An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Science
Gairmscoil na bPiarsach Rosmuc
Contae na Gaillimhe
Roll number: 71380N
Date of inspection: 29 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Science
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gairmscoil na bPiarsach. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Science 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.
The school shows good support for the study of Science as all students study it at junior cycle. Relative to its resources and size the school provides for a wide range of science subjects at senior cycle. This includes Leaving Certificate (LC) Agricultural Science, LC Biology, LC Chemistry, and LC Physics and Chemistry (combined). The senior cycle subjects are made available depending on the level of demand among students and the availability of resources. The school uses a survey to establish students’ subject preferences and from which subject options are created. This is good practice and is to be commended.
The time allocation for Science meets with the recommendations of the syllabus. Each class group benefits from weekly timetabled access to the laboratory and this is in keeping with the recommendations of the syllabus. All science classes are of mixed ability. They retain the same teacher throughout the junior cycle. This is good practice as it supports the continuity of students’ learning.
There is one laboratory in the school and it is in very good repair. The laboratory is clean, bright, well maintained and well resourced. It has benefitted from recent renovation and it provides an appealing scientific learning space. There is an adjacent preparation and storage area that is well organised. Visual inspection showed that chemicals have been stored in accordance with Department of Education and Science recommendations. The very good work done by the science staff in organising the laboratory and the preparation area is to be commended.
There is a satisfactory amount of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment available for the teaching and learning of Science. The science staff has access to computers, data projectors, data logging equipment and other ICT equipment.
There is good support for the science teachers’ continuing professional development. They have participated in a wide range of professional development opportunities and this has been facilitated by the school. The school is also supportive of the teachers’ participation in the relevant professional association and in further study and this support is to be commended.
The science teachers work very well together in a collaborative and collegial manner. They meet frequently, formally and informally, and these meetings support their planning work. Minutes are kept of the formal meetings and these showed that the science teachers are progressive in their work and committed to ongoing improvement in science teaching and learning in the school.
Excellent work has been done by the science staff in drawing up a very comprehensive subject plan for Science. The plan covers all elements of teaching and learning in Science and is of great value in supporting the delivery of the science programme. It also provides a very useful resource for any newly-appointed science teacher in the school and it serves as an important element of the school’s induction process for new teachers.
Very good work has been done in compiling extensive resources for use with students. The science staff has established good links with the school’s learning-support personnel and science resource materials have been made available to assist the learning-support personnel when working with students. This is very good practice. In addition to printed resources the science staff has created and compiled a range of ICT-based resources to support the teaching of Science. The science staff has also accessed and compiled a range of useful science resources from An Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta, www.cogg.ie. The very good work done by the science staff in creating the science plan and in developing an extensive range of supporting resources is to be commended.
All lessons were appropriate to the syllabus. A very high level of lesson preparation aided well-paced and efficient progress in content delivery and student activities.
There were high standards of teaching and learning in all lessons. Irish was the language of instruction used in all lessons. In instances where students had difficulty with scientific terms or where students had Irish as an additional language they benefitted from support from their teacher and from the learning resources that had been prepared for the lesson. A range of teaching methodologies was used effectively to engage students and to aid their learning. Questions were directed to named students and questions were graded according to students’ abilities. The use of ICT-based resources helped to clearly highlight the main learning points for each lesson and to provide a supporting visual element in students’ learning. The whiteboard was used effectively to highlight important learning points and to show diagrams related to the topics being studied. Each lesson provided opportunities for the teacher to reinforce students’ learning through revision of the main learning points and this is good practice.
Student performance of practical work was a particularly beneficial feature of all lessons. It was noteworthy that the lessons in which this practical work was undertaken were all single periods. The very high level of advance preparation by the teacher ensured that the work progressed smoothly and efficiently. The practical work was performed safely and students worked well together in their groups. Observation and inquiry were emphasised during the practical work and this is in keeping with the spirit of the syllabus. In particular, best practice was observed where there was an emphasis on the scientific method. This was achieved by focusing students’ attention on the principles that underpin a fair scientific test. This practice is to be commended as it helps to develop students’ appreciation and understanding of scientific study.
There was very good rapport between students and their teacher. This was evident from the relaxed but industrious classroom atmosphere. Observation revealed that students felt comfortable in interacting with their teacher and their teacher affirmed their answers and worked with each student in a positive and supportive manner. In all lessons students benefitted from a very high level of individual care and attention and this is to be commended.
Students were engaged throughout each lesson and this engagement was supported by the high level of teacher-led enthusiasm for the subject and by the range of learning activities that had been organised. They showed good levels of understanding of the topics being studied and they demonstrated their understanding through their competence in undertaking practical work, through their answers to the questions that were posed to them and through the questions that they asked.
There are appropriate arrangements in place to regularly assess students’ progress and to report on it periodically to their parents. The school uses an appropriate range of methods to maintain communication with parents and these methods include use of students’ diaries, formal reports, parent-teacher meetings, and information evenings.
Appropriate records of students’ progress in examinations and in practical work are maintained by the science staff. These records are used to keep parents informed and to identify areas for improvement in students’ work and these are good practices.
Samples of students’ copybooks and records of their experimental work were viewed. These showed that homework is a regular feature of students’ learning. Students’ experimental records showed that a satisfactory amount of work had been completed and the standard of the write-up was generally good. Students’ work is corrected frequently and monitored by their teacher. The monitoring includes the use of formative feedback and affirming comments. The use of such feedback is good practice and is in keeping with the principles of assessment for learning. It is to be encouraged that the science staff continues to further develop its use of formative assessment to aid students’ learning.
The science teachers support students’ participation in a wide range of science-related extracurricular and co-curricular activities such as Science Week activities, trips to third-level colleges, trips to a planetarium, visiting speakers, and essay competitions. The range of activities is such as to enhance students’ experience of Science. The very good work done by the science teachers in facilitating students’ involvement in these activities is to be commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There were high standards of teaching and learning in all lessons.
· The school shows good support for the study of Science through providing for a wide range of science subjects at senior cycle and by establishing Science as a core subject at junior cycle.
· The science laboratory is in good repair and is well resourced.
· There is good support for the science teachers’ continuing professional development.
· The science teachers work very well together in a manner that supports their work in subject planning.
· Excellent work has been done in drawing up a very comprehensive science plan.
· There was very good rapport between students and teachers.
· In all lessons students benefitted from a very high level of individual care and attention from their teacher.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendation is made:
· It is to be encouraged that the science staff continues to further develop its use of formative assessment to aid students’ learning.
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the teachers of Science and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published September 2008