An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Science and Biology
Drogheda Grammar School
Mornington Road, Drogheda, County Louth
Roll number: 63870L
Date of inspection: 23 February 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Drogheda Grammar School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Science and Biology 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 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
In Drogheda Grammar School, Science is allocated four class periods per week at Junior Certificate level, with five periods per week for Leaving Certificate Biology. This time allocation is adequate and within curriculum guidelines. There is satisfactory distribution of lessons throughout the week with a sufficient number of double periods available to the science subjects, which serves to provide more opportunity for investigative, practical work in each year group.
The school has two laboratories that are clean, bright and well maintained.† One laboratory is large and well resourced while the second laboratory is smaller and more restrictive in its potential for carrying out investigative, practical work as there are a limited number of workstations.† Management is currently exploring methods of augmenting the science provision in this area.† A shared storage and preparation area connects the two laboratories.† Appropriate health and safety precautions were adhered to during the course of the evaluation and a range of health and safety features are available such as fire extinguisher, fire blanket and safety glasses, while chemicals are stored in a lockable storeroom.† The school also has a health and safety statement that is currently under review.
Provision for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) includes one personal computer and data projector shared between the two laboratories.† At the time of this inspection, internet access was unavailable in the laboratories but is available in the ICT suite by arrangement with other staff members.† Broadband internet access is planned for the future and the Science team plan to develop this as a further resource which can be used to enhance teaching and learning in Science and Biology lessons.†
All students in the school take Science to Junior Certificate level.† Commendably, Biology, Chemistry and Physics are offered to students on the Leaving Certificate programme, as a broad range of Science subjects gives students greater options when choosing career paths.† The school has a compulsory Transition Year programme in which Science is timetabled for four periods per week during the year.† The programme contains a stimulating science module that includes forensic and cosmetic science.
Teachers have availed of opportunities for continuing professional development during national in-service training in the revised Junior Certificate Science and Leaving Certificate Biology syllabuses, and management is to be commended for its commitment to facilitating this in-service. Resources and further support are available on the following websites: www.nbsstralee.ie and www.juniorscience.ie
The Science department actively promotes the sciences within the school and encourage participation in a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as the Science Olympiad, BT Young Scientist, Chemistry in Action and science essay competitions.† In 2005 one student achieved first prize in the Young Scientist Intermediate Social and Behavioural category while another student secured a Gold medal in the Irish Science Olympiad followed by a Bronze medal in the International Science Olympiad held in Indonesia. The school also has a Science club which meets on a weekly basis.† The purpose of the club is to encourage students to carry out investigations using the scientific method.† Investigations vary depending on studentsí interests and facilities available.† These extra- and co-curricular activities are to be highly commended and the teachers involved are to be congratulated for their commitment, without which the students would not benefit from such stimulating experiences.†
The school library also has a Science section that is augmented by the Science teachers on an annual basis.† Science students are encouraged to use the library that is open at lunchtimes.† This is praiseworthy practice.
Comprehensive long-term plans were available for both Junior Certificate Science and Leaving Certificate Biology.† These were developed collaboratively and included reference to aims, objectives, topics to be covered in each year group, practical work to be carried out and methods of assessment.† In order for students to plan for their own revision, it is recommended that a list of topics to be covered during the year be distributed to students at the beginning of the year.†
Short-term planning was good and was evidenced in the production of some lesson plans, prepared overhead projector transparencies (OHP), Powerpoint presentations, worksheets, laboratory apparatus and other resources.† This level of planning is praiseworthy and contributed to the quality of teaching and learning observed in the classrooms.† There is also scope for further collaboration within the Science department in terms of resource enhancement and the sharing of teaching aids such as OHP transparencies, worksheets and multimedia presentations that have proved effective.† The possibility of maintaining a common bank of these resources, which Science teachers could draw from according to need and contribute to as materials are developed, should be considered.
Co-ordination within the Science team is effective and takes the form of regular informal meetings.† It is recommended that, where practicable, these meetings be formalised with a view to meeting on a once-a-term basis.† There is an informal Science co-ordinator in the department and it is recommended that this position be rotated among members on a yearly basis.
Lessons observed had clear aims and were well structured. They were delivered effectively using a variety of methodologies which included groupwork, questioning, use of overhead projector, whole-class discussions, tasks based on past examination questions, board work, teacher demonstration, and use of worksheets and the Powerpoint projector.† Students were challenged by the content of the lessons and were engaged in their own learning.† This varied use of teaching methodologies served to enhance the teaching and learning of Science in the classroom.
In some classes visited very effective use was made of visual stimuli, as the teacher used a series of OHP transparencies and a Powerpoint presentation to provide a clear visual representation of a dihybrid cross in genetics.† The use of such visual stimuli made a significant contribution to enhancing student understanding of scientific processes and helped to keep students on task during the lesson.†
In all lessons observed, discipline was good and teacher movement among the students, assisting, examining and encouraging, was evident as a strategy for sustaining student interest and application to work as well as a means of monitoring performance and achievement.† Where practical work was observed, pupils worked enthusiastically and with due regard for health and safety issues.† It is suggested that health and safety rules or rules of the laboratory be displayed in both laboratories in order to reinforce this good practice.† Adequate time was allowed for plenary sessions at the beginning and end of the practical class in order to prepare students for their work and afterwards to review the lesson as a whole.† Students displayed a mature attitude to practical work and much patient and positive teacher assistance was observed.
Teaching was enthusiastic and students were motivated by the lesson content. This served to augment the positive atmosphere in the classroom. During class discussions the quality of students questions and answers indicated a good level of knowledge of the topic.† Science was related to studentsí everyday lives and this encouraged lively dialogue.
Observation of studentsí work indicates that the skills developed are appropriate and of a very good standard.† Students are confident and competent in the organisation and presentation of materials.† An appropriate level of teacher guidance in this area of work was evident.
A range of assessment techniques is utilised in the school.† Students are assessed on four occasions during the school year and reports are issued to parents that include a comment on student progress.†† Further communication with parents takes the form of annual parent-teacher meetings for each year group, and use of studentís journal, newsletters and the school website.†
Studentsí practical notebooks examined were of a good standard and contained appropriate records of mandatory practical tasks.† It is recommended that the Science team give consideration to the allocation of marks for standard of notebooks or the write-up of practical activities in the summer or Christmas in-house examinations.†
Homework activities are assigned and corrected on a regular basis.† Some exercise books corrected showed evidence of formative assessment and Assessment for Learning practices which is laudable.† It is suggested that members of the science team access the NCCA website for further information on ĎAssessment for Learningí strategies at www.ncca.ie
Records of pupil attainment in class tests are recorded in the teacherís diary. This is a good means of pupil assessment and provides a detailed source of information for feedback to parents and in assisting pupils in making subject choices at senior level and on what level of examination paper to choose in certificate examinations.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 principal and with the teachers of Science and Biology at the conclusion of the evaluation at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.