance their confidence and competence in responding to the challenge of new learning.
Student progress is assessed using a variety of techniques. These include questioning in class, monitoring of homework, class tests and formal school examinations.
Presentation College Warrenmount has a homework policy and homework clubs are organised in the school to support students in this work. It was reported that it is mainly students in the junior classes who avail of the homework club. Senior cycle students are afforded the opportunity to stay back after school to study. School management is to be commended for its commitment to student progress in their facilitation of homework and study support.
There was evidence throughout of homework being assigned and corrected. It is suggested however, that in assigning homework alternative exercises to the translation of sentences should be considered.
Formal tests are held for all students at Christmas and certificate examination students sit mock examinations in February. All other students have formal end of year tests. The teachers of French administer common tests, where possible. This is good practice. An aural component is included in all tests with the exception of the first year students at Christmas. The inclusion of an aural component is to be commended. Students following both the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) are given an oral examination which is carried out in teachers’ own time. Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to students in this regard.
Parent teacher meetings are held annually for each year group and reports are at Christmas and the summer. The school journal is also used to communicate with parents.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of French and with 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
We are pleased with the content of the report and the acknowledgement of the good work our teachers are doing
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The recommendations are being acted upon. It is proposed to adopt a more integrated approach to French during our various “weeks” eg our “one world week”, EU week” French elections etc and rejoin other subject classes in the process.
We have already sampled ICT programmes with a view to introducing ICT as a teaching tool in French.