An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Drawing, Technical Graphics, Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)
Coláiste Chríost Rí
Capwell Road, Cork
Roll number: 62560O
Date of inspection: 3 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Drawing, Technical Graphics, Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Chríost Rí, Cork. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Drawing (TD), Technical Graphics (TG), Construction Studies (CS) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW), and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects 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.
Coláiste Chríost Rí is commended for providing a wide range of technology subjects for its students. In addition to the focus subjects of this inspection, Technical Drawing (TD) and Construction Studies (CS) in senior cycle and Technical Graphics (TG) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) in junior cycle, students are also given the chance to take Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle respectively.
Collaborative subject department planning for the subjects is facilitated by the provision of three meetings each term. Held on the Wednesday half day, these meetings provide a forum for subject planning. This level of support for collaborative planning is commended. There is a subject convenor for TD and TG and a collaborative programme of work has been adopted for these subjects. In order to improve further on the very good start made on the development of a subject department structure, the advantages of selecting a convenor of all the technology subjects on an annual rotating basis should be explored. This convenor would call meetings, coordinate agendas and provide concise records of outcomes in bullet-point format. Such meetings would provide the teachers of the technology subjects with a valuable forum to discuss concerns common to the subjects and to collaborate in planning for improvement. Commendably comprehensive programmes of work have been produced for TD, TG CS and MTW and these are in line with the requirements of the respective syllabuses.
While commendable continuing professional development (CPD) has been provided for the whole staff by means of very regular involvement with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), until the present there has been a dearth of subject-specific CPD for the technology subjects. The introduction of new senior cycle syllabuses in Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Technology, to be followed by the other technology subjects, brings with it a greatly enhanced opportunity for CPD under the auspices of the technology subjects support service, t4, www.t4.ie. The school and particularly the technology subjects teaching team are encouraged to take full advantage of this opportunity.
In general there are four periods per week allocated to TG and MTW, the subjects in junior cycle. However, one class group in first year and one in second year have been allocated just three periods for TG, three single periods in one case. While it is acknowledged that it is expected that these groups will be allocated four periods for their remaining years of junior cycle, it is recommended that all students be given an equal allocation of four class periods per week. In general the time allocated is configured as one double and two single-period lessons. This provides adequately for the completion of the respective syllabuses. It is recommended that each class be allocated at least one double-period lesson per week.
TD and CS are both offered in the optional Transition Year, each for a double lesson weekly during an eight-week module. In senior cycle, TD is allocated five class periods per week, configured as one double and three single-period lessons. This time is spread evenly across the week and is adequate for the completion of the syllabus. In fifth year, CS is allocated five class periods per week, one double and three single-period lessons. This is the first year that CS is being offered in the school. This allocation of teaching time over the two years of senior cycle is adequate to cover the requirements of the syllabus. In senior cycle, the school is affirmed for its allocation and suitable configuration of sufficient teaching time for TD and for CS.
There is one wood workshop in the school. This workshop was tidy, bright and welcoming when visited in the course of the inspection. The tools were in good condition and readily available for use. They were suitably displayed on wall racks. The resources of the workshop were well maintained. Dust-extraction is provided by means of a central unit. While storage for student project work and materials was limited, it is commended that a secure storage container was to be bought by the school to alleviate this problem.
The board of management and senior in-school management of Coláiste Chríost Rí are commended for the quality of the support provided for the teaching of TD, TG, CS and MTW in terms of equipment, materials and consumables. Given the developing subject-department structure, it is desirable that both the TD and CS subject teaching teams are encouraged to play an increasing part in the planning of their respective subject departments. In light of this, it is urged that the possibility of providing annual budgets be considered. These budgets should be matched to the respective recurring costs of materials and consumables in each of the subject departments. Care in the spending of such an annual budget may lead to extra savings which, if available to the department, will provide further incentive for careful planning.
There is a whole-school health and safety statement which was reviewed in the 2004-2005 school year. The review involved the teachers of the technology subjects. In addition there is a commendable ongoing focus on health and safety in the workshop.
The ICT facilities available in the school include a trolley system of twenty-four laptop computers which are used by students of MTW and CS outside of class time for the word processing of project work. Single machines with AutoCAD 14 software installed are used for demonstration purposes in both subject areas. At the time of the inspection there were no facilities to allow groups of students to use computer aided design (CAD). It was anticipated that 18 used personal computers would shortly be arriving in the school’s computer room through the generosity of a large local company. It is urged that the parametric CAD software being supplied by the Department of Education and Science be installed on these computers, if technically feasible, to encourage full use of this package by the students. The TD, TG, CS and MTW teaching teams are urged to encourage all students of their subjects to greater use of ICT and to request the use of the computer room to allow this to happen.
Subject choice is provided in junior and senior cycles. In junior cycle the choices are predetermined, in the context of streamed class groups. Two classes have a set programme and three classes are offered choices from two subject option groups. It is strongly urged that an open choice of subjects be offered to all junior cycle students initially and that the subject option groups formed be based on the preferences expressed by the students, taking account of timetabling, staffing and other constraints.
Where a choice of subjects arises in junior cycle, this is made prior to the beginning of first year. The guidance teachers meet with the parents during the summer to offer support, including help with subject choice. It is planned to introduce an enhanced first-year student induction process in the coming school year which will include meetings between staff members and the incoming students and their parents. This is commended. It is urged that the school consider again the feasibility of providing students with some experience of the optional subjects in preparation for their making choices. In the context of all students being facilitated to study each of the technology subjects prior to making choices, careful collaborative planning by the subject teaching teams, based perhaps on co-curricular student project work, could be used to take best advantage of the class time available.
In senior cycle, students are presented initially with an open choice of optional subjects. Subject option groups are devised, based on the preferences expressed by the students, for each cohort entering the Leaving Certificate course. It is commended that the school takes full account of student choice in this way. Students are supported in choosing subjects by the two guidance counsellors in the course of third year when great emphasis is placed on the importance of choosing correctly. Support is also provided through the class teacher and year head. Study-skills seminars, provided by outside expertise, help to focus students on identifying their strengths. The wide Transition Year experience, for those who have taken that option, includes TD and CS. The experience of both subjects is particularly valuable for those who have not studied them in junior cycle and, additionally, provides support for students when choosing subjects for senior cycle.
The smooth and coherent development of each of the lessons visited indicated a good level of planning and preparation by the subject-teaching teams. The planning involved in a first-year MTW class on the growth of the tree and the identification of leaves and seeds is worthy of particular note. Following a short introduction, the students went with their teacher to a plot of ground adjacent to the school, taking their collected leaves and seeds with them. The students had previously readied the ground and each took part in the planting of oak, ash, sycamore and horse chestnut seeds under the careful guidance of their teacher. The activity provided the opportunity to revise the identification of the different seeds, leaves and the trees from which they came. The careful planning and preparation involved is commended.
The teaching team of the technology subjects is commended for the completion of comprehensive programmes of work in both junior and senior cycles. These programmes of work have been planned collaboratively where possible and additionally include references to various other aspects of the provision and development of the particular subject such as time allocation, resources, health and safety and teaching methodology. The programmes are in line with the requirements of the relevant syllabuses. This level of planning is a measure of the success of the development of subject department planning in Coláiste Chríost Rí. The various programmes of work would be further enhanced by the addition of information on the most effective strategies for teaching various elements of the courses. These strategies might include the appropriate use of pair and group work, and student-led discovery and investigation using various publications and the internet. It is recommended that the teaching team of the technology subjects continue to develop the subject department planning structure and to include in its meetings consideration of the broadening of the range of teaching methodologies and strategies being used. Members of the subject-teaching team are urged to share their own successes while collaborating on the identification of the most effective teaching approaches, taking the interests, abilities and ages of the students into account.
The teachers of the technologies are, in the main, classroom based which results in two general classrooms often being used for TD and TG classes. Although these classrooms are well managed, there are clear advantages to be gained by the provision of specialised rooms for the teaching of these subjects.
While the use of ICT in the teaching of the technology subjects has been limited, this is about to change with the introduction of new syllabuses in senior cycle and the provision of ICT hardware and software to support the introduction. It is central to the continued success of students of Coláiste Chríost Rí in DCG, and in the technologies in general, that careful planning takes place to ensure that the hardware and software is used to the fullest. It is recommended that a dedicated room, including facilities for parametric CAD, be provided for the teaching of TD, DCG and TG and be shared with MTW and CS classes for drawing and theory. It is recommended that this room have a data projector and screen installed to support the teaching of CAD and the use of stimulating multimedia materials in theory classes.
There is a commendable policy in the MTW subject department to issue personal protection equipment (PPE) such as dust masks and ear protection for the use of each student. Eye protection equipment was also readily available in the workshop at the time of the inspection and notices were in place as required. To further enhance educational impact, it is urged that extra warning and instructional signage be placed in the workshop. In addition to the standard PPE signage placed on or adjacent to each machine, it is recommended that notices stating concisely the main safe operating procedures and control measures for each of the machines should be prominently displayed adjacent to the machine to which it refers, where this has not already been done. It is also recommended that safe operational areas be demarcated on the floor surrounding machines, whether these are for teacher or student use. It is suggested that a simple notice be placed adjacent to the safe operational areas bringing the students’ attention to the rationale for demarcating them and the implications for student behaviour and movement within the workshop. The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), available on www.education.ie, should be consulted in detail when reviewing such issues of health and safety within the workshop.
In each of the lessons visited the teaching methodologies adopted were appropriate to the students’ abilities, needs and interests. In each case the purpose of the lesson was made clear at the outset. Lessons were well structured and, in general, well paced. In some cases the use of a broader range of teaching strategies would have greatly enhanced the students’ experience. The practical nature of TG and TD provides ample opportunities for students to solve problems for themselves, with help and support being supplied by the teacher as required. In light of this, it is recommended, where not already the case, that demonstrations on the white board or blackboard be kept to a minimum and that the main emphasis be on students’ own drawing. Opportunities should be sought to introduce a range of strategies that will involve students more actively in their learning. It will sometimes be possible to use group work, setting small groups of students the task of solving a problem cooperatively and reporting their solution back to the whole class. Adopting this and similar approaches will have the advantage of allowing the teacher to work with individuals or small groups of students, while they are actively involved in drawing, and to focus support where it is most needed.
In the lessons visited in the course of the inspection, it is commended that continuity was carefully maintained with previous lessons, usually by means of a concise introduction and by reference to appropriate homework. The programmes of work being followed in each of the subjects ensured coherence in the sequencing of topics.
In the lessons visited there was good use made of the chalkboard and the white board in support of very effective direct teaching of the students. In one TD class the overhead projector was used to provide instant reinforcement of sketched views produced by the students as they revised orthographic projection. Transparencies such as those used are a very valuable resource, in particular when uncovered when the students have completed their own drawings. The preparation of such resources is commended. In one junior cycle TG lesson on isometric projection, the isometric axes were drawn on the white board as part of the introduction, when previous work was being revisited. As the students progressed through the drawing, the teacher added to the white board drawing to consolidate their progress. This is commended. The addition of other facilities such as a data projector and screen as planned by members of the TD and TG subject-teaching team, is encouraged to further enhance visual and multimedia presentation of work. Other, simpler resources, appropriately used, can greatly enhance the students’ learning experience. In one TD lesson the imaginative use of a weighted string to represent the concept of a cone generator is commended. The teaching team of the technology subjects is encouraged to share such ideas and resources among themselves as part of subject department planning.
Textbooks and various prepared worksheets were used in some of the lessons visited. The use made of these resources was effective. In one senior cycle CS lesson dealing with structures, students were given worksheets on which they sketched examples of the various forces encountered. This exercise provided a commendable reinforcement of the material introduced in the course of the lesson. In the same lesson the students read related material from the text book being used by the class. It is urged that such reading from the text book, if used in class, be as a reinforcement of material already dealt with. It is suggested that appropriate group work making use of student investigation and discovery, perhaps with students from each group reporting back to the whole class on a different aspect of the topic, could provide a means of teaching particular material before reading from the text book. The use of the internet, as well as other sources, is encouraged for investigation where appropriate. The introduction of more ICT resources for the technology subjects will make this type of investigation more accessible.
Careful classroom and workshop management was observed in each of the lessons visited in the course of the inspection. The size of some of the classrooms made it difficult for the teacher to move between students but this problem was overcome as far as possible. The provision of a specialist room for TD and TG might provide the opportunity to devote the larger space required to the teaching of these subjects.
In each of the lessons visited the students worked in disciplined, calm and ordered surroundings. The discipline was at all times intrinsic to the students, never forced or unwilling. The atmosphere in the lessons was pleasant and positive, and the students shared a sense of security. There was a discernible mutual respect between students themselves and between them and their teachers. Interactions were relaxed and natural, while focused on the tasks in hand. Each of the classrooms visited was bright, well ordered and welcoming and in each case subject-related materials were displayed to provide appropriate visual stimulation and to create a subject-friendly learning environment. The teaching team of the technology subjects is commended for the affirmation of student effort observed in the lessons visited. This affirmation was often provided as teachers moved among students while they completed their work, and was carefully balanced with encouragement and help as required. The atmosphere in each of the lessons visited was conducive to learning.
In each of the lessons visited in Coláiste Chríost Rí students were fully engaged in the work in hand. They were able to communicate effectively in the relevant subject among themselves, with their teachers and with the inspector when engaged in discussion. The students displayed a knowledge and understanding of their work consistent with their age, ability and level of study. It was clear from their work and from their performance in the lessons visited that the students were learning effectively.
The teaching team of the technology subjects contributes to the formal assessment of the students of Coláiste Chríost Rí. School-term examinations are held at Christmas and in summer. In autumn and spring, reports are based on class-based examinations or assessments, at the discretion of the subject teacher. Four formal school reports are issued to parents each year. In state-examination years, third year and sixth year, students sit pre-examinations in spring.
In addition to these formal assessments, it is affirmed that students in the technology subjects are assessed on an ongoing basis. In TD and TG this assessment often consists of tests administered on completion of a topic. These assessments are carefully recorded and are not aggregated with term-examination marks. In CS and MTW, in addition to topic tests in theory, project work is assessed on completion. Assessment marks are combined with term-examination marks to arrive at results at Christmas and in summer. The assessment modes in use in TD, TG, CS and MTW are consistent with the objectives of the relevant syllabuses.
The teaching team of the technology subjects is commended for the comprehensiveness of its range of assessment modes and is urged, as part of subject department planning, to consider adopting a common practice regarding the combination of assessment and examination marks. A common system of compiling assessments, which the students know and understand, could increase their involvement in their own learning. Students could be affirmed by regular feedback of information on their assessments. They could be aware of the expected impact on their term result. In some instances feedback could provide encouragement for increased effort. Such affirmation and encouragement could be enhanced by adopting a common assessment practice, while continuing to base all assessment on the ability and needs of the individual learner.
Records of assessments and examination results are systematically and carefully kept by individual teachers of the subjects, together with records of attendance and homework. The information in these records is communicated to students’ parents at parent-teacher meetings and by means of school reports four times a year.
In each of the lessons visited, students showed enthusiasm for the respective subject, TD, TG, CS or MTW. The involvement and curiosity shown by individual students was lively and encouraging to all. A high and consistent standard of draughtsmanship was often displayed and in general the students’ work showed a level of student skill and knowledge appropriate to their ages and abilities.
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 Technical Drawing, Technical Graphics, Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood) and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.