An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics, Technical Drawing, Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
Tralee, Co. Kerry
Roll number: 70560K
Date of inspection: 30 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics, Technical Drawing, Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics (TG), Technical Drawing (TD), Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) 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 the subject teachers. 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.
Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí is an all-Irish school. It makes educational provision for the students of Tralee town and the surrounding districts. It is a co-educational school under the auspices of the Kerry Education Service (KES), the Vocational Education Committee in Kerry. The curricula of the Gaelcholáiste make substantial provision for the technology subjects. All students are offered the option of studying the four subjects under consideration in this report.
The school management makes planning time available for the subject department four times a year. This good practice enables the teachers of technology subjects to undertake planning as a group and this is a matter for commendation.
The school management facilitates the technology subjects' teaching team in availing of the opportunities for in-service development now being provided through the Support Service, T4, www.t4.ie. This is of great assistance in the development of the subjects and the management are to be complimented on this.
Four periods per week are allocated to TG for all junior cycle year groups. Four periods are allocated also to MTW in second and third years. This allocation is sufficient to meet the requirements of each of the syllabuses. At the time of the evaluation, three periods were timetabled for MTW in first year. While this allocation is somewhat low, the students' study of TG is of assistance to them in achieving the common aims of both subjects, particularly the acquisition of skills for the making of freehand sketches and working drawings, as part of the design process. It is recommended that detailed planning for first year should continue to be addressed, focussing on shared planning for MTW and TG, in order to minimise the effect of this small shortfall in time allocation on the teaching of MTW.
Five periods per week are assigned both to TD and to CS in fifth year. Six periods per week are allocated to each of these subjects in sixth year. This allocation is sufficient to teach both of these subjects in their entirety.
In the case of all classes, both double and single periods were assigned each week to the technology subjects and these periods were distributed evenly throughout the week. This laudable approach was of great benefit in facilitating the effective teaching of the subjects and it is to be commended.
The KES, the board of management and the internal management of the school are deserving of praise for the support which they provide for the subjects in the form of resources, including materials, equipment and tools.
There are two rooms, a woodwork room and a Technical Drawing room, available for the purpose of teaching the technology subjects in the Gaelcholáiste. These rooms are bright and suitable to requirements. At the time of the inspection the rooms were neat and tidy. While a dust extractor had not yet been installed in the woodwork room, the school and the KES were involved in arrangements to have this deficiency made good at an early date. It is recommended that such a system should be provided as soon as possible.
The computer room in the Coláiste is made available for the technology subjects. It is utilised particularly for doing research on the internet as part of the project work in MTW in third year, in CS in sixth year, and in order to do word processing in the project books. These are effective uses for the information and communication technology (ICT) equipment, and with an eye to further development, it is recommended that the use of the computer room's facilities in order to teach computer aided design should be facilitated. It is recommended, when new computers are being installed in the ICT room as is intended, that SolidWorks should be included in the software so as to afford the students further practice in the use of this program.
That all students are afforded some experience of every subject in the junior cycle curriculum in first year, is laudable. This practice is of great assistance to students in selecting subjects for second year. All junior cycle students study Technical Graphics up to Junior Certificate, a positive indication of the support given to technology subjects throughout the Gaelcholáiste curriculum. MTW is an optional subject in second and third years; all students are offered an open choice of studying it in those years.
In the junior cycle, students choose three subjects from the eight on offer. In keeping with good practice, the option groups are based on the choices made by the students.
It is of great benefit to the students that they all have some experience of Construction Studies and Technical Drawing in Transition Year, before making their selection of subjects for fifth year. In addition, meetings of parents are convened in order to share with them and to discuss all information in relation to subject choices. This approach and the priority given to the students' choices in constructing the option blocks, are in accordance with best practice.
It is the custom of the technology subjects' teaching team to hold formal planning meetings four times per year. Minutes of these meetings are recorded and they are convened in accordance with the recommendations of the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). As well as these meetings, the teachers frequently meet together on an informal basis when they have free classes, as convenient. Among the matters discussed at planning meetings are changes in courses and syllabuses, health and safety in the woodwork room, arrangements for the storage of materials and planning for the school year. This progress as regards subject department planning merits commendation. With a view to achieving excellence, it is recommended that the most effective methodology and teaching strategies for the subjects should be discussed at the meetings. Appropriate methodologies which might be implemented should be mentioned in the subject plans. The experience and good pedagogic practices of the teaching staff themselves are the primary resource in identifying these methodologies. Now that the new syllabus in Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) is being implemented, to replace Technical Drawing, it is timely that the use of methodologies in order to present this programme should be explored in detail. The guidance of the support service, T4, will be of assistance in this planning.
While the teaching of technology subjects at both levels, higher and ordinary, takes place in the same classes in the junior and senior cycles, teaching at the appropriate level is available to all students. The subject teachers provide every assistance and guidance to students and parents in selecting these levels.
It was apparent, from the observation of classes during the evaluation, that careful pre-planning had been done. Photocopied materials had been prepared for the lessons as appropriate. The work programmes were in keeping with the requirements of the syllabus. Both drawings and woodwork artefacts made by the students themselves were on display in the rooms and this helped greatly to create the appropriate atmosphere.
It is recommended that a data projector and computer should be provided for the Technical Drawing room and the woodwork room, so as to fully exploit the materials being made available for the teaching of DCG and the other technology subjects. It is recommended that the lay-out of the Technical Drawing room should be carefully planned, so as to ensure that the greatest benefit is derived from the ICT equipment being provided by the Department. This equipment should be utilised in the teaching of all the technology subjects and the use of the computer program SolidWorks should be initiated with the students of MTW while engaged in design, and with TG students from first year onwards.
A health and safety policy is implemented in the Coláiste. The written policy acknowledges the responsibilities carried by management, the safety officer and the school community. A review of health and safety in the school had been carried out about two months prior to the evaluation. The technology subjects' teaching team had participated in the formulation of the policy and had been interviewed as part of the review. The progress made so far in developing the policy is to be commended. It is recommended, as a next step, that the health and safety policy should be further developed, and that specific reference should be made in it to the particular conditions pertaining to the woodwork room. Reference should be made to the risks associated with the room and to the measures which have been implemented in order to avoid such risks.
A proper emphasis was placed on health and safety issues in the rooms and particularly in the woodwork room. Safe operational areas had been outlined with yellow markings around the machines. Personal protective equipment was made available and standardised safety notices displayed in relation to its use. In order to further improve on this good practice, it is recommended that a notice indicating the particular rules which apply to each machine should be displayed on the wall beside the machine in question. It is further recommended that the general rules of behaviour for the room should also be put on display more prominently. In addition to creating a safe environment, the purpose of marking out safety areas around the machines is to make the students conscious of safety considerations. Accordingly, it is recommended that a notice should be displayed, elucidating the rationale of these areas for the students.
When reviewing health and safety considerations, The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (The State Claims Agency, The Department of Education and Science, 2005) is a valuable source document, and it is recommended that its recommendations should be adopted. This document is available on the internet at www.education.ie.
The teaching methods employed in the lessons observed were appropriate to the abilities and needs of the students. Effective use was frequently made of questioning of the students in order to advance the work of the lessons. The questions were of assistance in maintaining the interest of students. In the course of one lesson in Construction Studies in which an opening for a window in a wall was under consideration, the teacher addressed suitable questions to the students. The students' answers clarified the basic requirements for the opening, particularly as regards insulation. In their answers, the students imparted a lot of information on the cold bridge which must be avoided, and on damp courses. By the time the students began to sketch a cross-section of the opening, they had gained a clear understanding of its construction. This good practice is commended. In order to retain and to further develop the quality of the teaching, it is recommended to the technology subjects' teaching team that they should continue to make every effort to utilise different strategies and methods, where possible, in order to stimulate and consolidate the interest of the students.
The objective of each lesson observed was made clear from the beginning. Frequently the lessons began with a review of what had been previously taught. The lessons were well structured and the pacing was appropriate for the students, providing them with an opportunity for learning and with a challenge to match their abilities.
The strategies implemented in the lessons observed matched the needs of the students. In drawing, effective use was made of the blackboard in illustrating the work. In a lesson on isometric projection, while the students were engaged in drawing, the teacher developed the blackboard presentation step by succeeding step, so as to reinforce the work of the students. This was an effective way of supporting the students' work while retaining the inherent challenge. With a view to further enhancing such lessons, suitable teaching aids might be developed for use with the data projector, particularly as ICT is now being promoted as a teaching resource in DCG.
The acquisition of the specific terminology associated with technology subjects, often in the absence of a textbook, represents a substantial challenge for students. In the lessons observed, excellent use was made of the white board, generally for the writing of notes. The students transcribed the notes into their copybooks while the lesson progressed. During one lesson in MTW on the classification and painting of metals, the information which the teacher recorded on the white board came largely from the students. This approach is commended. In order to better support the students' learning, it is recommended that lists of new terms should be displayed on the walls of the rooms. As these are learned, they can be removed and replaced with newer terms.
It was clear during the lessons observed in the course of the evaluation that the students related well with one another and with their teachers. A natural discipline held sway and the students accepted this without difficulty. The students showed a keen interest in the work. They willingly responded to their teachers' questions, and were equally prepared to formulate questions themselves. They were at their ease and concentrated on the work. The atmosphere was conducive to learning.
The students demonstrated an understanding and knowledge of the work done during the evaluation, in their answers to their teachers' questions and in discussion with the inspector. They communicated effectively in relation to the subjects. It was obvious that they were learning successfully.
Formal examinations are conducted in the Gaelcholáiste at Christmas and in summer. Mock examinations are administered to students destined to undertake the public examinations in third year and sixth year. School reports on the results of these examinations are sent to the students' homes.
In addition to the formal examinations, students' progress in MTW, CS, TG and TD is regularly assessed. This practice is commendable. Monthly examinations are set in TG and TD and the results are recorded in the students' journals. Half-termly examinations are administered in MTW and CS. The results of these examinations are not taken into account as elements of the formal examinations.
In Transition Year, continuous assessment is implemented in the case of the two subjects CS and TD and the results of these examinations are taken into account as elements of the Christmas and summer examinations. This approach is praiseworthy. In order to further enhance the work, it is recommended that the teachers of technology subjects should plan a common strategy for assessing the work of all classes. It is recommended that the results of the continuous assessments should form part of the results of formal examinations, with a particular percentage mark being allocated to them. If such a transparent system of evaluation were in place, the students would have a clear understanding of the bearing which their marks in continuous assessments would have on their end of year results. Keeping students regularly informed as to their own marks would constitute an affirmation for them of what they had achieved and a spur to aspire to greater things, when required.
Meetings between teachers and parents of the students of all classes are convened once a year, after Christmas. An additional meeting for examination classes is held in the autumn about mid-term. The students' progress is discussed at these meetings. Use is also made of the students' journals in order to keep parents informed as to their achievements. A school report is sent home following each formal examination. Good practice is followed as regards maintaining communication with parents.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· KES, the board of management and the internal management of the school are deserving of praise for the support which they provide for the subjects in the form of resources, including materials, equipment and tools.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· With the school already engaged in arrangements to have a dust extractor fitted in the woodwork room, it is recommended that this up-grading should be brought to fruition as soon as possible.
· It is recommended that detailed planning for first year should continue to be addressed, focussing on shared planning for MTW and TG, in order to minimise the effect of the small shortfall in time allocation on the teaching of MTW in that year.
· It is recommended that the lay-out of the Technical Drawing room should be carefully planned, so as to ensure that the greatest benefit is derived from the ICT equipment being provided by the Department for the teaching of Design and Communication Graphics and all the technology subjects.
· With a view to achieving excellence in planning for the technology subjects, it is recommended that the most effective methodology and teaching strategies for presenting the subjects to students should be discussed at the subject department meetings and that the most appropriate methodologies should be mentioned in the subject plans.
· In order to retain and to further develop the quality of the teaching, it is recommended to the teaching team of technology subjects that they should continue to make every effort to utilise different strategies and methods, wherever possible, in order to stimulate and consolidate the interest of the students.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics, Technical Drawing, 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.