An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen,
Roll number: 61690W
Date of inspection: 7 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Cross and Passion College. 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 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
German and French are the modern languages on offer in the junior and senior cycles in Cross and Passion College. Spanish is offered in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. All incoming first year students must take a modern language and are asked to choose between German and French. This choice is made before the students enter the school. For the other optional subjects, Art, Business, Home Economics, Music, Technical Graphics and Materials Technology (Wood) the first year students are provided with a ‘taster’ programme. In order to enable students and parents to make a fully informed decision regarding the choice of modern language, it is suggested that German be included in the ‘taster’ programme.
The teaching of German is carried out by a dedicated and committed team of highly experienced teachers. The German teachers are members of the German teachers’ association and attend in-service courses on a regular basis. Inservice courses on language teaching methodologies and cultural awareness in the target language country have also been attended. Members of the German team have acted as oral examiners for the Leaving Certificate examinations, which provides a very valuable insight into the development of the skill of oral production in a foreign language. Such commitment to ongoing professional development is praiseworthy and benefits teachers and students alike.
Co-curricular activities to support the teaching and learning of German are part of the programme for the language. Students are taken to see German films. They are provided with opportunities to taste German food. Students are encouraged to have pen pals in German speaking countries. Each year a number of students take part in exchange programmes to Germany. The organisation of such contacts is most laudable as it helps bring the language and culture to life.
The subject is well resourced. Overhead projectors, tape recorders, video players and televisions are available in the classrooms. This year, new CD players were purchased. This was necessary as all new listening material including state examination aural examinations are only available on CDs. It was reported that there are problems with the volume on the CD players available in the German department. It is essential that CD players with high volume be available for the teaching of the subject. It is suggested that this situation be attended to as a matter of priority. A budget is made available by the school management to purchase resources and the German department currently has a wide range of resources such as tapes, DVDs, videos, books and magazines. It was clear that new resources had been purchased in the past year. Updating resources in this manner is commendable and an example of best practice.
Base classrooms are provided for the teaching of the language. However, one of the classrooms is a language laboratory which is no longer operational. The layout of the laboratory renders it difficult to engage in pair or group work. The layout of the room and position of the consul inhibit teacher circulation. It is therefore recommended, if resources permit, that the tables in the language laboratory be removed and that individual desks and chairs be installed. This would help to create a classroom environment that is more conducive to learning.
The school is actively engaged in school development planning. Subject departments have been established and subject meetings take place on a monthly basis. Affording subject groups the opportunity to plan their work together is most effective practice. Agendas for these meetings are drawn up and priorities established. Very good records of meetings are kept and were presented in the course of the evaluation.
Yearly plans for German have been developed. These outline course materials, textbooks and resources which will be used in addition to the themes that will be covered. Students of German have little access to computer facilities in the school. It is recommended that a plan for the use of ICT and language learning be drawn up by the German department. This plan could have short-term objectives, such as allowing students to produce some written homework on computer and to carry out research on selected German websites.
The individual lessons observed were well prepared. Individual lesson plans were made available in the course of the inspection. These lessons were planned in line with syllabus requirements and effective use of resources was also planned.
In all classes visited, the pace and content of the lessons were considered to be very appropriate to the level of the students. Good advance preparation meant that classes were clearly structured. It was common practice to begin classes by sharing the learning objectives with the learners. Outlining the class content to the students in this manner is highly effective as it enhances their awareness of what exactly they will be learning in a given lesson.
In all of the lessons observed learning was well supported through the use of the white board, textbooks, handouts and the OHP. The use of ICT in class preparation was sometimes in evidence in senior cycle lessons. Students were given a handout which had been downloaded from a German educational website on the topic of computers. Providing students with authentic material such as this is noteworthy and enhances the learning process.
Lesson content was in line with syllabus requirements in all of the classes visited. For example, in junior cycle, the theme of money and prices of goods formed the theme of one lesson. In senior cycle classes the themes of computers and prejudice in society formed the bases of the lesson content. Good preparation was observed for the forthcoming state examination leaving certificate oral examinations.
Opportunities to develop the students’ awareness of the culture of the target language countries were in evidence in many of the classes visited. For example, students learned about the differences between the German and Irish school systems. The learners were shown an authentic German timetable and school report. In other lessons references were made to Switzerland and Austria. Developing cultural awareness in this manner is in line with syllabus guidelines and is most praiseworthy.
In general the use of the target language was very good. German was used entirely in the majority of the classes visited. It was clear from the manner in which students responded to requests and information in the target language that this is common practice. The use of the target language as seen in the majority of classes exemplifies best practice as the students are provided with a rich linguistic environment. In a minority of instances it was noted that English and German were used in the same sentence. It is recommended that this be avoided.
In many classes observed the lessons began with a ritual. For example, students took it in turn on a daily basis to fill in a chart on the classroom wall with up-to-date information. In other classes observed students began class with oral work where they were asked questions about what their hobbies are and what the weather is like. Students answered very well. It is suggested that this activity could be further enhanced if the learners were given the opportunity to interact with one another and ask each other the questions. This would maximise the opportunity for student participation in class.
Good efforts were made to provide the learners with opportunities to develop the different skills of language acquisition. For example, students were required to complete a listening comprehension exercise. They also engaged in reading comprehension. In other lessons observed, the emphasis was on the development of the oral skill. It is recommended that increased efforts be made to integrate the skills of language learning. This can be done by ensuring that after students have listened to a tape or read a text, they practise orally what they have just heard or read. These activities should then be followed up with written exercises. This integrated approach allows students the opportunity to reinforce new material and enhances the learning process.
A very positive atmosphere prevailed in all lessons. Discipline was maintained to a high standard. There was clear evidence of a very good student-teacher rapport. In all classes it was clear that students felt free to ask questions. These were always responded to in a most positive manner. Students were regularly affirmed and praised for their efforts. The classroom atmosphere as witnessed in the course of the evaluation was exemplary and provided students with an excellent learning environment.
Students are assessed on a regular basis and good records of these assessments are kept. Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in summer. Reports are issued to parents and guardians regarding students’ progress. It is commendable that students are assessed regularly on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Assessments and written homework provide learners with very valuable feedback on their progress and on errors which they may make. When homework is returned to students common mistakes are highlighted and explained to students in class. This feedback is very valuable and an integral part of the learning process. In order to build on this good practice it is recommended that all students follow up on their own mistakes and write out corrections. This will help to consolidate the learning process.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· There is good provision for the teaching and learning of German in the school. The teaching of the subject is carried out by a dedicated and experienced team of teachers who are committed to continuous professional development.
· The school is actively engaged in school development planning. Subject departments have been established and subject meetings take place on a regular basis.
· The lessons observed were well prepared. Lesson content was in line with syllabus requirements and good use was made of resources.
· In general the use of the target language was very good.
· Discipline was maintained to a very high standard in the all classes. A very positive atmosphere prevailed in all classes and there was clear evidence of a very good student- teacher rapport.
· Students are assessed on a regular basis and good records of these assessments are kept. Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in summer. Reports are issued to parents and guardians regarding students’ progress.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made:
· Consideration should be given to introducing a ‘taster’ programme for languages in first year. This would enable students and parents to make a more informed choice with regard to language choice.
· It is recommended that, as resources permit, the tables in the language laboratory be removed and a more congenial learning environment be created.
· Plans for the inclusion of ICT in the teaching and learning of German should be developed.
· Opportunities for student-student interaction in the classroom should be increased.
· Greater attention should be paid to the integration of the skills of language learning.
· Increased opportunities should be given to students to follow up on homework and assessment in all classes.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and with the teachers of German at the conclusion of the evaluation at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.