An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Mater Christi Secondary School
Cappagh Rd., Finglas, Dublin 11
Roll number: 60852R
Date of inspection: 2 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Mater Christi Secondary School. †It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics 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.
Mater Christi Secondary School has a long tradition of Home Economics where it is a very popular subject as evidenced by the very high participation rates at junior and senior cycle.
The subject benefits from a very good level of provision and whole school support.† Teaching time allocated to classes in junior and senior cycle is in line with syllabus recommendations and requirements.† The class contact time is well dispersed throughout the week in order to facilitate effective progress with class groups.† It is commendable that management places high priority on ensuring, where feasible, that teachers retain their class groups throughout the junior or senior cycle.† The principal promptly disseminates official curriculum documentation from the Department of Education and Science (DES) and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to the Home Economics teachers.† The school has recently engaged in the process of formal subject department planning and this is being facilitated by personnel from the school development planning initiative (SDPI).† Since January 2006, additional formal planning time has been allocated to facilitate this work.† The introduction of an agenda and taking of minutes could be considered for formal subject department meetings.
A system of banding is used to organise classes.† Home Economics is an optional subject for students who are in band A while is it a core subject for students in band B.† In the case where Home Economics is an optional subject, students must choose between Home Economics or Science.† Management should consider reviewing this current pre-set option band so that students are not so restricted in relation to subject choice.† Consideration could be given to running a taster programme for the optional subjects for a short period at the beginning of first year in order to allow students to make more informed subject choices.† A taster programme would also ensure equality of access for all students to all subjects.† At senior cycle, efforts are made to give students a wide choice of optional subjects.† Students identify their choice of subjects in order of preference and option pools are generated.† The uptake of Home Economics at senior cycle is very good as students who take the subject for Junior Certificate tend to select it for Leaving Certificate.† Hotel, Catering and Tourism is offered as a vocational specialism in the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.
There are two Home Economics teachers and a high level of collaboration and co-operation exists between the teaching team.† There is an obvious commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) and this is supported and facilitated by management.† The teachers have attended all the in-service training for the revised Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus.† In addition, they have experience in the marking of a range of State examinations in the area of Home Economics.† These activities provide a forum for the sharing of ideas, expertise and good practice and the knowledge gained contributes very positively to the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics.
There are two modern specialist rooms, one kitchen and one textiles room.† Each room is well maintained and adequately resourced with an appropriate range of equipment to support the teaching and learning of the subject.† It was observed during the course of the inspection that the free-standing kitchen benches would benefit from upgrading.† School management should review this situation to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. †Resources are allocated on the basis of teacher requisition and students make a small contribution each year towards the cost of dry ingredients.† The school has a health and safety statement.† It is commendable that the Home Economics team were involved in the development of the aspects of the policy that were directly applicable to the subject.† As part of the subject department planning process currently in progress, it is recommended that the Home Economics team review the health and safety policy for Home Economics and update where necessary.† A copy of the amended Home Economics health and safety policy should be included in the subject department plan.† A list of the relevant key points should be displayed in both specialist rooms.
There is some evidence that effective use is made of information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics.† Students and teachers have access to three computer rooms and a networked computer and printer await installation in the Home Economics department.† Home Economics students, mainly those preparing for LCA, use ICT for coursework research and project presentation.† The Home Economics teachers are encouraged to explore further the potential of ICT for Home Economics lessons.† ICT can enable students to engage in independent and guided research that is appropriate to the coursework requirements in Home Economics.† Furthermore, there are software packages available for use in Home Economics lessons and some educational websites that are useful in the preparation of classroom resources.† Useful website addresses are available on the Home Economics Support Service website at www.homeeconomics.ie.
Good provision is made in Home Economics for students with special education needs.† Small classes are established where feasible and special needs assistants attend classes where appropriate.† The school is commended for providing the resources during the mock examinations that reflect the reasonable accommodation that candidates may expect in the certificate examinations.
A high level of co-operation exists within a team of very committed teachers.† While collaborative planning has always been a feature of the Home Economics department, the Home Economics team recently engaged in formal subject planning as part of the school development planning process.† The subject department plan is at an early stage of development.† The formal planning time allocated is used to discuss the allocation of rooms, review planned programmes of work, organise project and practical work, review the equipment and resources and progress the department plan.† Consideration could be given to the appointment of a subject co-ordinator or convenor to co-ordinate this work.† The position could be rotated among the teaching team in order to share the workload and allow each member of the team to assume a leadership role within the department.†††
Long-term planning is underway.† Planned programmes of work have been developed for each year group.† It is commendable that a common programme of work is used in cases where there is more that one Home Economics class in a particular year group.† All plans are time bound and include lists of topics and practical dishes that will be covered.† The balance between theoretical and practical lessons is in line with syllabus recommendations.† From reviewing the long-term plans made available during the course of the inspection, it is evident that all pans are regularly reviewed and amended by individual teachers.† In addition, it is admirable that the plans are collectively re-evaluated by the teaching team on an annual basis.† As part of this process, the effectiveness of the teaching strategies employed when teaching the topics should also be considered and due attention be given to the range of teaching methodologies deployed in the delivery of lessons.† To progress the subject planning documentation already there, it is recommended that at the next review stage, and on a phased basis, the long-term plans be modified to include an outline of expected knowledge and understanding that reflects the integrated approach recommended in the syllabuses, planned teaching strategies, suitable resources and home work activities.† The sequence of lessons in the Leaving Certificate plan should be based around the coursework assignments and particular emphasis placed on encouraging the appropriate integration of topics across the core areas of the syllabus.† Further advice on subject planning is available in the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Teacher Guidelines for the revised Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus and from the Home Economics Support Service.† In planning for the junior cycle practical coursework, consideration should be given to the completion of a simple design brief folder in tandem with the textile or craft work in first and second year.† This would enable students to develop essential knowledge and skills over time, in the areas of investigation, problem solving, planning and evaluation.†
A range of resources and teaching aids have been collected and developed by the Home Economics department.† There is a small resource library in the kitchen.† As Home Economics coursework necessitates student access to updated resource material, it is suggested that the teaching team review the existing resource books in stock to identify any resource needs.† On-going investment in this facility is encouraged, as resources permit.
Teachers are involved in some cross-curricular planning with other subject departments such as Business, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Religion.† This is good practice and should be progressed in the subject department plan.
The level of short-term advance planning for all lessons observed was exemplary.† Detailed lesson plans made available on the day of the inspection clearly outlined the aims and objectives of each lesson and indicated that teaching and learning strategies were well thought out in advance of each lesson.† Appropriate resource materials which included the preparation of worksheets, posters and exemplar materials were effectively used to support learning.
Very good quality teaching and learning was evident in all the lessons.† The lessons were well structured and appropriately paced to suit the varying abilities of the students.† The good practice of sharing the planned outcomes for the lesson with the students was observed.† This praiseworthy practice helps students to focus on their own learning and gives a sense of direction to the lesson.† Good planning ensured that there was very good continuity with prior learning, and specific areas of the course that related to the subject being taught were effectively integrated into each lesson.† This reflects the rationale and teaching approach underpinning Home Economics syllabuses and is to be commended.
Teacher explanations were very clear, accurate and contextualised and a commendable concern was shown for studentsí understanding of lesson content.† Very good use was made of visual material such as posters and blackboard illustrations to clarify and reinforce difficult concepts.† In an effort to ensure that students remain engaged with lesson content, and to enhance understanding, explanations were often linked to studentsí own experience.† In one lesson observed, newspaper articles and class discussion proved effective in this regard.† Very good use was made of the blackboard to summarise lesson content and highlight the key words or terminology associated with the topic being taught.† Best practice was observed when students were allowed time to write this information into their copybooks.†
A range of teaching and learning strategies was deployed in each lesson observed.† Good use was made of worksheets and past examination papers to support lesson content and monitor studentsí understanding of the topic concerned.† Consideration could be given to allowing students to work in pairs or small groups on such class activities to encourage peer collaboration and peer tutoring.† To develop this strategy, it is recommended that when designing worksheets or other class activities, consideration be given to including tasks that challenge students to analyse, interpret, apply and transfer information in order to develop the higher order thinking skills that characterise the assessment objectives of the Home Economics syllabuses.
Classroom management was uniformly very good.† It was evident that sound classroom routines are clearly established and effectively implemented.† The good practice of taking the roll call at the beginning of each lesson was noted.† Questioning strategies were effectively managed to ensure that individual student learning was monitored and while teachersí interactions with students were challenging, they were very encouraging and affirming.† A very good rapport and a high level of mutual respect were apparent between students and teachers.† Students displayed a sense of security in seeking clarification or assistance and contributed confidently to general classroom discussions during lessons.
The physical environment of both specialist rooms is enhanced through displays of educational posters and leaflets.† It was noted positively that some of the displays linked with the topics currently being taught.† Some student project work carried out on various aspects of Home Economics syllabuses was also on display.† This is good practice and its wider use is encouraged as colourful wall displays help to stimulate and engage student interest.† Displays of student work also promote a sense of student ownership and responsibility for the creation of a stimulating learning environment.†
Observation of classroom activities and interaction with students indicated a genuine enjoyment of the subject.† In all the lessons observed, students were purposeful and remained engaged with the various learning activities.† They demonstrated a good understanding of the relevant facts and concepts that related to the topic being studied.†
Student progress in Home Economics is regularly monitored through oral questioning, homework assignments, regular class tests and the continuous monitoring of coursework.† In order to build up a profile of studentsí progress over time, records of class tests and attendance are systematically recorded in teachersí journals.† As all Home Economics classes are of mixed ability, this information can prove useful when providing advice on examination levels to students and parents.
Summative in-house examinations are held at Christmas and in summer.† Students preparing for the certificate examinations sit mock examinations during the second term.† Student progress is communicated to parents or guardians through written reports and at parent-teacher meetings.† It is school policy to maintain close contact with parents through the student diary and telephone and it was reported that this facilitates good communication with parents on an on-going basis.† At present, summative assessment of Home Economics students is based on a written paper only.† As Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations in Home Economics include a range of assessment modes, it is recommended that, where feasible, consideration be given to expanding the range of assessment modes used to include an assessment of the practical coursework components in Home Economics.† Where practicable, junior cycle students could be awarded an aggregated mark for a written paper, a practical food studies assignment and any project work undertaken in the area of textiles or design and craft.† The inclusion of the food studies coursework journal should be considered as an assessment component in the senior cycle in-house examinations.† As already happens with the written papers, the appropriate SEC marking scheme should be used.† This revised assessment procedure would prove an accurate indicator of the studentís ability in the subject as it closely mirrors the procedures for the certificate examinations.† In addition, in instances where two or more mixed-ability classes are in place in the same year, the possibility of having common examination papers should be explored.† These papers should be based on the format of the relevant certificate examination.†
There is no formal agreed homework policy in Home Economics.† However, there was evidence of good practice with regard to the setting and monitoring of homework.† In all the lessons observed, it was clear that homework is carefully planned to expand on and enhance the work carried out in class.† Examination of student copybooks generally indicated good progression in their work but there was some variation in the quality of work presented.† It is recommended that the Home Economics team review the routines and procedures for the maintenance of student notebooks and homework copybooks.† Consideration should be given to developing a system that would encourage students to store all handouts and worksheets in a systematic way.† This work will complement the current school development planning initiative.
There were some good examples of Assessment for Learning (AfL) practices evident in copybooks and coursework.† In some instances, useful teacher comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done.† This good practice is to be commended, and should be extended.† Further information on AfL is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website at www.ncca.ie.
The level of design and originality evident in some of the design and craftwork projects is commendable.† Observation of craft and textile products generally indicated a good standard of skills.† It was positively noted that studentsí individuality is being encouraged in the recording of the Leaving Certificate coursework assignments.† It is worth noting that the Chief Examinersí Reports and associated marking schemes issued by SEC are very useful for further guidance and advice on the completion of the various coursework components at junior and senior cycle.† These documents are available on the SEC website at www.examinations.ie.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
Home Economics is a very popular subject in junior and senior cycles.
The subject benefits from a very good level of provision and whole school support.†
Good provision is made in Home Economics for students with special education needs.
Subject department planning has begun and formal programmes of work have been developed on a collaborative basis.
There is some evidence that effective use is made of ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics.
The level of advance planning for all lessons observed was exemplary.
Lessons were well structured and students responded well to the range of teaching strategies employed.
The classroom atmosphere was very pleasant and conducive to learning.
Student progress is regularly monitored.† Consideration should be given to extending the range of assessment modes currently in use.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
All programmes of work should be developed and include an outline of expected knowledge and understanding that reflects the integrated approach recommended in Home Economics syllabuses.
Activities that challenge students to develop higher order thinking skills should be integrated into class and homework activities.
Routines and procedures for the maintenance of student notebooks and homework copybooks should be reviewed.†
Consideration should be given to expanding the range of assessment modes used in Home Economics to include an assessment of the practical coursework components.†
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and with the teachers of Home Economics at the conclusion of the evaluation at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.