An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Mount Temple Comprehensive School
Roll number: 81002K
Date of inspection: 25 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Mount Temple Comprehensive School, Dublin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German 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, deputy-principal and relevant staff. 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.
Mount Temple Comprehensive School is a secondary school with an enrolment of 850 students. The school offers the following curricular programmes: the Junior Certificate, the Transition Year (TY) programme, the Leaving Certificate established and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school is considering the introduction of additional curricular programmes to meet the needs of the students. This is praiseworthy. German is offered in all curricular programmes presently on offer in the school.
In Mount Temple Comprehensive School German is offered in both the junior and senior cycles. Prior to entry to first year students choose one modern language from German or French. A ‘taster’ programme is offered for all other optional subjects. It is recommended that comprehensive information regarding modern language options be given to students and parents in advance of their entry to the school. In addition it is recommended that consideration be given to offering a ‘taster’ programme in German and French to first-year students. This will help those involved make a more informed choice .
Modern languages are core in the junior cycle curriculum and, with the exception of one or two students per year group, all study one or other language. This contributes to ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum and also to ensuring that students’ future study and career options are not restricted. This is inclusive and is very good practice. In TY students have the opportunity of taking up Japanese or Italian in addition to German or French. The provision in this programme for languages is good.
The numbers taking German are relatively high with approximately forty per cent of all students in the school taking the language. These numbers allow for two class groups in all years. The school has a mixed-ability ethos and is to be commended for this. In German classes are divided from second year based on ability. It is recommended in keeping with the mixed-ability ethos in the school that classes remain mixed for as long as possible. This would be facilitated by the fact that the syllabus is common in junior cycle.
The time-tabled allocation for German is good. In first and second year the students have four class periods per week and five in third year. In TY three periods per week are assigned to German. In the remainder of the senior cycle students have five class periods in German. On the day of the evaluation issues regarding timekeeping posed a cause for serious concern. In two of the five lessons observed several students arrived up to fourteen minutes late for lessons. This significantly curtailed the opportunities for the teaching and learning of German in those lessons . It is recommended that issues surrounding timekeeping be reviewed on a whole-school basis. It is recommended that a bell which is audible in all areas of the school be installed.
German is taught is base classrooms. The wall space in these rooms is used to maximum effect to generate an environment to stimulate interest in the German language and way of life.A wide variety of maps, colourful posters, grammar charts and photographs is displayed. A most impressive display of current student work related to themes that were being taught in class was in evidence. In addition there is a large notice board for languages in one of the corridors in the school. This contains lots of interesting materials relating to German and at the time of the evaluation had an impressive display relating to ‘Tag der deutschen Einheit’ (Reunification day). It was noted however that in one base classroom due to the layout and size teacher circulation was almost impossible. It is recommended that this base classroom be rotated across subjects to ensure students of German are not always confined to this room for German lessons.
There are good resources for German. The school management operates a system whereby members of subject departments fill out a resource requisition form when resources are needed. This appears to work well. The German department’s resources include magazines, books, tapes, CDs and DVDs.
Members of the German department are very committed to continuous professional development. All teachers are members of the German teachers’ association, Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (GDI) and attend courses and seminars run by the association. Members of the German department have upskilled in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and its integration into the teaching and learning of German.
Many excellent co-curricular activities are organised to support the teaching and learning of German. Students participate in debates in German and are brought to see German films and exhibitions. Quizzes and poetry competitions take place. Language exchanges to Bremen are offered to the students. The German department is to be highly commended on its dedication to the provision of ‘living language experiences’.
Subject department planning is ongoing in Mount Temple Comprehensive School. The German department holds regular formal planning meetings. The school management authorities have timetabled a planning meeting and ensured that all members of the German department are free to attend. Facilitating planning meetings in this manner is good practice. Members of the German department work very well together. Materials, ideas and resources are shared in line with best practice.
Long term plans for German were presented in the course of the evaluation. These plans were theme based and detailed the content for all year groups. It is recommended that the plans be developed to include more information on intended learning outcomes in terms of the skills of language acquisition, that is, what a learner will be able to do in terms of listening, reading, writing and speaking.
The plan for German in TY shows good evidence of active teaching methodologies. It is evident that there is an interdisciplinary approach taken in planning for lesson content. This is good practice and in keeping with the ethos of TY. To build on this good practice it is recommended that additional specific examples of interdisciplinary work be documented in the TY plan.
Short-term planning for individual lessons was very good. Materials needed for teaching and learning were well prepared in advance. Where necessary seating arrangements had been altered in the classroom to facilitate group and pair work. The effectiveness of the short-term planning is to be commended.
The content of all lessons observed was very good. In senior cycle the topic of Halloween was dealt with. In junior cycle topics such as pocket money and physical descriptions were covered. In keeping with the subject plan for German, a thematic approach is always used in the determination of lesson content. This is very good practice and in line with syllabus recommendations.
The use of the target language was excellent. German was used in all lessons for classroom interaction and students were given many opportunities to use the language. In interaction with the inspector students’ comprehension and oral production were very good. To build on the good practice observed it is recommended that dedicated pronunciation exercises are done in the course of lessons. Students should be taught how to produce specific sounds and then given opportunities to practise them.
A highly effective range of methodologies was observed in the course of observation of lessons. Students were given tasks to complete in groups. To facilitate this group work the seats were arranged so that students could sit facing one another. This is good practice. In many lessons observed students were asked to work in pairs. The advance preparation for pair-work was most impressive. Students were very clear on what they were supposed to do and had all the language structures necessary to carry out the task. This is exemplary.
The skills of language acquisition were well integrated in the lessons observed. In many cases students were asked to describe their appearance orally. Students then read and listened to descriptions of people. This was followed by a written exercise on the same topic. Integrating the skills of speaking, reading, listening and writing in this manner serves to consolidate learning and is to be highly commended.
A lot of materials and handouts were prepared in advance of lessons. These were of a very high standard. For example the materials relating to Halloween contained a wide variety of exercises and pictures. Developing unique materials such as these makes lessons interesting and stimulating. This is to be very highly commended. These materials were then used to foster learner autonomy. Students were encouraged to work out vocabulary exercises using dictionaries. The emphasis on developing independent learning skills and ‘learning by doing’ is most praiseworthy.
In senior cycle ICT was integrated in a most effective manner in classroom activities. Students were invited to look up different styles of Halloween cards using the internet. The students then wrote an e-card in German and sent this to the principal of the school. The integration of ICT in a meaningful and fun way is praiseworthy.
Teacher circulation amongst students was generally very good. This was done in an effective manner to help individual students complete tasks and to ascertain any difficulties they might have. In order to further encourage teacher circulation it is recommended that remote controls for the CD players be acquired. Teacher circulation during listening activities will inform teachers about how well students are completing the tasks and this will in turn inform teaching. Ultimately this will assist teachers greatly in developing the skill of listening among the students.
The classroom atmosphere in the lessons was very good. All students were encouraged to participate. The nature of interactions was very positive. Students displayed an interest and enthusiasm for the subject. The learners’ level of engagement with tasks was excellent.
Formal assessment for non-examination classes takes place at Christmas and in the summer. For students taking certificate examinations formal assessment occurs in early spring in the form of ‘mock’ examinations. In all formal assessment students of German are assessed in the four skills of language acquisition. This is very good practice and to be commended.
In some lessons great attention to assessment of students’ learning and comprehension was noted. For example students were asked frequently if they were clear on aspects of tasks and were then invited to explain what was being done. Such short ongoing assessment in the course of lessons was then used to inform further teaching and learning. This is excellent practice. It is recommended that this approach be extended to all lessons.
Informal assessment of students’ general progress in German is ongoing. This occurs through short tests, assignments and homework. Homework is assigned on a regular basis and the school has a homework policy. In the course of lesson observation homework was assigned. Best practice was observed where homework tasks were clearly explained in the lesson. As part of the evaluation a number of copybooks were inspected. Students had completed various written assignments. These were corrected thoroughly. Evidence of follow-up on the part of students was rare. It is recommended that students be allocated time in the course of lessons to correct errors made. This will allow teachers to give individual help to students who may require additional support. For all students this approach to follow up will consolidate the learning process. It is recommended that the approach of assessment for learning (AfL) be adopted in the German department. Further information on AfL can be obtained from the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is good provision for German in the school. The subject has a high profile and there are many excellent activities which support the learning and teaching of the subject.
· Formal planning meetings take place on a regular basis. There is very good formal and informal cooperation between members of the German team.
· The individual lessons observed were well planned.
· The use of the target language was excellent. A wide range of exemplary teaching methodologies was evident.
· The thematic approach to lesson content and the use of teachers’ own materials were excellent.
· All skills of language acquisition are assessed formally and informally on a regular basis.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the issues surrounding timekeeping and students’ significant late arrival to class be addressed at a whole-school level.
· To further enhance student use of the target language it is recommended that dedicated pronunciation exercises be done in class.
· It is recommended that the approach of assessment for learning (AfL) be adopted.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of German and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.