An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of History
Glandore Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Roll number: 60840K
Date of inspection: 3 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Maryfield College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in History 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Whole school support for History is very good in Maryfield College.† History is accessible to every student in the curricular programmes provided by the school namely the Junior Certificate Programme, the Transition Year Programme (TYP), the Leaving Certificate Established (LCE) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).† History is compulsory study for junior-cycle students and efforts are made to ensure that the teachers assigned to first-year classes continue with the same group until the students sit their Junior Certificate examinations.† This enables the History teachers to bond with their students, acquire knowledge about their learning and maintain continuity in the delivery of the coursework.† The TY students, who currently comprise three class groups, complete a History modular programme as part of their coursework.† Senior-cycle students choose their preferred Leaving Certificate programme from a choice of the LCE and LCVP and have access to History as one of their optional subject choices.
Management deploys the four History teachers to teach the subject and this practice enables every member of the History team to remain actively involved in supporting the continuous development of the teaching and study of History in the school.† The History teachers have their own base classrooms, one of which is a designated History room.† The provision of teaching aids and supportive school facilities available to the teachers and their students includes audio-visual equipment, access to information and communication technology (ICT), a History library and a variety of teaching resources.† The provision and accessibility of such supports are laudable because they provide teachers with the means of exploring a wide range of teaching and learning† methodologies in their coverage of the coursework.† Management also facilitates the History teachers in organising field trips with their students and displaying the project work of students in the social area adjacent to the History room and in other locations within the school.† The importance of the collaborative work of the History department is recognised and funding is provided on a needs basis.† In addition, management has accommodated the attendance of teachers at the in-service courses for the new Leaving Certificate History syllabus.
Study of the timetabled allocation of History class periods and the pattern of their distribution shows that the timetable provision is supportive of the teaching and learning of History throughout the school.† Junior-cycle classes have three History class periods per week.† The three TY class groups, have three History periods per week for the duration of the module, which is apportioned approximately one third of the academic year for each of the class groups.† Senior-cycle History classes have five class periods per week comprising one double period and three single periods.† History is a popular subject choice among senior students as evidenced by the fact that the fifth-year History class group comprises thirty students and the two History classes in sixth-year total forty students.† The avoidance of a long interval in teacher-class contact time between the last History class in the week and the first History class of the following week is encouraged.† This aberration to the general pattern occurred in the case of the junior-cycle classes 1K, 1S and 2K.† The broad range of support that forms the whole school support for History in Maryfield College is commended.
The History subject team share a commitment to ensuring good quality teaching and learning in their classrooms.† The delivery of the lessons observed was underpinned by the planning and preparation that were completed beforehand.† In keeping with good teaching practice a definite topic was chosen for each lesson.† The placement of the lesson topic in the context of the wider syllabus was abundantly clear from the year plans and extended schemes of coursework provided.† The lesson planning involved the preparation of a range of resources and the inclusion in the lesson plans of a number of active student learning activities such as student-teacher interaction, reading, written assignments and group work.† The purposeful planning reflected the teachersí awareness of their students and the most appropriate classroom methodologies suited to consolidating their knowledge of the lesson topics.† Indeed, the large volume of planning documentation contained in the planning folders of the individual History teachers is evidence of their proactive work and the focussed attention they give to maintaining the quality of the presentation of their History lessons.
The History subject team are commended for their departmental planning and their continued collaboration is encouraged.† The History departmental meetings are chaired by a coordinator and fulfil a vital role in enabling progress to be realised through collaborative action.† The documentation of the History framework document is a progressive and worthwhile initiative. This informative document details subject aims and objectives, the year plans for each year group, studentsí access to History, effective teaching methodologies, planning for students with special educational needs and assessment procedures as well as many other issues pertinent to the teaching and study of History in the school.† It is recommended that the strong contribution, which the History framework document makes, continues to be advanced by including a more detailed description of the TY History modular programme in addition to the TY year plan that is already a part of the document.† It is also recommended that proven strategies and resources for teaching the various History coursework topics be documented in year plans in order to maintain the development of the year plans as a planning resource.† It is acknowledged that the year plans do include some references to course materials and tests but a more comprehensive account is advocated.
The Transition Year Programme (TYP) is an important component in the breadth of education provided by the school for the students.† The inclusion of the History module in the programme is a valuable contribution to the breadth of the studentsí education and the History teachers are again commended for their work in this regard.† The current TY History module centres on Women in Irish History and the Holocaust.† It was interesting to note that one of the first activities undertaken by the TY History students was a study of the meaning of their own names.† This thoughtful activity helps to increase studentsí appreciation of their own identity and has its place in the progression of the coursework that leads the students to an appreciation of the personas of women who became identified with different aspects of national life.† The study of the Holocaust was prompted by the interest expressed in it by the students themselves, some of whom had visited Germany on a recent school trip.† It is also important to state that the TY History module maintains the studentsí contact with History and encourages students to consider History for their Leaving Certificate studies.
The use of ICT was incorporated into a number of the lesson plans received and it is advocated that strategies to promote the usage of ICT as a teaching and learning device be explored at departmental level.† The History teachers might consider the merits of collaborating on the establishment of a departmental folder in which could be placed details of successfully delivered History lessons and activities involving the use of ICT material.† The folder of exemplar ICT-based History lessons would in time provide the History teachers with a useful reference manual.† It is also advocated that ICT usage continue to be incorporated into studentsí project work at opportune times.† Not every student has ready access to a computer so the booking of the schoolís computer room for project work involving ICT is advised.
Teaching and learning in the classes visited took place in a pleasant and supportive atmosphere.† The teachers sought to motivate their students and encourage learning at all times.† Students were addressed by name and the classroom skills of the teachers ensured that the students were actively engaged in their study of the lesson topic.† The prior preparations that had been undertaken by the teachers meant that each teacher had a clear overview of the lesson and was able to guide and direct its progress in the ways intended.† The variety of teaching strategies and resources used during the course of the lessons observed provided the students with an informed knowledge of the lesson topics.†
The mark of the carefully prepared lessons was evident from the outset with the attention of the students being quickly focussed on the aim and purpose of the lessons.† They were then engaged in ways that facilitated their introduction to the study of the lesson topic.† Individual teachers addressed questions globally to the class and to named students or commenced the lesson with the correction of homework to help establish an informed understanding of the context of the new material.† The attention of the students was drawn to several key points during the course of these activities by recording them on the board or by emphasising them verbally.† In one instance the teacher directed the students to divide into small groups of four to five students and set them the task of discussing where the blame for the Holocaust should lie.† The individual approaches of the teachers to the commencement of their lessons were effective.
Good use was made of a variety of teaching resources to increase studentsí knowledge of the subject of their study according as the lessons progressed.† A powerpoint display of slides provided a strong visual and informative account of how the Nazis used propaganda to win support in Germany during the 1930s as did a video clip portraying the impact of a speech delivered by Hitler on his audience.† Directed reading from a classís textbook was used effectively to facilitate student learning and afford selected students the opportunity to contribute to the class lesson by reading aloud.† Overhead transparencies were subsequently used to display notes based on the new material, which the students studied and then transcribed into their copies to consolidate their knowledge of the lesson topic.† In another instance the teacher used a demonstration model to introduce students to the class structure of feudal society.† The model was later placed in a suitable vantage point in the classroom and remained in full view of the students throughout the lesson.† Sizeable pictorial illustrations and diagrams of medieval castles including one in the studentsí textbook gave students a clear picture of the castles.† The task of the class engaged in the determination of guilt for the Holocaust was facilitated by giving each of the groups an envelope containing cards, which briefly outlined the association of different parties with the Holocaust or the position adopted by them towards it.† The students were asked to organise the cards in an ascending order of culpability and to justify their choice through group discussion.†
The personal contribution which the teachers themselves made to teaching their students well was quite apparent.† Their effective sequencing of activities was a noteworthy feature of the lessons observed.† For example, the viewing of the powerpoint display was followed by a short written assignment which allowed the students to reflect on the knowledge they had gained and opened the way to a greater understanding on their part of the magnetic hold Hitler had on his audience in the video clip.† The teachers also ensured the engagement of their students through their interaction with them.† The students were maintained on task through questioning, the clarification of points and the elicitation of student comment on the material being studied.† The teachers used the blackboard well for recording information and sketching diagrams to assist student learning.† The setting and correction of homework was a feature of the lessons observed.† The studentsí copies and folders perused during the course of the inspection visit indicated the importance attached to homework.† In addition, the display of studentsí project work and History materials most notably in the History room, the adjacent social area, school corridor and the rooms of individual teachers supported the studentsí study of History.† The organisation of field trips by the History teachers is another worthwhile means by which studentsí interest in History is nurtured.
Assessment and evaluation of studentsí progress are important aspects of classroom teaching and of the educational policies of the school.† In the classroom the History teachers use a combination of questioning, the setting of assignments, homework, project tasks and class tests to assess continuously their studentsí progress.† The oral assessments were clearly demonstrated during the course of the teachersí questioning of their classes.† The studentsí responses enabled the teachers to gauge the learning and understanding of their charges.† The clarification of points by the teachers, where it was deemed necessary, was also supportive of studentsí progress.† The setting and correction of assignments help to inform the History teachers about the application and progress of their students to their coursework.† The History teachers give class based tests at appropriate times.† The results provide another means of tracking studentsí progress and informing judgements.
Formal school examinations are organised at the end of the first term and before the summer holidays commence.† All students sit Christmas tests apart from the TY students who are assessed continuously throughout the year.† The third and sixth-year students sit mock certificate examinations during the spring term in preparation for the State examinations in June.† First, second and fifth-year students sit in-house summer examinations.† School reports are sent to the studentsí homes following each of the formal examinations.† A parent-teacher meeting is organised annually for each year group to keep parents and guardians informed of progress.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
Whole school support for History is indicated by the accessibility of History to the students in the curricular programmes provided by the school.
The timetabled allocation and distribution of History class periods is supportive of the teaching and study of History.
Management ensures that the History subject team has access to the schoolís teaching resources and facilities to support them in their work.
The History department is a proactive forum and makes a vital contribution to the continuous development of the teaching and study of History in the school.
The History teachers share a commitment to teaching their students well.† Each lesson had a definite focus and was underpinned by prior planning and preparation. †The teachers employed a variety of teaching strategies and learning activities during the lessons that steadily consolidated student learning.
Assessment and monitoring of student progress are actively pursued.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
It is recommended that the strong contribution, which the History framework document makes to the teaching and study of History in the school continue to be advanced by including a more detailed description of the TY History modular programme in the document.†
It is recommended that proven strategies and resources for teaching the various History coursework topics be documented in year plans in order to maintain the development of the year plans as a planning resource for supporting good quality teaching.†
It is advocated that strategies to promote the usage of ICT as a teaching and learning device be explored at departmental level.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of History and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.