An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta


Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of

Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies




McHale College,


County Mayo

Roll number: 72070D


Date of inspection: 11 May 2007

Date of issue of report: 17 January 2008




Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations






Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies


Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in McHale College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies 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.


Subject provision and whole school support


Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are offered as Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate optional subjects respectively in this co-educational vocational school. Senior-cycle students study CS as part of the Established Leaving Certificate (LC) or as one of a combination of optional subjects that form vocational subject groupings (VSG) for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).


First year students entering the school must choose either MTW or Home Economics (HE) as their only optional subject choice, while they study all other available subjects. This arrangement results in a gendered uptake of these subjects with boys studying MTW and girls taking HE. Students entering senior-cycle are given an open choice of available optional subjects and option bands based on students' choices are then developed. There are no girls currently studying CS in senior-cycle in the school. While it is recognised that the school operates these arrangements in order to maximise the advantages accruing from available resources it is recommended that ways to enable and encourage girls who wish to take the subjects should be explored.   


Junior-cycle MTW classes receive an appropriate time allocation while senior-cycle CS classes in the school receive a generous timetable allocation. Junior- and senior-cycle allocations include double and single class periods that cater adequately for practical work, project work, drawing and theory and are commended.


The MTW/CS and Technical Graphics/Drawing rooms are used for the delivery of the subjects. These rooms are well appointed, equipped and maintained and the MTW/CS room is equipped with a dust extraction system. The rooms are decorated with wall charts on a variety of wood and construction technology topics and examples of students' practical, project and drawn work. This provides a visually rich and stimulating learning environment for students and is commended. In order to enhance this visual environment and promote health and safety consciousness among students it is recommended however, that additional wall charts related to the appropriate use of hand, portable power and machine tools be displayed in the MTW/CS room.


Teachers and students have access to the school's computer room but no drawing software is currently available there. However, additional computer hardware and software will be provided prior to the introduction of the new Leaving Certificate Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) syllabus in September 2007 and students of all the technology subjects available in the school will have access to this equipment.


Planning and preparation


The school is engaged in ongoing development planning and MTW and CS teachers form a discrete subject department within the school's overall planning structure. A subject co-ordinator has also been appointed. This is commended.


A high level of co-operation was evident during the inspection. MTW and CS teachers meet formally and informally on a regular basis, discuss subject-related issues and keep formal records. Issues are discussed with the principal when appropriate. These arrangements work effectively.


A comprehensive MTW subject plan has been developed and this is commended. This plan includes the syllabus, programmes of work in line with syllabus requirements for each year group in the subject, and aims and objectives for the Junior Certificate programme. It also includes references to teaching methodologies, class organisation, provision for students with special educational needs (SEN), prescribed texts and references to health and safety arrangements and information and communication technologies (ICT). This subject plan is highly commended. A scheme of work has been developed for senior-cycle CS but it is recommended that a subject plan similar to that in place for MTW be developed for CS as a priority. 


There have not been any opportunities for in-career development in MTW or CS recently and it is recommended therefore, that teachers engage in the professional development opportunities related to the introduction of the new Architectural Technology syllabus when these are provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) in future years. 


All MTW and CS class groups are of mixed ability and students sit examinations at the level appropriate to their abilities. MTW and CS teachers liaise with the school's learning-support team when planning for students with special educational needs and this is commended.


Requests for resources for the subjects are made through the principal and this arrangement works well in the school.


Teaching and learning


An appropriately ordered learning environment was created and maintained during all lessons evaluated and teaching of a high standard was observed. This is commended.


All lessons were coherent, had clear aims and objectives, were well structured and appropriately paced in terms of the class groups observed. Lessons were suitable for the time of year and took account of the differentiated needs of students. This is commended as good practice. 


Teachers employed appropriate methodologies in terms of students’ abilities, needs and interests and a range of strategies was used. For example, teachers demonstrated the theory skills of freehand sketching and concise note-making during all lessons and tips on how to approach examination questions were frequently given in lessons with State examination classes visited during the inspection. These practices are commended. 


Global and directed questions, including higher order questions, were used effectively to revise previous lessons, to introduce new topics, to direct student attention and to summarise. This approach to questioning is commended.


Chalkboard presentations were used effectively during lessons. Presentations served to focus student attention, to support their learning, and to summarise at the end of lessons. Handout materials were used in tandem with these presentations and this practice is commended.


Wood and construction technology principles were presented incrementally during lessons and teachers scaffolded students' development in the topics covered. This practice is commended.


MTW and CS terminology was used continually by teachers during lessons and students communicated effectively using this terminology. This is an important part of the technological process and the approach adopted is commended.


Classroom routines were in evidence during all lessons observed. These ensure the learning environment is well organised, managed and safe during activities and their use is commended.


Textbooks were used during lessons but were not heavily relied upon. A wide variety of supplementary resources is also used effectively to complement these texts, for reference purposes and for homework assignments. This approach is commended. 


Teachers engaged with individual students and assessed their progress in the completion of classroom tasks as they moved around the classrooms. This practice is commended.


Students’ demonstrated the quality of their understanding by answering and asking questions and in the competencies they exhibited during lessons. Written and drawn class work and homework  were  of a standard consistent with a range of abilities and the content of junior- and senior-cycle students' MTW and CS notebooks and portfolios was appropriate. Efforts should continually be made however, to further enhance students' subject-specific knowledge and skills.  


An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident during the evaluation. Students participated enthusiastically in all classroom activities and an atmosphere conducive to learning was created. Students' contributions during lessons were appropriately affirmed by teachers.




A range of subject-specific assessment modes is employed in MTW and CS and practical, project, written and drawn class work and homework is routinely assessed, commented on and graded. These practices are commended.


Each year all students sit house examinations at the end of the first term and first, second and fifth year students also sit end-of-year examinations. Formal mock examinations are scheduled for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students during the second term each year.


The results of students’ achievements are communicated to parents by means of school reports following end-of-term, mock and end-of-year examinations.


The quality of record keeping of student attendance is of a high standard and the results of all student assessments are recorded systematically.


Parent-teacher meetings for each year group are organised annually and regular contact between teachers and parents is encouraged. These practices are commended.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


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 Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.