An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Lucan Community College
Esker Rd., Lucan, Co. Dublin
Roll number: 70080T
Date of inspection: 11 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Lucan 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 two days 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Home Economics is a very vibrant and well-established subject within all curricula programmes offered in Lucan Community College.
Home Economics is an optional subject in junior and senior cycle. Participation rates are very high but any further growth in uptake is curtailed by the fact that the specialist rooms are timetabled to maximum capacity. First-year students choose their optional subjects at pre-entry stage by selecting them in order of preference. Parents and students are supported and advised during this process. Information on curriculum choice is distributed to all applicants and a pre-enrolment meeting is held for the parents where the Guidance counsellor, pre-induction co-ordinator and the principal offer support and advice on subject choice. Option pools are generated based on student preferences. Uptake of Junior Certificate Home Economics is good and it appears that it is an attractive option for both boys and girls. The Home Economics team are commended for their efforts in this regard. Junior cycle Home Economics classes are of mixed ability but within the context of the banding system operating in the school.
It is laudable that the majority of students in Transition Year (TY) complete a half-year module in Home Economics. Home Economics is an optional subject in the established Leaving Certificate and in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Once again option pools are generated from student choices and it is commendable that every effort is made to facilitate all students in their subject selection. Senior cycle uptake of Home Economics is very good, though traditionally it is higher among girls. Hotel Catering and Tourism is a vibrant vocational specialism in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.
Home Economics benefits from a very good level of provision and whole-school support. Teaching time allocated to classes in junior and senior cycle is very good and generally in line with syllabus recommendations and requirements. While the difficulties and constraints that exist in relation to timetabling are recognised, it would be preferable that triple classes and the timetabling of double classes across the morning break in junior cycle be avoided. In most instances, class contact time is distributed evenly throughout the week which ensures effective continuity in teaching and learning. It is admirable that all members of the teaching team have the opportunity to teach on all courses and all levels. This good practice ensures that the necessary expertise is distributed among the teaching team.
Subject department structures are well established in Lucan Community College and a high level of collaboration exists between the Home Economics team. Collegial practices underpin the work of the Home Economics department. The position of head of department is voluntary and rotates among the team of three teachers on an annual basis. It is particularly laudable that this position changes in the third term to allow for a smooth transition into the new academic year. Management is very supportive of collaborative planning and facilitates formal meetings on a very regular basis throughout the academic year. An agenda is prepared and minutes are taken at each meeting. It was very evident from the minutes of these meetings that a collaborative, reflective and progressive approach is taken to department planning in Home Economics. Ongoing planning is underpinned by modern educational philosophies and practices. This informed approach is contributing positively to the high quality of teaching and learning evident. There is very good communication between the Home Economics team and senior management. This has ensured a cohesive strategy for the long-term development and support of Home Economics in the school.
There is a very strong commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) and this is facilitated and encouraged by management. All teachers have attended in-service for the revised Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus and LCA Hotel, Catering and Tourism and regularly attend the local network meetings run by the Home Economics Support Service and Association of Teachers of Home Economics. In addition, all members of the team have a variety of experience in the marking of the certificate examinations at junior and senior cycle. It is obvious that the experience gained has impacted very positively on the quality of learning and teaching of Home Economics in the school.
The specialist rooms for Home Economics are very well maintained and resourced with an appropriate range of equipment to support the teaching and learning of Home Economics. At present there is no annual budget for Home Economics, though it is the intention to move towards an annual budgetary allocation. It is acknowledged by the Home Economics team that management is very supportive of requests made for updating and replacing equipment. Specialist room provision is limited, given the number of students opting for Home Economics and the range of curricular programmes to which Home Economics contributes. The fact that there is only one kitchen is placing significant limits on the quality of access to practical lessons. The Home Economics team are commended for the flexible and creative approach taken in dealing with this situation. It is commendable that the Home Economics team, in collaboration with senior management, is planning for the long-term development of Home Economics facilities in the school. During the course of the evaluation, it was reported that discussions have been initiated with regard to the upgrading and re-furbishment of the existing kitchen. High priority is given to health and safety and the Home Economics department have been involved in the development and review of the school’s health and safety policy.
The Home Economics department are involved in a range of information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives that enhance the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics. There is internet access in the kitchen and a laptop computer is available for use. The Home Economics rooms are located adjacent to one of the computer suites so it is very convenient for Home Economics classes to use the computer room if available. During the course of the evaluation it was noted that educational websites are effectively used to prepare class resources, and that students in LCA, and through junior and senior cycle use ICT to complete coursework. Members of the teaching team have been involved in a range of CPD opportunities in the area of ICT. During the course of the inspection it was obvious that the expertise gained is helping Home Economics teachers further develop and explore the potential for ICT within the classroom. The school is in the early stages of setting up an intranet which will include subject based resources. The Home Economics department will be contributing to this project. This is excellent practice. The commitment and dedication of the teachers involved in promoting such innovative learning is highly commended.
The importance of differentiating for students with special education needs is recognised by the Home Economics team. The very close collaboration that exists between the Home Economics and learning support team ensures that a focused and strategic approach is taken to supporting Home Economics students with special education needs. It was evident from discussions held, and from observations made during the course of the inspection, that the Home Economics team have a detailed knowledge of the individual learning needs of specific students in their care and have adopted an informed and collaborative approach to ensuring that all students reach their full potential. Their work in this regard is highly commended.
Subject department planning is at a very advanced stage. In addition to formal meetings, the Home Economics team meet on an informal basis as the need arises. The agenda of department meetings includes programme planning and review, room allocation, the organisation of practical and project work, planning for resources and the review and maintenance of equipment. The work of the department is reviewed annually and it is particularly commendable that an analysis of student outcomes in the certificate examinations forms part of this review in order to inform the development of future teaching and learning strategies. Policy development in Home Economics is at an advanced stage and the collaborative approach taken to the development of these policies has resulted in a strong, shared vision for the development of Home Economics in the school. The practices and procedures in place within the Home Economics department are underpinned by whole-school policies and complement the school’s ongoing work in the area of school development planning.
Formal programmes of work are available for each year group. Even though these programmes have been drawn up on a collaborative basis, they have an in-built flexibility to accommodate individual teaching styles and to meet the needs of particular classes. All programmes of work are underpinned by the aims and objectives of relevant syllabuses. They are time bound and include lists of theoretical and practical work that will be covered. Lists of teaching methodologies are also included. It is laudable that plans include time for revision. Clear assessment strategies are well planned in a separate assessment policy for Home Economics. In junior cycle, the introduction of the design brief process from first year is highly commended. In order to build on the good practices already established, it is recommended that the approach to subject planning already underway be developed further. At the next review stage, and on a phased basis, the plans should be modified to include an outline of expected knowledge and understanding that reflects the integrated approach recommended in syllabuses, planned teaching strategies, suitable resources and suggested homework activities. Particular emphasis should be placed on encouraging appropriate integration of topics across core areas of the relevant syllabuses. Further guidance on subject planning is available in the NCCA Guidelines for Teachers for the revised Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus or from the Home Economics Support Service at www.homeeconomics.ie.
A very good selection of additional resources and teaching aids have been collected, developed and catalogued by the Home Economics team. There is a range of educational packs, resource books, commercial posters, magazines, leaflets and newspaper articles available. In addition, teachers have collaboratively developed a range of teaching aids and resource materials for lessons. It is admirable that these resources are regularly reviewed and updated as Home Economics syllabuses necessitate access to updated information for students and teachers. As further evidence of the collegial practices underpinning the work of the department, all resources are easily accessible to each member of the teaching team.
The Home Economics team is involved in co- and cross-curricular planning. The cross-curricular and community interaction projects in TY are highly commended. The school has also successfully participated in a range of cookery competitions. These practices are highly commended as they broaden students’ knowledge and skills, as well as enhancing their enjoyment of the subject. It was noted positively that student participation in these events is recognised and commemorated through colourful photographic displays adjacent to the Home Economics rooms.
The short-term planning and preparation was exemplary for all of the lessons observed. Appropriate resource materials were used effectively to support student learning. This resulted in very good learning outcomes for the students.
A variety of lesson types, both practical and theoretical, was observed. All lessons were very well structured and paced at a level that was suited to the varying abilities of the students. It is laudable that the planned learning outcomes of the lesson were shared with students in order to focus their attention and give a sense of direction to each lesson.
Very high quality teaching and learning was evident in all lessons. Teacher explanation was very clear, accurate and contextualised. The white board was used effectively to emphasise key concepts of the topic being taught. There was some very good use of “mind maps” to summarise topics. Mind maps can also be useful to highlight the interrelationships between topics. Questioning was used effectively to elicit students’ prior experiences and knowledge of the topic being taught and students’ responses indicated a very good understanding of previous knowledge. This facilitated the introduction of new subject matter and contributed to student understanding. On some occasions, questioning strategies challenged students to analyse, apply, interpret or transfer information. This excellent practice could be promoted in all lessons in order to develop a deep understanding of the material being taught and encourage the development of the higher order thinking skills that underpin some of the assessment objectives of the Home Economics syllabuses
Active learning is a central feature of Home Economics lessons in this school. Worksheets were used effectively to reinforce learning. It is commendable that students were encouraged to work on their own or in pairs to complete the worksheets before the answers were clarified. Furthermore, it is particularly commendable that some of the worksheets were designed to accommodate the various learning styles typical of mixed-ability settings, through the use of word searches and cloze tests. To develop this good practice, it is recommended that consideration be given to designing differentiated worksheets or class activities that would further support the diverse learning needs of students. This could be achieved by designing worksheets or activities where the task is extended or reduced according to the students’ ability. In addition, particular attention should be given, if appropriate to activities that encourage higher order thinking skills. Further information on differentiated learning strategies is available from the Special Education Support Service at www.sess.ie. This work could be done on a collaborative basis and contribute to the good work already underway in programme planning.
In the practical lesson observed, there was an appropriate balance between teacher instruction and student work. Particularly impressive was the ability of the students to work independently and in collaboration with each other. The lesson aimed to assess students’ food and culinary skills as part of the summer examination and very good emphasis was placed on the correct examination procedure. Students displayed a very high level of self-organisational skills as evidenced by their level of advance preparation and planning for the class and their implementation of the task. They had a very good standard of culinary skills and sound safety and hygiene routines were evident. It is commendable that students were afforded the opportunity to complete a design brief as part of this process.
Planned learning activities were very well managed. The good practice of taking a roll call at the beginning of each class was noted. The physical environment of the specialist rooms was attractive and stimulating through a display of educational posters and student project work. The dedicated examinations notice board is a particularly good idea, as students need to be regularly reminded of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) regulations governing the submission of coursework. The atmosphere in all classrooms was pleasant and conducive to learning. There was a very good rapport between students and teachers as well as a high level of mutual respect and co-operation. Very good use was made of praise to affirm students’ efforts. It was obvious that the practice of the teacher moving around the room gave students the opportunity to seek individual help and clarification in a supportive manner.
Home Economics students are effectively challenged to reach their full potential and take the certificate examination at the level that is most suited to their ability. Student progress is regularly monitored. Formative assessment is carried out on an ongoing basis through oral questioning, student observation, homework assignments and the assessment of practical and project work. Class tests are administered at frequent intervals. Excellent record keeping is evident in the Home Economics department and the procedure for submission of key assignments is admirable. All assessment outcomes are systematically recorded in teachers’ journals and good collaboration with the learning support department ensures that very detailed student profiles are assembled by the teachers. These profiles are used by the teachers to support student progress and provide advice on examination levels.
House examinations are held twice yearly. Students preparing to sit the certificate examinations sit mock examinations in the second term. Results are communicated to parents or guardians twice yearly and at the parent-teacher meetings. Summative assessment procedures for junior and senior cycle Home Economics are very praiseworthy. Students are awarded an aggregated mark for the written paper and the relevant coursework components completed. The appropriate SEC marking schemes are used. In addition, written papers are based on the format of the relevant certificate examination and differentiated written papers are drafted when necessary.
In line with the school’s best practice procedures, homework is regularly assigned to monitor and reinforce learning. In the case of students preparing for the certificate examinations there was an appropriate emphasis on past examinations papers. Excellent practices were evident with regard to the monitoring of homework. Useful teacher comments in copies and test papers provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. In some cases students’ attention was drawn to incorrect spelling of key terminology. This is good preparation for written examinations. Consideration should be given by the Home Economics team to expanding and developing the Assessment for Learning (AfL) practices already evident in the learning and teaching of Home Economics. Further information on AfL is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment website at www.ncca.ie.
Observation of student copybooks and notebooks indicated very good progression in their work. The system of note-taking observed in a senior cycle class is particularly noteworthy and highly commended. Consideration could be given to reviewing procedures for copybooks to ensure that all handouts and worksheets distributed in class are systematically stored by students in each year group. Observation of junior cycle coursework indicated very good progression in the development of craft and textile skills from first year to third year. It is commendable that a design folder is completed in tandem with the product in all cases. Consideration could be given to encouraging further student individuality in the writing up of the support folders.
Students have a positive attitude towards Home Economics and demonstrate a sense of pride in their work. Observation of classroom activities and interaction with students indicated a very high level of engagement and genuine enjoyment of the subject. Overall, very good standards are achieved. The quality of teaching and learning in Lucan Community College is of a very high order. This is due to the whole-school support for the subject combined with the diligence and enthusiasm of the Home Economics teaching team in the creation of a very supportive and stimulating learning environment.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
Home Economics is a vibrant subject within all curricula programmes in the school.
There is a very good level of provision and whole-school support.
The professional, collaborative, informed and reflective approach taken to subject department planning is highly commended.
The Home Economics department are involved in a range of ICT initiatives that enhance the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics.
The education needs of all Home Economics students are very well provided for through thoughtful and progressive planning strategies and close liaison with the learning support department.
Long-term subject planning is underway and formal programmes of work have been drawn up for each year group.
Very high quality teaching and learning was evident in all the lessons observed. Further planning for differentiation could be considered.
The summative assessment procedures used in Home Economics are highly commended.
Excellent practices were evident with regard to the monitoring of homework.
Home Economics students are effectively challenged to reach their full potential and take the certificate examination at the level that is most suited to their ability.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
The programmes of work should be reviewed and developed where necessary to include an outline of learning outcomes that reflects the integrated approach recommended in syllabuses.
Consideration should be given to designing differentiated worksheets or class activities that would enhance the diverse learning needs of students.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Home Economics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Lucan community College, on behalf of the Home Economics Department and the staff of the school, welcomes the very positive findings of this Report. In the spirit of evaluation and review espoused within this College it also welcomes the recommendations contained therein.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The following actions have been undertaken or planned:
Application made for upgrading the kitchen and conversion of the Sewing Room to dual purpose Kitchen/Sewing Room under Summer Works 2007;
Priority has been given for time-tabling 2007/08 so that the over-long teaching session affecting one class in this subject be avoided;
The Inspection Report has been reviewed by the Home Economics Department and integrated into its ongoing planning:
Staff members participating in Teaching and Learning for the Twenty First Century have undertaken training in Assessment for Learning recently , and the Home Economics Department is researching the techniques involved in collaboration with them (Page 7 of the Inspection Report refers).