An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Roll number: 60562I
Date of inspection: 15 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Templeogue College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in 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 to 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.
Irish classes in first year in the school are of mixed ability. Students are streamed in second year based on the results of summer examinations and on the students’ own wishes. There are two ordinary level classes and two higher level classes in second and third year in the school. The number of students taking higher level drops after Transition year and the Junior Certificate and there is one higher level class in fifth and sixth year. This means that the numbers in ordinary level classes are very high in the senior cycle, but school management have stated that this problem will be tackled for next year. A very small number of students take foundation level papers in the State examinations, however, there is no distinct foundation level class available in the school.
There are five Irish teachers in the school. They all hold degrees in Irish and have long experience in teaching the subject. Provision for Irish on the timetable is satisfactory with five periods per week for first, third, fifth and sixth years. Second year students and Transition Year students have four periods of Irish per week.
It was recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005) that an extra-curricular and cross-curricular programme of events be formulated for Irish in the school to give students an opportunity to experience the language as a living language in a variety of situations. It was reported that little had been done in the school since then regarding this recommendation. Aifreann Uí Riada was held this year to celebrate “Seachtain na Gaeilge” and apparently was a great success. The teachers’ efforts in organising this mass are commended. It is recommended, however, that a programme of events outside of Irish classes be undertaken to awaken students’ interest in the language. It was reported that a significant number of students attend Irish colleges and some work as prefects in the various colleges. It is recommended that these students and Transition Year students, be asked to help in examining the possibilities for holding events and activities in which students in general would have an interest.
Irish teachers have their own classrooms, something which can greatly help to create an attractive Irish atmosphere in the classrooms. Such an atmosphere was noted in one case observed, as recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005). The efforts made in this case are commended. No such efforts had been made, however, in the majority of classrooms observed, in which there was not a single poster connected to the teaching and learning of the language. In one instance, it was stated that the school is a Catholic school and as such priority should be given to the Catholic faith, when decorating the classroom walls. All teachers are requested to discuss this matter together again.
It was reported that no work had been done on the recommendation made in the last inspection report (November 2005) regarding putting together a library of aids and resources for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school. It ws stated by the teachers that each teacher has a certain number of private, personal teaching aids. It is strongly recommended that this matter is reviewed and that teachers at least compile a list of the school’s resources. Planning should also be undertaken to acquire and provide a much wider range of aids for use in the classrooms, over a period of time. Information is available on the Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta website on the resources currently available at www.cogg.ie.
Irish teachers are not given formal, regular time to meet and plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school. It was reported that they hold a short meeting at the beginning of the school year at which the allocation of classes and textbooks are discussed. It was reported by the principal, however, that they were given the opportunity to meet last year to discuss the recommendations of the inspection (November 2005). There was not much evidence of progress on planning arising from that meeting, however. This year, a school planning meeting was organised in January as part of the School Development Planning process and teachers were given the opportunity to discuss planning matters for Irish. It was difficult to understand exactly what was achieved at that planning meeting as there were no notes from the meeting available on the day of the inspection.
It was recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005) that a comprehensive plan be drawn up for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school and that assistance be sought from the Second Level Support Service in compiling this plan. It was unclear during the inspection whether any work had been done on this recommendation. It was also recommended in the inspection report that teachers examine the approach to teaching the same classes at the same levels, and discuss joint programmes for these classes. It was reported on the day of the inspection that no progress had been made regarding this recommendation.
It is recommended once again that Irish teachers compile a comprehensive plan for the teaching and learning of Irish, to include the following: a list of topics to be covered by the various year groups and levels, a description of methodologies focussing on the needs of students at different levels, a list of suitable aids for use in Irish classes, a description of cross-curricular work and planning for the use of Information and Communications Technology in class. It is further recommended once again that assistance be sought from the new Support Service for Irish which will be in operation from September 2007 onwards to facilitate and progress this planning process. School management should investigate the possibility of setting aside time for this planning process.
The Transition Year course is divided into four modules and four teachers take one module each. Although a Transition Year plan was available on the day of the inspection, it was not evident that it contained much material which would be interesting or attractive to teenagers. It is recommended that modules should not be based on specific aspects of the language such as grammar and speech, but that these elements of learning Irish be interwoven throughout the entire Transition Year course. If oral comprehension is to be covered as part of the course, it would be important to undertake this in a different manner to that in the usual Irish classes and to use authentic material based on current affairs or on other subjects in which the students themselves are interested. It is recommended that Irish teachers discuss among themselves the creation of an innovative, interesting, attractive course for Transition Year, a course which would give students the opportunity to experience Irish as a living language that is part of contemporary life in this country.
There is no designated coordinator among the Irish teachers in charge of coordinating planning for teaching and learning the subject in the school although it is school tradition that the most senior person in the department takes on this responsibility. It was recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005) that one of the Irish teachers be nominated to fulfil this duty. It was reported on the day of the inspection that nobody is fulfilling this role at present. It is therefore recommended that one of the Irish teachers is nominated to take up this responsibility and that this responsibility is rotated every second year or so to give all teachers the opportunity to take on this leadership role.
Good, careful preparation had been done for all the classes observed. Teachers’ individual plans were provided on the day of the inspection in certain cases.
There was good use of Irish as the language of management, teaching and communication in all classes observed. The teachers made great efforts to use the target language during all of the lessons and their dedication in this regard is commended. As recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005), there was a big reduction in the use of translation from Irish to English in the classes observed and the teachers’ efforts in this regard are also commended.
Students made productive attempts at using Irish to answer teachers’ questions, and in some cases to ask questions, in the classes observed. That said, it was not evident that the majority of students were comfortable with using Irish naturally in class. The manner in which working in pairs and role-play were used in one instance observed is commended. As recommended in the last inspection report, more opportunities should be created for students to use Irish in class. The use of working in pairs, role-play, games and group work is recommended. It is important to give students numerous opportunities to use Irish in a natural manner which will enchance their self-confidence, from first year onwards. It is recommended, for example, that students are given the opportunity to practice answering questions in pairs. It is also recommended that the subject of the lesson should be linked to a subject which the students find interesting and which relates to their contemporary lives. It was felt that in certain classes the opportunity to arouse students’ interest in the class was lost by not linking the subject of the lesson to a subject in which the students had some experience or interest.
Students were quiet and well-mannered in all classes observed. Teachers succeeded in getting the students to work and discipline was good. Teachers walked around the classrooms correcting homework and helping students to complete classwork. On the whole, teachers were energetic and dedicated in teaching the classes observed.
The project work in progress in one class observed is commended. It gave students the opportunity to use their imagination and their creative abilities and, although some efforts were better than others, it was evident that students highly enjoyed this aspect of the work. It is most important to then link this work to communicative skills development and to encourage the students talk about the project work completed by them.
Students were continually praised in certain cases observed. In other cases, it was ensured that students were competent regarding the work in hand before moving on to the next subject. Class periods in the school are of forty five minutes duration. It is important to ensure, therefore, that this time is used carefully and that the lesson is broken down into various tasks in order to maintain students’ interest and to ensure that classes proceed at a good pace. It was felt that this was done in some cases observed, where students had several tasks to complete within one class period. It was felt, however, that other class periods could be planned more carefully in order to ensure that students derived more benefit and enjoyment from the time available for learning Irish.
A recommendation was made in the last inspection report (November 2005) that more aids and resources are used in Irish classes to make learning the language more interesting and relevant to students. Although the appropriate equipment was available in most of the classrooms observed to play television programmes, music or speech extracts and authentic material to the students, it was not evident that this takes place on a regular basis. When asked about this matter, teachers stated that extracts from Irish programmes and short films which were sent to schools over a year ago, were sometimes used. It was reported that this mostly takes place during “Seachtain na Gaeilge”. Although teachers are commended for this not enough aids and resources are being used on a regular basis in the Irish classrooms. It is recommended that the teachers re-examine this aspect of teaching and that regular use is made of Irish language media to enhance teaching and learning in classes.
In some cases observed good, effective use was made of the white board to show new vocabulary or additional material in order to assist students. It is recommended that this is done in all classes, especially in the case of students who have difficulties with the language as seeing words written down greatly assists them to understand the language.
House examinations are held in the school twice a year, at Christmas and in summer. Reports are sent home to parents after these examinations and additional reports are sent home in October and at Easter, based on continual assessment of students.
It was reported that common house examinations are held for first years in summer, at the end of the first year. Teachers’ work and cooperation in this regard is highly commended and it is recommended that in the future this practice is extended to include all years at the appropriate levels.
Leaving Certificate students are given a mock oral examination prior to the actual examinations. A Saturday is set aside and Irish teachers from other schools are brought in to test the students’ spoken Irish. The dedication of the Leaving Certificate teachers in this regard is commended. It is necessary, however, to assess students’ communication and speech skills from first year onwards. It is very difficult to start students speaking Irish in the senior classes if they have no prior experience of speaking the language in class. It is recommended that Irish teachers discuss among themselves and with school management the possibility of conducting oral examinations in each others’ classes from first year onwards. Marks from these oral examinations could be included in the marks from end of year examinations or included in continual assessment. It is important, however, to illustrate to students the importance of the communication aspect of language learning and not to place all the emphasis on the other aspects of language learning. This emphasis on students’ ability to communicate will become more important and more urgent as changes to the Irish examinations in the state examination system are introduced.
It was evident from the copybooks observed that homework is regularly given to students and regularly corrected. The teachers’ work in this regard is commended. The careful and comprehensive manner in which Leaving Certificate students’ written work is corrected is highly commended. It was reported that students’ attention is periodically drawn to common mistakes so that they can learn from these mistakes.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The provision for Irish on the school timetable is satisfactory.
· Teachers’ efforts in organising Aifreann Uí Riada during “Seachtain na Gaeilge” are commended.
· Good, careful preparation had been done for all classes observed.
· The use of Irish as the language of management, communication and teaching was good in the classes observed and there was a reduction in the frequency of translation from Irish to English, as recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005).
· The use of working in pairs and role-play in one case observed is commended.
· Students made productive attempts to use Irish when speaking to teachers in certain cases.
· Students were quiet and well-behaved in all classes observed.
· The work of the Irish teachers regarding common examinations for first years in summer is commended.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· As recommended in the last inspection report (November 2005), It is advised that Irish teachers undertake the following recommendations:
1. Discuss organising an extra-curricular and cross-curricular programme of events for students in the school.
2. Discuss once again decorating Irish classrooms to create a stimulating atmosphere in the classroom.
3. Compile a list of school resources for teaching and learning the language and undertake appropriate planning for the acquisition and provision of a wider range of aids for use in the classroom.
4. It is also recommended that more regular use is made of a wider range of aids for teaching the language.
5. Draw up a comprehensive plan for teaching and learning the language in the school and undertake appropriate planning for the provision of an interesting, attractive and innovative Transition Year programme.
6. Create regular communication opportunities for students in Irish class.
· It is recommended that common house examinations are held for all year groups at various levels, where appropriate and not just for first years.
· It is recommended that students’ communication skills are assessed from first year onwards.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Irish and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.