An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Saint Kevin’s Community College
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Roll number: 70042L
Date of inspection: 27 February 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Kevin’s Community College. 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 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.
Home Economics is a well established and very popular optional subject with all students in St. Kevin’s Community College.
The student-centred approach to subject choice employed by St. Kevin’s College is very praiseworthy. All first-year students have the opportunity to do Home Economics for a limited period during the first term as part of a taster programme. Option pools are then generated based on student preferences. Students are supported and advised during this process. This good practice enables students to make informed subject choices. Uptake of Home Economics in junior cycle is very good. The high demand for the subject enables the formation of a number of class groups. In senior cycle, Home Economics is one of a number of optional subjects offered as part of the Leaving Certificate programme. Senior cycle students are well supported and advised on subject choices through the school’s guidance programme and advice from subject teachers. In addition, there is an information evening for parents and guardians. It is admirable that, once again, option pools are generated from student preferences and every effort is made to cater for the requests of all students. There has been a significant recovery from the recent downward trends experienced in uptake of Home Economics in senior cycle and the Home Economics team is commended for their efforts is this regard. Hotel, Catering and Tourism is offered as an elective in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) Programme. As this elective has very good timetabled provision, consideration could be given to exploring the feasibility of occasionally offering Hotel Catering and Tourism as one of the vocational specialisms within the LCA programme.
Home Economics benefits from a very good level of provision and whole school support. Teaching time allocated to classes in both junior and senior cycle is in accordance with syllabus recommendations. A conscious effort is made, where feasible, to ensure continuity when allocating teachers to classes. All subject documentation is promptly disseminated through the principal or the examinations secretary. Management facilitates formal subject department meetings once per term. It is laudable that a copy of the minutes from formal planning meetings is given to the principal by the Home Economics team. This practice contributes positively to the school’s engagement with school development planning.
Very good provision is made in Home Economics for students with special education needs. The deployment of two Home Economics teachers to some class groups to facilitate team teaching strategies is highly commended. Special needs assistants are present in classes as appropriate. Where feasible, the school provides the resources during the mock examinations that reflect the reasonable accommodation that candidates may expect in the certificate examinations. This good practice is very beneficial in helping students prepare for their certificate examinations.
There is one specialist room for Home Economics and a general classroom is used for textiles and theory lessons. Both rooms are well maintained, resourced and organised with an appropriate range of equipment to support the learning and teaching of Home Economics. Resources are allocated on the basis of teacher requisition. It is acknowledged by the Home Economics team that management is very supportive of requests made for updating resources and replacing equipment. There is a school health and safety policy and the Home Economics team is actively involved in the development and review of this policy. In addition, the team check the specialist room on a regular basis and report any necessary work. All Home Economics students are made aware of the safety rules for practical classes. To develop the health and safety policy further, it is recommended that the Home Economics team develops a health and safety statement, specific to Home Economics, for inclusion in the subject department plan.
Some use is made of information and communications technology (ICT) to support the learning and teaching of Home Economics. ICT is used by Home Economics students for coursework research and presentation of work. ICT is a useful tool to engage students in independent and guided research that is appropriate to the coursework requirements in Home Economics. It is also useful for the preparation and presentation of project work. Therefore, where feasible, the potential of ICT as a tool to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics should be explored.
A high level of co-operation exists within a team of very committed teachers. They meet regularly, both on a formal and informal basis and the level of collaborative planning already undertaken is admirable.
There are formal agreed programmes of work for each year group. These plans are submitted to the principal at the beginning of each academic year. All plans are time bound and include lists of topics and practical work to be undertaken. There is a strong emphasis on the development of practical skills in some junior cycle plans. In senior cycle, the sequence of lessons in some sections of the Leaving Certificate plan is determined by the coursework assignments. This is good practice and should be developed to facilitate the further integration of theoretical knowledge with practical skills. This is in keeping with the rationale underlying the revised syllabus. To develop programme planning in Home Economics further, it is recommended that the approach to subject planning already underway be reviewed and developed. At the next review stage and on a phased basis all plans should be modified to include an outline of learning outcomes that reflects the integrated approach recommended in syllabuses, suitable teaching strategies and homework activities. In planning for junior cycle, it is strongly recommended that emphasis be placed on teaching and learning strategies that integrate theoretical knowledge with practical skills on an on-going basis. This will allow students to reinforce, clarify and apply their knowledge and understanding of relevant theoretical concepts to practical skills.
It is commendable that the design brief process is introduced in food studies from an early stage in junior cycle. Consideration could be given to the completion of a simple scrapbook or folder in tandem with the textile or craft work in first or second year. This would enable students to develop essential knowledge and skills over time, in the areas of investigation, problem solving, planning and evaluation. It would also provide opportunities to integrate theory and practice.
A range of additional resources that enhance the learning and teaching of Home Economics has been collected, designed and catalogued by the Home Economics team. These include educational packs, commercial posters, newspaper articles, worksheets and class tests. The laminated recipe cards and flash cards are particularly laudable. The resources are easily accessible to each member of the teaching team in shared department resource folders. This is commendable practice. The Home Economics team is also commended for the efforts made to design differentiated worksheets that take the diverse students’ learning needs, typical of mixed-ability settings, into account. This is very good practice and its wider use is encouraged. Further advice and support on differentiated learning is available from the Second Level Support Service at www.slss.ie.
There is a limited range of resources books and magazines available for coursework research. Since coursework in Home Economics necessitates access to updated information, the Home Economics team should review their existing stock of resource books in light of the requirements of current syllabuses and identify any resource needs. As resources permit, on-going investment in the maintenance and expansion of a Home Economics resource library that is accessible to students and teachers is encouraged.
The Home Economics team is involved in some informal cross-curricular planning with other subject departments such as English, SPHE and Business Studies. The annual cross-curricular event for students involved in the Junior Certificate School Programme is particularly admirable.
There was evidence of good advance planning and preparation in all the lessons observed. Lessons were well structured and purposeful and pacing was generally good. The practice of sharing clear, concise and achievable learning outcomes with the students at the beginning of the class was observed in some lessons. This is very good practice as it can help to motivate students as well as give a sense of purpose and direction to classroom work. It can also encourage a degree of self-assessment by students within the class.
In all the lessons observed explanations and instructions were clear, accurate and contextualised. Good use was made of the board to clarify and reinforce the main points of the lesson. Deliberate efforts were made in all lessons to link the lesson content to the everyday experiences of students which proved very effective in stimulating interest and encouraging learners to engage with the lesson. In some lessons there was good cross-linking of interrelated syllabus areas. This good practice should be further developed as Home Economics syllabuses recommend that information be taught within a framework that integrates the related elements and processes. There was some emphasis on reinforcing key terminology for the topic being taught. This is admirable practice as it helps students develop the necessary linguistic skills in preparation for the written examinations. This key word approach could be further developed and extended by displaying posters of the key terminology for particular topics on the walls of the classrooms. Questioning was used effectively to engage students in the learning activity and to check understanding of previous knowledge. On occasion questions were directed to individual students. This is an excellent method of monitoring individual student learning and its wider use is encouraged.
The teaching strategies employed in lessons were very appropriate to the learning needs of the students. In the practical lessons observed there was an appropriate balance between teacher instruction and student work. The team-teaching strategies observed are particularly commended. In order to build on the good practice already evident, it is recommended that in lessons where there could be a tendency for students to remain passive, active teaching methodologies be further explored and used in order to avoid an over-emphasis on teacher input and promote active learning. Activities such as group-work, pair-work, or the use of worksheets or case studies, should be considered as a means of reinforcing the lesson content and engaging students actively in their learning. On occasion these activities should aim to challenge students to research, analyse, interpret and apply information in order to develop the higher order thinking skills that underpin some of the assessment objectives of Home Economics syllabuses.
Classroom management was very good in all the lessons observed. Where challenging situations arose, discipline issues were dealt with in an effective and sensitive manner. The good practice of taking a roll call at the beginning of lessons was noted. Good routines were evident in the practical lessons observed. Students displayed a sense of security in seeking clarification or assistance during lessons. Teacher movement around the room during lessons ensured that all students remained on task and provided opportunities for students to seek individual help in a supportive structure. Very good use was made of praise to affirm students’ efforts.
The physical environment of the Home Economics rooms is enhanced by a display of some educational posters and student work. This practice might be further developed to include displays of themed educational posters and the development of a notice board exhibiting leaflets and newspaper articles of topical issues relevant to Home Economics. Displays of student work and photographs in the Home Economics room also promote a sense of student ownership and responsibility for the creation of a stimulating learning environment.
A very experienced and committed approach is taken to the learning and teaching of Home Economics. Interaction with students indicated that they generally had a good understanding of the topics being studied. In the practical lessons observed, they were competent in the handling of equipment and materials.
A range of assessment modes is used to assess student competence and monitor progress in Home Economics. These include oral questioning, class tests, homework assignments and continuous monitoring of students’ practical and project work. Records of class tests and attendance are systematically recorded in teachers’ journals. This good practice helps to build a profile of students’ progress and achievement in the subject over time.
Formal in-house examinations are held for all year groups at Christmas and summer. Students preparing for the certificate examinations sit mock examinations in the second term. Results are communicated to parents or guardians twice yearly and at parent-teacher meetings. The student journal is an additional form of communication. The Home Economics department operates a commendable system of summative assessment for some junior cycle groups where an aggregate mark is awarded for written examinations and a coursework component. It is laudable that the appropriate State Examinations Commission (SEC) marking framework is used. This is excellent practice. This practice should be extended to senior cycle by including the food studies coursework journal as an assessment component in senior cycle in-house examinations. An aggregate assessment mark that includes all components of the relevant Certification Examination is an accurate indicator of the student’s ability in the subject and where feasible, this approach should be incorporated into assessment practices.
Homework is regularly assigned in Home Economics lessons. While there was some variation in the quality of work presented, observation of student copybooks generally indicated good progression in their work. The notebooks could be developed to include handouts and worksheet used in lessons. Homework is regularly checked and some good practices were evident with regard to the monitoring of student work. On occasion useful teacher comments provided feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. This is laudable practice and should be developed further. Regular feedback enhances learning by informing students about their own individual progress, highlights areas for improvement and ultimately challenges and assists students to reach their full potential. Further information on Assessment for Learning (AfL) is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website at www.ncca.ie. The Home Economics team is currently formalising an assessment and homework policy. It is recommended that a policy on the maintenance of student copybooks, homework notebooks and folders be integrated into the homework policy and into subject planning documentation. Particular attention should also be given to extending and developing AfL practices in the assigning and monitoring of work.
Observation of project work in the area of design and craftwork indicated a good level of competence in the organisation and presentation of materials and in the appropriate craft skills. Good practice is evident with regard to the routines for the senior cycle food studies practical coursework journal. It is worth noting that the Chief Examiners’ Reports and associated marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) are very useful for further guidance and advice on the 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 well established and very popular subject on the school’s curriculum.
· The subject benefits from a very good level of provision and whole school support.
· The deployment of two teachers for some class groups is highly commended.
· The Home Economics team is actively involved in the development and review of the school’s health and safety policy.
· Subject department planning is underway. The level of collaborative planning evident is laudable.
· A range of resources that enhance the learning and teaching of Home Economics has been collected, developed and catalogued by the Home Economics team.
· A very experienced, committed and collaborative approach is taken to the learning and teaching of Home Economics.
· Classroom management was very good in all the lessons observed. Discipline was sensitively maintained and very good use was made of praise to affirm students’ progress.
· A range of assessment modes is used to assess student competence and monitor progress.
· An assessment and homework policy for Home Economics is currently being developed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made:
· The Home Economics department should develop further the health and safety statement for Home Economics.
· The collaborative approach to subject department planning already underway should be continued. At the next review stage and on a phased basis all plans should be modified to include an appropriate balance between theory and practical work, an outline of learning outcomes that reflects the integrated approach of syllabuses, suitable teaching strategies and homework activities.
· In lessons where students remain passive, active teaching methodologies should be further explored and used, in order to avoid an over-emphasis on teacher input and promote active learning.
· In developing the homework policy for Home Economics, attention should be given to developing routines for the maintenance of student notebooks and homework copybooks. Particular attention should also be given to extending and developing AfL practices in assigning and monitoring student work.
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.