An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny
Roll number: 70600T
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Mhuire, Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board
Provision is made for technology education in the curriculum of the school through the inclusion of Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. At senior cycle, Engineering forms part of the Leaving Certificate, the Transition Year (TY), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA). It is commended that all students are presented with the opportunity to choose to study a technology subject.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle. This allocation includes four class periods per week at junior cycle, two class periods in TY and six class periods in the established Leaving Certificate. Students following the LCA programme are allocated four class periods per week to complete each module within the vocational specialism. Those students undertaking Engineering as an elective module in the LCA are allocated two class periods. This provides adequate time for practical work, project work and theory to be accommodated.
Students entering first year must select optional subjects from two pre-set subject bands. Metalwork is on both of these subject bands. This allows students to choose any combination of subjects. It is suggested that to further improve this system, management should explore the use of a taster programme that would allow all students to sample Metalwork prior to choosing their optional subjects. At senior cycle, students’ preferences are surveyed and subject option bands are devised based on these preferences. This is commendable.
Taking into account the number of students enrolled in the school, a large proportion of boys study Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle respectively. Presently no girls study Engineering at senior cycle. It is recommended that school management undertake research as to why girls are not choosing the subject and together with the subject department develop strategies to encourage them to do so at senior cycle.
Incoming first-year students and parents are supported in making an informed subject choice through an open day held in the school. The subject teachers facilitate this by showcasing a demonstration class with TY students. All senior cycle students are supported in making their choices by having had the experience of an Engineering module during TY and by the relevant information and advice provided by the guidance councillor. Additional supports are given at critical times during the students’ school life, for example information meetings for parents prior to and during TY, LCA and the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP).
There is one Metalwork/Engineering room in the school. The room is very well maintained and well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching aids. The school has also received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005. The subject department is currently updating the machinery and facilities. The items of equipment purchased are generally in accordance with the relevant Department circulars as they appear on the current equipment list. School management is currently in the process of undertaking a full risk assessment of the Metalwork/Engineering room assisted by Co. Kilkenny Vocational Educational Committee (VEC). This ongoing commitment to health and safety is highly commendable.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend continuous professional development (CPD) courses. The teachers of Metalwork and Engineering have attended the CPD courses being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4) and have also attended programme specific courses such as JCSP and LCA. School management and the subject department’s continued commitment to CPD will be of great benefit to both the school and its students.
Teachers of the practical subjects namely Engineering, Construction Studies and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) form a department group in Coláiste Mhuire. This group formally meets at the beginning of each school year and once again each term, and regularly on an informal basis to discuss subject department planning issues. The subject co-ordinator convenes meetings, records and files the minutes with key decisions recorded and actions required identified. This practice is beneficial to subject planning and in turn to whole school planning.
The subject plan outlines the knowledge, skills and learning outcomes that students should acquire in each school year. The teachers have developed individual schemes of work and a co-operative approach to planning exists. To further build upon this strength it is recommended that management explore the possibility of timetabling each teacher with a first, second and third year group. This could develop the existing collaborative approach and assist in planning and assessment.
A clear long-term plan for the teaching of the subject should be further developed and integrated into the School Plan. It is recommended that this includes a needs analysis of the Metalwork and Engineering room and a strategic plan to further update the facilities using the remaining health and safety funding.
The subject teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The subject plan outlines a number of strategies reported to be used when dealing with students with special educational needs.
A number of resources have been identified and developed by the subject department including working drawings and topic-specific presentations. The preparation of such resources complements the teaching experience for students and improves their overall learning environment. There are also many colourful posters displayed in the room that may be incorporated into lessons to highlight key concepts and terminology.
The teachers had meticulously planned for each lesson observed during the course of the evaluation. In the theory lessons notes and question sheets had been prepared for students, and in the practical lessons material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student. In addition, all equipment and tools were readily accessible for students and for demonstration purposes. This level of lesson planning is commendable.
Information and communication technology (ICT) resources are easily accessible to subject teachers. This access and provision is laudable and allows the subject teachers to incorporate ICT into any lesson, practical or theory.
In both practical and theory lessons, a clear learning objective was shared with the class from the beginning. For example in a junior cycle practical lesson observed, the students were seated at the beginning of the lesson and issued with their instructions. This focussed the students on the task and allowed the important points to be reiterated to the students. This type of re-focusing was carried out a number of times during the lesson to ensure all students were kept on task. This is to be commended as very good practice as it allows the teacher to guide the students but also allows them to undergo experiential learning.
All lessons observed were clearly structured so that the content and pace of the lesson were appropriate to the class group, the subject matter and the time available. This was particularly apparent in a senior cycle engineering lesson introducing material testing. In this lesson important material was revised prior to the introduction of mechanical and non-destructive testing methods.
An appropriate range of varied teaching methodologies was employed in all theory lessons observed, and effective questioning techniques were utilised during these lessons.
Effective teaching methodologies were also observed during the practical lessons. Demonstrations to both the class group and to individuals were used throughout the lessons. In all instances the correct use of tools, equipment and processing techniques was highlighted and appropriate terminology was used. These demonstrations were clear and effective and consolidated previous student learning. The distribution of working drawings among students and the animation of the assembled mechanism projected onto the whiteboard was a very effective teaching strategy.
In almost all lessons observed teachers circulated among the students to provide individual guidance and support. By doing this teachers were able to assess student understanding and skills and set varying targets and learning outcomes for students. This is commendable.
ICT was integrated into all lessons observed and its use was both effective and innovative.
Classroom management was effective and conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment. In all lessons observed the teachers sensitively maintained discipline through positive interactions and through the implementation of a seating plan. Students stored the tools neatly and took pride in the cleanliness of the workshop.
Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful. Students received varying but appropriate encouragement and most student responses were affirmed. Almost all students were industrious and a genuine work ethic permeated through the lessons. During the evaluation there were a large number of high quality student projects on display around the room. This is a very good method of drawing attention to individual students’ work and highlighting their achievements.
In all lessons observed students demonstrated an eagerness to co-operate with their teachers in their learning and engaged in all classroom activities and discussions. Students were active participants and, in all lessons observed, their actions and responses to questions reflected this. Students’ practical work, which was both achievable and challenging, was of a good quality and indicated a good level of learning consistent with the skills necessary to complete the syllabus. The majority of student copies were of good quality and contained short and concise notes for each topic combined with relevant sketches.
Students of Coláiste Mhuire regularly achieve recognition in local and national competitions organised by the Engineering and Technology Teachers’ Association (ETTA) and are entered in the upcoming Kilkenny VEC Centenary Medal competition for Engineering. This allows students to achieve in a forum outside the confines of their classroom and raises the profile of the subject in the school and in the wider community. JCSP students are also recognised with an achievements’ evening within the school. This is very good practice and is highly commendable.
Student assessment occurs through both formal end-of-term examinations, and through informal assessment techniques employed by the teachers. These include in-class questioning, monitoring of student practical work, homework, theory tests and end-of-term class tests. Records of student progress are kept by teachers and were available throughout the evaluation. The end-of-term examinations for first, second and fifth-year students are made up of written examinations combined with a practical exercise and a coursework element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subject syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. In third and sixth year, students sit formal written examinations at Christmas while they are completing the project and practical elements of the state examinations.
The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents biannually. The communication of student progress is also carried out through parent/teacher meetings and through the student journal. This practice is commendable as it gives parents an accurate reflection of student progress. Project work is also monitored carefully and progress is individually profiled with feedback given to students. Homework is given and corrected regularly. It is suggested that positive or constructive feedback be given to all students in relation to homework. This would improve the quality of the homework and consolidate learning and thereby improve student understanding.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Metalwork and Engineering are available to students at both junior and senior cycle and there is an appropriate time allocation that allows for adequate time to complete practical work, project work and theory.
· The Metalwork and Engineering room is well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources.
· CPD is both facilitated and encouraged by management.
· There are supports in place for students and parents in relation to subject choice at both junior and senior cycle.
· Time dedicated to planning is utilised by the subject department to prepare detailed subject plans.
· The subject department has compiled a wide variety of teaching resources that are regularly integrated into lessons.
· Health and safety practices and procedures are a core element within the subject department.
· The subject department has embraced the use of ICT and employs it effectively and innovatively within the classroom.
· Classroom management was effective and was conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment.
· Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful.
· The assessment modes used are congruent with the aims and objectives of the subject syllabuses.
· The overall quality of student project work is of a very high standard and demonstrates considerable student learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that school management and the subject department explore ways to increase the uptake of Engineering by girls in the Leaving Certificate and in the LCA.
· It is recommended that school management timetable each teacher with each year group at junior cycle, to further improve the collaborative and co-operative planning and assessment procedures in place.
· It is recommended that the subject department formulate a strategy to complete the refurbishment of the engineering room.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Metalwork and Engineering and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.