An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Subject Inspection of Home Economics

REPORT

 

Old Bawn Community School

Tallaght, Dublin 24

Roll number: 91336W

 

 

 

Date of inspection: 10 February 2006

Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations


 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics

 

 

 

This Subject Inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Old Bawn Community School. †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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers.† The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation.† Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy 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

 

Home Economics is a popular optional subject on the schoolís curriculum.† Participation rates at junior and senior cycles are good and have remained steady over time.

 

Incoming first-year students choose their subjects prior to entering the school.† In order to support students in making informed subject choices, information on optional subjects is sent out to parents and guardians during the enrolment process.† It is praiseworthy that there are additional opportunities for parents and guardians to seek clarifications on subject choice during enrolment interviews.† Students generally choose one optional subject and option pools are generated based on student preferences.† It is laudable that for a limited period during the first term, where feasible, students are allowed to change options.† Student uptake of Home Economics at junior cycle is good, albeit traditionally among girls.† This generally results in the formation of two class groups.† Class groups are usually of mixed ability but if classes occur back-to-back on the timetable, groups are banded.† Management is currently exploring the feasibility of allowing incoming first-year students to study two optional subjects and this will present opportunities to increase student uptake of Home Economics in junior cycle.† At senior cycle it is commendable that all students in Transition Year complete a half-year module in Home Economics.† At Leaving Certificate level students are well advised and supported on senior cycle subject choice.† It is particularly praiseworthy that the Home Economics team contributed to an information handbook on senior cycle options for use in guidance classes.† Once again option pools are generated from student choices and every effort is made to facilitate all students in their subject selection.† Student uptake of Leaving Certificate Home Economics is good.† If uptake is sufficient to create two classes on an option line, class groups move towards a streamed structure as the students progress through the Leaving Certificate programme.† Hotel, Catering and Tourism is currently offered as a vocational specialism in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA)

 

There are two Home Economics teachers in the school and one teacher acts as subject co-ordinator on a voluntary basis.† The subject benefits from a very good level of provision and whole school support. †Teaching time allocated to classes at junior and senior cycle is in line with syllabus requirements and recommendations. †A conscious effort is made to ensure, where feasible, that teachers retain their class groups in junior and senior cycle.† Such continuity is good practice as it can facilitate effective progress.† There is a strong commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) and this is facilitated and encouraged by management.† Recent whole school CPD included a workshop on differentiation and the staff is currently debating the effectiveness of specific teaching and learning methodologies.† The Home Economics teachers have attended the in-service training for the revised Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus and are participating in the current series of network meetings.† This approach to CPD is very commendable as it promotes a professional, collaborative and reflective approach to learning and teaching in classrooms.† Management supports and facilitates formal collaborative planning meetings during the year.† This provides opportunities for the Home Economics team to share good practice as well as plan collaboratively, review and reflect on policies and practices within the department.† This ultimately results in a more cohesive and focused approach to teaching and learning.

 

Good provision is made in Home Economics for students with special education needs.† There is collaboration between the Home Economics and the learning support teams with regard to helping specific students to complete coursework.† Special needs assistants attend classes as appropriate.† It is particularly praiseworthy that the school provides the resources during the mock examinations that reflect the reasonable accommodation that candidates may expect in the certificate examinations.†

 

There are three specialist rooms, two kitchens and a textiles room.† Each room is generally well maintained and adequately resourced with an appropriate range of equipment to support the learning and teaching of Home Economics.† There is no annual budget, but 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 and replacing equipment.† It is commendable that the Home Economics team, in collaboration with senior management, is planning for the long-term development of Home Economics in the school.† During the course of the inspection, it was noted that, resources permitting, the kitchens would benefit from an upgrade and this project is included in the development plan for Home Economics.† Management has prioritised the upgrading of the kitchens as part of an on-going school re-furbishment programme and intends seeking approval for this work from the Department of Education and Science under the Summer Works Scheme.† A health and safety statement was drawn up for Home Economics in 2001 and is included in the schoolís health and safety policy.† A safety committee has recently formed to review and update the schoolís health and safety policy.† In this context, it is recommended that the Home Economics team re-examine and update the health and safety statement for Home Economics.† The revised statement should be included in the updated health and safety policy and displayed in all the specialist rooms.

 

Good use is made of information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance the learning and teaching of Home Economics.† It is highly commendable that in-house staff training in ICT is made available.† The Home Economics team have access to the computer room.† All rooms have recently being fitted with network points and, where resources permit, management is supportive of requests made by individual subject departments for ICT equipment.† Currently ICT is used to prepare handouts, worksheets and exam papers for Home Economics lessons.† Home economics students use ICT for coursework research, E-tests and project presentation. †In order to enable students to engage further in independent and guided research that is appropriate to the coursework requirements in Home Economics, it is recommended that the potential of ICT to enhance the learning and teaching of Home Economics be explored and developed.† Management and the Home Economics team could give consideration, if resources permit, to the provision of ICT facilities in the Home Economics department.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

Formal subject department planning is well underway.† The position of subject co-ordinator rotates among the teaching team.† This is good practice as it allows all team members to assume a leadership role and ensures that the additional workload is shared.† Formal meetings are held twice a year and the Home Economics team meet regularly on an informal basis.† It is commendable that an agenda is provided and minutes are kept for formal meetings.† This practice contributes positively to school development planning.

 

Planned programmes of work are available for each year group and it is laudable that these plans are regularly reviewed.† The process of collaborative subject planning has begun and is particularly evident in the junior cycle plans reviewed.† This very good practice results in an agreed common framework for all classes within a year group.† Collaborative planning also encourages the sharing of resources and ideas among the teaching team.† Plans that were time bound and included an outline of expected knowledge and understanding that reflected the integrated approach recommended in Home Economics syllabuses, teaching strategies, useful resources and homework activities, as well as cross-curricular links with other subjects were illustrative of best practice. †The thematic approach evident in junior cycle planning documentation is especially praiseworthy as it was very evident that this approach facilitated good integration across core areas of the syllabus and allowed for excellent progression of theoretical knowledge and practical skills.† In addition, the introduction of the design brief process at an early stage in junior cycle with some classes is excellent practice and where feasible, should be further developed and extended to all class groups.† In planning for senior cycle it is laudable that the coursework assignments provide the rationale for the sequencing of lessons.† In order to build on this good practice, it is recommended that the collaborative approach to subject planning already underway be developed further.† At the next review stage, and on a phased basis, the plans should be modified where necessary to include appropriate syllabus references, an outline of expected knowledge and content that reflects the integrated approach recommended in the syllabuses, teaching strategies, suitable resources and home work activities.† Particular emphasis should be placed encouraging appropriate integration of topics across core areas of the relevant syllabuses.† Further advice on subject planning is available from the Home Economics Support Service at www.homeeconomics.ie

 

The Home Economics team have range of resources available to support the learning and teaching of Home Economics.† The teaching team has access to overhead projectors, TV / video, DVDs educational packs, commercial posters, magazines, and leaflets.† In addition, teachers have collected and developed a range of handouts and worksheets for lessons.† The teaching team could consider storing these materials in shared department resources folders.†

 

Coursework requirements in Home Economics necessitate access to updated information and students should be encouraged to engage in independent and reflective research.† Therefore it is admirable that there is a range of additional resource books available to students in the specialist rooms and in the school library.† As the school library is currently undergoing further development, the Home Economics team should review the existing library stock in light of current syllabuses requirements and identify any resource needs.† Ongoing investment in the maintenance and expansion of the resource library is encouraged, as resources permit.

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

Good advance planning was evident for all the lessons observed.† Additional resource materials such as handouts and worksheets effectively reinforced learning and presented opportunities to assess studentsí understanding of lesson content.† Lessons were purposeful and paced at a level that was generally suitable to the abilities of all students.†

 

A range of teaching strategies was deployed in the lessons observed.† The good practice of sharing the learning objectives with students was noted in all lessons and proved effective in helping students focus on their own learning.† In all lessons, explanation of new content was very clear, accurate and contextualised.† There was good continuity with previous lessons and a commendable concern was shown for studentsí understanding of lesson content.† Explanations were linked to the everyday experiences of students and this proved very effective in stimulating interest and encouraged learners to engage with the lesson.† Good use was made of the blackboard to illustrate difficult concepts and lesson content was effectively summarised at regular intervals.† In some lessons there was good cross-linking of interrelated syllabus areas.† This practice could be further developed in all lessons as Home Economics syllabuses recommend that information be taught within a framework that integrates the related elements and processes.†

 

Questioning was used to stimulate student interest and to check understanding.† On occasion, students were challenged by questioning to analyse and apply information.† This highly commendable practice should be incorporated into all lessons to develop studentsí higher order thinking skills.† Questioning strategies proved most effective when questions were directed to individual students.† Directing questions reduces the amount of chorus answering and focuses student attention on lesson content. †If students are encouraged to put up their hands before a respondent is chosen, individual levels of student knowledge and understanding can also be assessed.† There was good evidence of reinforcing and checking studentsí understanding of the language of Home Economics.† In all the lessons observed studentsí attention was drawn to the meanings of key terminology for the topic.† This is highly praiseworthy as it helps them develop the necessary linguistic skills in preparation for the written examinations.†

 

Active teaching methodologies were evident in some of the lessons observed.† Particularly impressive was a group activity that occurred where students, after working on their group task, presented their findings to the class. †This was an ideal teaching strategy for mixed-ability groups as student learning was reinforced through peer collaboration.† To develop this good practice further, it is recommended that the Home Economics team extend the range of active teaching methodologies used, even if only for part of a lesson, in order to avoid an over-emphasis on teacher input and promote maximum engagement with learning activities.† Particular emphasis should be placed on learning and teaching strategies that support mixed-ability settings and accommodate the various learning styles evident in class groups.† This work will complement the schoolís current initiative on exploring the effectiveness of specific learning and teaching strategies.† Further advice and support on mixed-ability teaching and differentiated learning strategies is available from the Second Level Support Service at www.slss.ie or from the Special Education Support Service at www.sess.ie

 

Classroom management, while generally good, was at its best in lessons where changes in teaching and learning strategies were built into lesson plans in order to motivate students to remain actively engaged throughout the lesson.† The good practice of taking a roll call at the beginning of class was noted.† Good routines were evident in the practical lesson observed.† Students displayed a sense of security in seeking clarification or assistance during lessons.† Teacher movement around the room during lessons provided opportunities for students to seek individual help in a supportive structure.† Good use was made of praise to affirm studentsí efforts and in general there was a good level of respect and student co-operation.

 

The physical environment of some of the Home Economics rooms was enhanced by educational posters and photos of student achievement.† This is good practice as it results in the creation of a stimulating text-rich environment that reinforces learning and engages student interest.† Displays of student work also promote a sense of student ownership and responsibility for the creation of a stimulating learning environment.† This practice could be further developed and extended to all specialist rooms.† Additional strategies could include displays of themed educational posters, further student project work and the development of notice boards exhibiting photographs, leaflets and newspaper articles of topical issues relevant to Home Economics.†

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

A variety of assessment modes is used to monitor student progress and achievement in Home Economics and to provide feedback on a regular basis. †These include oral questioning, written assignments, homework activities, continuous assessment, class tests as well as an assessment of practical and project work.† The Home Economics team operate a commendable summative assessment system, particularly at junior cycle, where students are awarded an aggregated mark for a written paper and coursework components.† This is excellent practice as an aggregate assessment mark that includes all components of the relevant certificate examinations is an accurate indicator of the studentís ability in the subject and where feasible, this approach could be extended to all programmes.† The appropriate State Examinations Commission (SEC) marking scheme could also be used. †The Home Economics team have developed a bank of written examination papers.† From reviewing the examination papers made available during the inspection, it is commendable that due account is taken of the question styles featured in the certificate examinations.† It is particularly praiseworthy that from first year some of the examination questions set challenge students to analyse and interpret information.† This is good practice and should be further developed to promote the development of the higher order thinking skills and reflect the assessment objectives of Home Economics syllabuses.

 

Formal in-house examinations are held at Christmas and in summer.† Students preparing for the certificate examinations sit mock examinations in the second term.† All students are challenged to reach their full potential in the State Examinations.† All assessment outcomes are systematically recorded in the teachersí journal.† This good practice helps to build a profile of studentsí progress and achievement in the subject over time.† It is commendable that these profiles are used by the teacher to provide advice on examination levels to students and parents.† Assessment outcomes and progress reports are communicated to parents and guardians on a very regular basis.† Feedback on student progress is also available at parent-teacher and by teacher comments in the studentsí journal.† It is laudable that the Home Economics department also communicate senior cycle coursework requirements to parents and guardians.†

 

In all the lessons observed the homework assigned reinforced or extended the learning that had taken place during the class.† Consideration might be given to developing homework assignments that further promote independent learning and higher order thinking skills. †There was some very good practice evident with regard to the monitoring of homework and class tests.† Useful teacher comments in some copybooks and examination scripts provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done.† This good practice can be an effective tool to improve student learning and is illustrative of the principles that underpin Assessment for Learning (AfL).† Observation of student copybooks and folders indicated significant variation in the quality of student work, particularly with regard to the maintenance of notebooks.† As a means of further developing the good work already underway, it is recommended that the Home Economics team develop an agreed assessment policy for Home Economics.† This policy should include details on the range of assessment modes for junior and senior cycle, routines for the maintenance of student notebooks and coursework journals as well as procedures for assigning and monitoring of homework.† Particular emphasis should be placed on developing the AfL practices already evident in the correction of some student work.† Further information on AfL is available on the NCCA website at www.ncca.ie.† The effectiveness of this policy should be reviewed on a regular basis.† This level of planning will contribute positively to overall school development planning initiatives in the school.

 

Observation of junior cycle 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.† Best practice was indicated where students showed evidence of originality and creativity in product design and where a critical appraisal of the product was evident in the evaluations. †It is praiseworthy that ICT is effectively used in the presentation of coursework in junior and senior cycle.† It is worth noting that the Chief Examinersí Reports and associated marking schemes issued by the SEC are very useful for guidance and advice on the assessment components at junior and senior cycle.† Further support on the senior cycle food studies practical coursework journal is also available from the Home Economics Support Service at www.homeeconomics.ie.

 

A very experienced and committed approach is taken to the learning and teaching of Home Economics in the school.† Students demonstrated a good understanding and knowledge of material related to the topics being studied.† Observation of classroom activities and interaction with students indicated that they have a sense of pride and achievement in their work.

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

 

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made:

 

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal, deputy 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.