An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
CBS, Westland Row
Roll number: 60490J
Date of inspection: 26 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching of Irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection carried out as part of a whole-school evaluation in CBS, Westland Row. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning of Irish 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 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 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.
First-year Irish classes involve mixed-ability groups of students. All Junior Cycle students follow the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP). Every effort is made to prepare students for the Junior Certificate Ordinary Level exam in Irish, but a good number of them take the Foundation Level papers. Similarly, every effort is made to prepare some of the Senior Cycle students for the Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level exam in Irish but, again, many of the students take the Foundation Level papers. The teachers of Irish in the school have placed great emphasis on raising the standard of Irish in the past couple of years as well as directing students towards the Ordinary Level. Their enthusiasm and their concern for raising the profile of Irish in the school are commended.
The provision for Irish on the school timetable is satisfactory, with 5 periods per week allocated to all Junior Cycle classes and to all Senior Cycle classes except those following the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, to whom 3 Irish classes per week are allocated.
Teachers of Irish have their own classrooms, located beside one another, an arrangement which facilitates the creation of an environment conducive to Irish in that part of the school. The rooms are decorated in a very stimulating way, with posters, displays of students’ work and other materials which promote the teaching and learning of the language. The work of teachers in creating an environment conducive to Irish outside of and within the classroom is praiseworthy indeed. Notices in Irish are placed at various points throughout the school building also. It is recommended, however, that teachers ensure that any material displayed in Irish is accurately worded.
A functional language-laboratory is available in the school and the teachers use it regularly with the students. It was reported, however, that students get tired of the lab if they are too often taught there. The teachers of Irish have purchased a wide range of aids and resources for teaching and learning the language, especially for those who have limited ability in Irish. These aids and resources are stored in a cupboard in one of the Irish classrooms. It is suggested that an inventory be made of the aids available in the school for Irish and that it be regularly updated.
Efforts were made to organise some celebratory events during ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’ this year. A Question Time and Poster Competition were held, for example. These efforts are commended as a start, but it is necessary to continue the good work and gradually increase the number of events as well as to attempt in future to broaden the progamme to include extra-curricular and cross-curricular events outside of, as well as during, ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’.
The teachers of Irish are afforded the opportuity of meeting each other formally three times a year. It was reported, however, that they work hand in hand and that they have regular meetings on an informal basis.
Considering that the Irish teachers are only a short while in the school, they have done an impressive amount of work on a plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school. Their main objective is to raise the profile of Irish in the eyes of the school community, both students and parents. Accordingly, they plan to focus on standards of achievement and to encourage the students to take their courses at levels which suit their abilities. It is recognised and commended that the teachers’ attention is focused on certain priorities concerning the promotion of the subject in the school.
It is suggested that the plan for the teaching and learning of Irish be further developed. It would be worthwhile, for example, to specify various methodologies that might be used with certain classes, as well as mentioning aids and resources that might suit different contexts. It is also recommended that learning targets be included in the plan and that students be regularly informed about these targets throughout the year and given an ongoing report on the progess they are making.
Good, comprehensive planning had been done for all the classes observed. A range of tasks was completed in every class observed and, as a result, the lessons were well paced. Teachers’ individual plans and schemes of work were also made available during the inspection visit. Worksheets and notes were distributed during classes.
Commendable efforts were made to use Irish as the language of management, communicaton and teaching in the Irish classes. Teachers’ efforts in this regard are highly commended. In one case observed, however, too much emphasis was placed on direct translation from Irish to English. It is recommended that this be avoided and that teachers resort to translation only when it is absolutely ncecssary. The students themselves made valiant efforts to answer teachers’ questions in Irish according to their abilities; certain students, for example, apologised in Irish to the teachers for being late for class.
It was felt that communication between students and teachers was really good in the classes observed. The teachers succeeded in getting the students working in all classes observed and it was evident that the students derived both benefit and enjoyment from their learning.
The manner in which the students’ cookery class was linked, in one case observed, to the content of the Irish class is highly commended. Also commended is the use of humour in the classes observed, an element which added considerably to the students’ enjoyment of the lessons and also enhanced their learning.
A wide range of educational aids was used in the classes observed, according to the level involved and the students’ ability. The textbook was used in certain cases, merely as a supportive element and the students’ knowledge of the subject-matter of the lesson was enhanced with worksheets and notes. This approach is highly commended. It was reported that excerpts from TG4 programmes are regularly used, but that this strategy is usually more suited to the Senior Cycle classes. It is strongly recommended that teachers continue to add to their store of educational aids for the classes and that regular use be made of a range of resources and of Irish-language media as appropriate.
The teachers were lively and enthusiastic in teaching the classes observed. They moved about during class, helping students, correcting them and ensuring that they were able to cope with the work set. Students were continuously praised for their efforts in class and it was evident that students and teachers respected each other. Various schemes are in operation in the school, with the aim of maintaining discipline and encouraging good behaviour among the students. Discipline was really good in the classes observed.
A sheet of communicative sentences was distributed to Junior Cycle students, for use in communicating with the teachers in class. It is strongly advised that these sentences be printed out as posters or as prompt-cards and that they be displayed in the Irish classes for easy reference by the students. Students would be much more likely to use those phrases if they were prominently displayed on the classroom walls.
The teachers are highly commended for teaching verbs to the students in a practical, functional way. The students were asked to compose sentences containing the verbs, sentences which would illustrate that they understood the meaning of the verbs and the contexts in which they might be used. It is recommended that the most frequently used verbs be displayed on posters in the Irish classrooms, as an aide-mémoire for the students.
Effective use was made of resources available in the classroom to teach lessons and illustrate points. The clock and various posters were used to clarify points for students. The prompt-cards used in one case observed, to enhance students’ understanding of the lesson, are highly commended
Teachers’ practice of revising the work covered in class before the bell signals the end of the lesson, is positively noted. This ensured that students had a chance to get an overview of what they had learnt and an opportunity to revise the work done, to ensure that they understood and knew it.
Formal reports are sent home to parents twice a year. Besides that, three parent/teacher meetings per year are organised. It was reported that these meetings are well attended.
Weekly class-tests are set for first and second-year students. The results are displayed on a card on the classroom wall. It was reported that this helps to provide a focus for students and to draw their attention to days they have missed and, more importantly, to illustrate clearly the progress they are making.
The attention of the teachers of Irish is focused on raising the standard of Irish in the school, with the aim of steering the majority of students towards Junior Certificate, Ordinary Level and, ultimately, Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level. It will take some time to achieve that goal, especially when the majority of the students arrive from primary school, with very little Irish. The teachers of Irish provided extra classes for third-year students last year, to help students take Ordinary Level papers for the Junior Certificate. The teachers hope that some, at least, of the students will continue with Ordinary Level for the Leaving Certificate, but it will be an ongoing challenge to reach this target. The enthusiasm and interest of the teachers, regarding raising the standard and developing students’ self-confidence in their ability to undertake Ordinary level Irish, are strongly commended. They hope that in the future they will again have students taking the Higher Level courses, but they realise that it will take some years to implement that objective.
It was evident from the copybooks inspected that student homework is regularly set and corrected, as advised in the school homework policy. A satisfactory amount of work had been done in the copybooks, which were well and neatly kept.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The provision for Irish on the school timetable is satisfactory.
· The work done by the teachers of Irish in creating a stimulating environment conducive to Irish within their classrooms and in the vicinity of those classrooms is commended.
· The efforts made this year to draw students’ attention to ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’ and to celebrate that week, are commended.
· The work done by the teachers of Irish, in a short space of time, in formulating a plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school, is commendable.
· Good, comprehensive planning had been done for all the classes observed.
· Great efforts were made to use Irish as the language of management, teaching and communication in the Irish classes observed.
· It was felt that there was very good communication between the students and teachers in the classes and that, in general, discipline was very good.
· A wide range of educational aids and resources was used in the Irish classes observed, according to the age and ability-levels of the students.
· The objective of the teachers of Irish to gradually raise the profile and standard of Irish in the school is highly commended, as is the ongoing work being undertaken to implement this objective.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that an inventory be made of the aids available in the school for the teaching and learning of Irish and that this inventory be regularly updated. It is also recommendded that the stock of resources be continually augmented as appropriate.
· It is recommended that work on ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’ be continued and that further efforts be made to develop a programme of events that would span the whole school year.
· It is recommended that the plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school be developed, taking into account the use of educational aids in class and the setting of learning objectives for example.
· It is recommended that any notices or student-work put on display in the school be vetted for accuracy of Irish.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Irish and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation, meetings at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.