An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of History
Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Roll number: 60841M
Date of inspection: 25 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Rosary 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Rosary College is a co-educational post-primary school and provides three curricular programmes for the students namely the Junior Certificate Programme (JCP), the established Leaving Certificate (LCE) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). The JCP is mandatory for all junior-cycle students and History is compulsory study in the programme. Senior-cycle students choose their preferred leaving certificate programme from a choice between the LCE and the LCA. History is available to LCE students as an optional subject choice but does not form part of the LCA.
Management has made constructive efforts to support the teaching and learning of History in the school. The schoolís four history teachers are all deployed in the teaching of History. All history class groups are mixed-ability class groupings. The timetabling of the history class periods indicate that efforts are made to provide the teachers and their students with a supportive allocation and distribution of class periods.† Junior-cycle class groups have three history class periods per week in the main. Two first-year class groups have been allocated four periods and this is helpful to the teachers in meeting the learning needs of the students in those classes. Senior-cycle history students have five periods per week and comprise one class group in fifth year and another in sixth year. In addition, efforts are made to ensure that teachers assigned to first-year class groups 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.
Management appreciates the importance that supportive organisational structures and practices have in promoting the development of the teaching and learning of History in the school.† The history teachers have been allocated their own base classrooms. The provision of teaching aids such as audio-visual equipment and the access to information and communications technology (ICT) for teachers and their students is supportive of their work. The attendance at in-service courses of the two history teachers, who are involved in teaching the new history leaving certificate syllabus, is accommodated. Despite budgetary constraints consideration is given to requests on a needs basis. It is advocated that management consult with the history subject team with a view to establishing the History department on a more formal footing. The scheduling of a formal meeting once per term when the history subject team could discuss issues and collaborate on curricular planning is recommended. The History department has a crucial role to play in maintaining the continual development of the teaching and study of History throughout the school.†††
There was clear evidence of individual planning and preparation for all the lessons observed. The purpose of each lesson was identified and ranged from the treatment of an aspect of a topic to a study of several topics. The learning intention underpinning the latter was to help students acquire the information that they needed to answer within the format of particular examination questions and to give them practice in answering them. The advance readiness of the lessons involved the preparation of class handouts, the review of selected pages in the studentsí textbooks and the selection of tasks for the students. It is recommended that the teachers make greater use of ICT in the preparation of lesson plans and class handouts because this will assist them in maintaining a record of their teaching of the coursework and facilitate review of the coursework topics in the light of classroom experience. It is also recommended that greater consideration be given to the use of overhead transparencies in order to enhance the visual presentation of lesson material for students. There were some opportunities to do this in the planning of the lessons observed that were not utilised.
A greater degree of formal collaboration between the history teachers has a key role to play in developing a common, proactive and strategic approach to the continuous development of the teaching and study of History throughout the school. It is recommended that formal meetings of the history department be held once per term. The meetings should be chaired by a co-ordinator, have a defined agenda and the decisions should be recorded. The position of subject co-ordinator is a voluntary position and should be rotated at two-year intervals among the members of the history team in order to enable every member of the team to engage with the initiative. The rotation among the history subject team of the opportunity to teach the new leaving certificate syllabus should also be discussed. The history department has the potential to become a structured forum where the history teachers can meet to collaborate on curricular planning and discuss issues impacting on the history classroom.
The documentation of agreed year plans over a period of time will provide the members of the history team with an important planning resource. The agreed plans should detail the list of coursework topics, the time allocated to each topic and successful classroom methodologies and resources for the teaching of the topics that the teachers themselves recommend. The detailing of proven strategies and resources for teaching particular topics will enable the year plans to draw on the experience of the history teachers and continue to help subject planning evolve in the light of that experience. The inclusion of a wide variety of teaching and learning strategies in year plans for the teaching of mixed-ability class groups is vitally important in order to ensure that the needs of the many different kinds of learner are met. It is not envisaged that the formulation of agreed year plans would stifle teachersí own initiatives for year plans are best viewed as live documents that can be adapted as the need arises.††††
The history teachers share a common goal in seeking to teach their students well. This was quite evident from the positive teaching and supportive learning environment in their classrooms that set the context for the study of the lesson topics. The students were addressed by name and the teaching skills of the teachers ensured that discipline was sensitively maintained. The clear purpose of each lesson gave the students a definite focus for their attention and helped them to settle quickly into their study of the lesson material.
The teachersí interaction with their students was a strong feature of the lessons observed from the outset. For example, during the initial phase of the lessons the revision of prior material was facilitated by the addressing of questions to the class and to named individuals and by the directing of students to read aloud their answers to homework questions. In one instance, the teacher assisted the students in preparing part of a homework assignment by engaging them in the verbal answering of a number of short questions relating to a leaving certificate examination question that had been set on the general election results in southern Ireland in June, 1922.† The recording of key details on the classroom board that emerged during the course of these activities was effective in impacting of student learning. It is however, suggested that key details be listed in two columns on the board when the teacherís aim is help students to note the differences between two historical periods. The teachersí clarification of points and the drawing of studentsí attention to a display of relevant historical material that had been affixed to the wall of the classroom were also used effectively to consolidate student learning.
As the lessons progressed individual teachers used the class textbook and prepared handouts to increase studentsí knowledge of the lesson material. These resources served to draw students further into their study of the lesson material and helped to make them more informed. The directing of students to read aloud provided them with additional opportunities to contribute to the lesson and for this reason it is advocated that students rather than the teacher undertake the task of reading aloud unless there is a definite reason for doing otherwise. The study of several diverse topics within the time constraints of the class lesson was completed with the aid of prepared handouts which the students later placed in their subject folders. Note-taking and/or the assignment of a specific writing task were other strategies incorporated into the pace and structure of the lessons.† The teachersí integration of a variety of teaching and learning methodologies into the structure of the lessons is commended as it helps to ensure that the learning needs of students are met in different ways and ensures that teachers do not unwittingly engage overlong in verbal discourse.
The teachers displayed a good grasp of the syllabus and provided their students with a more informed knowledge of the lesson topics. The setting and correction of homework, which was a feature of most lessons observed, is lauded as it encourages students to assume increasing responsibility for their own learning. The studentsí folders and copybooks indicated their steady progress through the coursework. The teachersí practice of writing a comment at the end of a homework exercise is commended. The importance of incorporating classroom methodologies that impact on student learning is appreciated by teachers.† It is suggested that greater consideration be given to the use of the overhead projector at opportune times in the delivery of coursework topics. The efforts made by the teachers to stimulate their studentsí interest in History through the display of history materials, including work completed by the students themselves, on the walls of their classrooms are noted.††
Assessment and evaluation were an intrinsic part of the teaching methodologies observed. The oral questioning of the students enabled the teachers to gauge the knowledge and understanding of their charges. The clarification of points by the teachers, where it was deemed necessary, was also indicative of classroom assessment. The monitoring of written tasks in class, the correction of homework and the setting of class tests are other means used by the teachers to track student progress and inform judgements.
Formal school examinations are organised for students at the end of the first term before the Christmas holidays. LCA students are assessed continuously. The junior and leaving certificate examination classes sit trial certificate examinations during the spring term to help prepare them for the state examinations in June. First, second and fifth-year students sit summer examinations. School reports are sent to parents/guardians to keep them informed of progress. A parent-teacher meeting is organised for each year group to afford parents/guardians and teachers the opportunity to meet.††
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
Whole school support for the teaching and study of History is demonstrated by its accessibility to students pursuing the Junior Certificate Programme and the established Leaving Certificate.
The allocation and distribution of the timetabled history lesson periods supports the teaching and study of History.
The provision of teaching resources and the accessibility to school facilities that are available to the history teachers and their students support effective coverage of the coursework.
The history teachers share a common goal in seeking to teach their students well. The prior preparation of the lessons, their purposeful teaching and, the positive teaching and learning environment that typified their classrooms were indicative of their commitment.
Assessment and the monitoring of student progress are intrinsic aspects of classroom teaching and of the organisational framework of the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
It is recommended that management consult with the history subject team with a view to scheduling formal meetings of the History department once per term.
It is recommended that the history subject team collaborate on the documentation of agreed year plans over a period of time.
It is suggested that greater consideration be given to the use of the overhead projector at opportune times in the delivery of coursework topics.
Greater use of ICT in the preparation of lesson plans and materials is encouraged.
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.