An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of
Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
Gairmscoil Éinne Oileáin Árainn,
Condae na Gaillimhe.
Roll number: 71300M
Date of inspection: 10 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 12 March 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gairmscoil Éinne. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies 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 subject teacher. 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.
Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are offered as junior and senior cycle subjects respectively in this small, co-educational, vocational school situated in the heart of the Galway Gaeltacht on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. Junior cycle students in the school study MTW as part of the Junior Certificate programme while senior cycle students study CS as part of the established Leaving Certificate (LC) or as one of a combination of optional subjects that form vocational subject groupings (VSG) for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school has a voluntary Transition Year (TY) programme and TY students study a range of CS topics for the duration of the programme. These topics introduce them to the subject and this is commended.
All junior cycle MTW and CS classes in TY receive an appropriate time allocation while fifth and sixth year CS classes receive a generous timetable allocation. All these allocations include double class periods that allow adequate time for practical work, project work, drawing and theory to be accommodated and this type of provision is commended.
First and second year students are timetabled simultaneously for MTW and taken in a single class group. A similar system is operated for fifth and sixth year CS students. These arrangements, where students from different year groups are accommodated in one group for timetabling purposes, although not ideal, are operated in this small island school in order to maximise the benefit of available teaching resources.
It was noted during the evaluation that all current MTW and CS students are boys. It is recommended therefore, that ways to encourage and enable girls to take MTW and CS in future years should be examined.
The school's MTW/CS specialist classroom is used for the delivery of all programmes in the subjects and is sometimes used for lessons in other subject areas. This arrangement is not ideal, because of the health and safety implications associated with using a specialist room for general purposes, but is employed because of the limited availability of general classroom accommodation at the school. The MTW/CS room is well resourced, appointed, equipped, maintained, decorated and equipped with a dust extraction system. Charts related to wood and construction technology, health and safety signage and numerous examples of students' practical and project work are displayed and this ensures a visually rich and stimulating learning environment for students where their work is affirmed. This is commended.
An emphasis on appropriate health and safety practices and procedures is promoted during MTW and CS lessons and this is commended. In order to further enhance this emphasis, it is recommended that all practices and procedures employed in MTW and CS should be informed by the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary Schools (2005).
Access to information and communication technologies (ICT), including appropriate drawing software and internet access, is provided in the MTW/CS room and the school's computer room. This level of access is commended.
Comprehensive MTW and CS subject plans have been developed as part of the school’s development planning process. These subject plans include syllabus documents, programmes of work in line with syllabus requirements for each year group in each subject area and aims and objectives for all programmes being delivered. Subject plans also include references to timing of lessons within the planned programmes, methodologies to be employed, resources required for the delivery of programmes of work, provision for students with special educational needs (SEN), assessment procedures and timing of assessments, homework, prescribed texts, provision for health and safety, ICT, and the continuing professional development (CPD) of subject teachers. Work on MTW and CS subject planning in the school is highly commended.
CPD opportunities being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) in preparation for the introduction of the new Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Technology (TEC) syllabuses in September 2007 are being availed of by subject teachers during the current school year and this is commended. There have not been any CPD opportunities in CS in recent years but it is recommended that in-service related to the introduction of the new Architectural Technology (AT) syllabus to be provided by T4 in future years should be availed of by teachers.
All MTW and CS class groups are of mixed ability and students sit examinations at the level appropriate to their abilities. Liaison with the school's learning-support teacher takes place when planning for students with special educational needs in MTW and CS classes and this is commended.
An appropriately ordered learning environment was created and maintained during all lessons evaluated and this is commended.
Excellent teaching of MTW and CS was observed during the course of the subject inspection and this is highly commended.
Lessons had clear learning intentions and were designed to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses. Lessons were coherent, well structured, appropriately paced, suitable for the time of year and also took account of the differentiated needs of students. This is commended as good practice.
Appropriate methodologies were used to address students’ abilities, needs and interests and a range of strategies was used. For example, demonstrations of a very high standard were employed and these included formal demonstrations to whole class groups, smaller groups, and individual students and ensured that appropriate processes, procedures and skills were modelled for students. Peer teaching was also employed to excellent effect in senior-cycle lessons evaluated. This process allowed all students in the class group to demonstrate their mastery of knowledge of a CS theory topic, following some individual research, by making a short presentation to the whole class group. It also provided opportunities for other students in the class group to ask questions related to the presentation. These practices are highly commended.
Junior Certificate MTW and Leaving Certificate CS students were being expertly guided through the design and make process and a variety of projects will be presented for examination purposes. The organisation, management, and monitoring of projects for examination purposes in the school is highly commended.
Global and directed questions, including higher order questions, were used effectively to revise material covered in previous lessons, to introduce new topics, to direct student attention and to summarise at the end of lessons. This approach to questioning is commended.
Whiteboard presentations were used very effectively during MTW and CS theory lessons. These presentations served to focus student attention, to support their learning, and to summarise at the end of lessons. This practice is commended.
Wood and construction technology principles demonstrated were presented incrementally and students' development in the topics covered was scaffolded during lessons. This practice is highly commended.
The terminology associated with MTW and CS was used continually during lessons and students communicated effectively using this terminology. This is an important part of the technological process and the approach being adopted in the school is commended. Continual up-dating of the Irish versions of terms used in wood and construction technology is being undertaken in the school for the benefit of its students and this practice is also highly commended.
Classroom routines were evident during all lessons evaluated. These ensure the learning environment is well organised, managed and safe during all activities. The use of such routines is highly commended.
Irish versions of textbooks are used for MTW and CS theory lessons but these were not heavily relied upon during lessons observed. A wide variety of teacher-developed resources is also used effectively to complement texts, for reference purposes, to supplement lesson content, and for homework assignments. This approach is commended. Teachers of MTW and CS from the five, small, Gaeltacht and island schools under the auspices of County Galway Vocational Education Committee are currently collaborating in the development of subject-specific resources in Irish for use in Gaeltacht schools and this initiative is highly commended.
Teacher circulation during lessons allowed work on classroom tasks to be assessed and this practice is commended.
Students’ understanding of MTW and CS principles was reflected in their ability to ask and answer appropriate questions, during presentations of their work and in the competencies they exhibited during activities in practical and theory lessons. The quality of students' written and drawn work was of a standard consistent with a range of abilities and the content of notebooks and portfolios in MTW and CS was appropriate and displayed a mastery of the knowledge and competencies associated with a wide variety of syllabus topics. Efforts should continually be made however, to further enhance students' subject-specific knowledge and skills.
Ample opportunities for students to engage in independent and collaborative learning were built into all lessons evaluated and this practice is commended.
An excellent student-teacher rapport was evident during the evaluation. This ensured that an atmosphere conducive to learning was created, that students were enthusiastic and motivated and that their work was being encouraged and appropriately affirmed.
A range of subject-specific assessment modes is employed for MTW and CS practical, project, written and drawn class work and homework is routinely assessed. Students' outcomes in these assessments are used to monitor attainment and inform future planning. These practices are commended.
Christmas and end-of-year house examinations in MTW and CS are organised and State examination classes also sit a mock examination in the second term.
The quality of record keeping of student attendance at MTW and CS lessons is of a very high standard and the results of student assessments are recorded systematically. The results of students’ achievements are communicated to parents and guardians by means of school reports following Christmas, end-of-year and mock examinations.
Parent-teacher meetings are organised for each year group and regular contact between teachers and parents or guardians is encouraged. These practices are commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
meetings were held with the teacher of Materials Technology (Wood) and
Construction Studies and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when
the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and