An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Science
Ros Dumhach, Contae Mhaigh Eo
Uimhir Rolla: 72140V
Date of inspection: 11 December 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Science
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Chomáin. 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 the classroom and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teacher. 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.
Provision for Science in this small school in the Gaeltacht area of northwest Mayo is very good with a well-equipped newly refurbished laboratory. All students take Science in junior cycle and Agricultural Science at senior cycle level. Class sizes are very small and have appropriate lesson provision. While Irish is the language of the school it was evident that not all students had sufficient Irish to benefit from instruction solely through Irish. The school is aware of this and ensures that students with little Irish are accommodated in their study of Science while retaining the ethos of the school as a Gaeltacht school. The school in its whole-school planning should ensure that the Irish language needs of all students in learning Science are accommodated, initially through the development of a policy in this area.
The science staff has undertaken a good level of continuing professional development (CPD) with the support of the school. Effective use is made in teaching Science of the very good level of information and communication technologies (ICT) available in the school. A notable and commendable feature of the support for Science is the annual home garden competition that is judged by the science teacher. Students are also supported through a range of extracurricular activities and there are attractive displays of their work and of charts and posters on scientific themes in the laboratory. As the school does not have a learning-support teacher, teachers take account of the range of student abilities present in each class in planning and teaching.
Subject planning documentation reviewed indicated a high level of commitment to safety in science with safety in Science being evaluated as part of subject planning. The school’s safety statement is regularly reviewed with input from the science department.
Science department planning in the school is of a high quality. It is highly commendable that reflection and self-evaluation are an integral part of subject planning. The outcomes of this reflection are to be found in the targets and priorities for action that are set following annual review. An example of this is the decision made to require first and second-year students to perform small projects and the documentation of this decision. This is a very good example of evaluation leading to action.
Subject planning has led to clearly laid out plans that are timed and are stated in terms of learning objectives. It is evident that the science department has reviewed Inspectorate subject inspection reports and has also adopted the practices promoted by the Second Level Support Service. The science department is highly commended on its planning that provides for continuity in the learning experience of students. It is important however that where a substitute teacher is employed school management should ensure that the substitute teacher follows the departmental plan. Provision should also be included in the subject plan for regular revision by students.
Teaching and laboratory resources are well organised.
The lesson observed was well prepared and there was evidence of good individual planning and preparation.
The lesson observed had clear aims and the desired student learning outcomes were communicated to students at the beginning of the lesson and reiterated at the close of the lesson. This is good practice that, along with the engagement of students in the lesson, facilitated students in learning. A variety of methodologies was used including use of the data projector, white board, worksheets and student practical work.
There was a clear structure to the lesson, which progressed from whole class teaching to students carrying out a brief investigation in small groups. While much questioning of the class took place, greater benefit could be obtained from such questioning through the use of a range of question types, including some open questions. Rather than the predominance of questions directed to the entire class, questions should be directed to individual students, aimed at assessing their understanding of the topic. Such practice would encourage their participation and engagement in the lesson and facilitate their learning in Science.
The teacher, through the use of lists of scientific words and their English equivalents, encouraged students’ understanding of Science. Overall it is considered that more should be demanded of students. For example there was need for a greater balance between the contributions to the lesson of the teacher and those of the students such as by asking students to explain words or concepts and perhaps relating their lives to a greater extent to the topic of the lesson.
The student practical work observed was well organised and monitored. It was evident that student practical work is carried out on a regular basis. Appropriate consideration was given to safety issues. Due attention was given by the teacher to individual students. There was good rapport between the teacher and students with a good work atmosphere evident.
A range of in-class assessment modes is used in Science as well as formal school examinations and pre-certificate examinations. While students’ homework and other notebooks are regularly monitored, the notebooks of first-year students should be more frequently checked. It is suggested that a greater emphasis be placed with first-year classes on the development of students’ skills in practical work, in report writing, and in presentation of their work. As part of its commitment to reflective practice the science department has targeted giving more positive feedback to students on their work. This is highly commended. In the case of students’ written work, this feedback should be in written form and should be associated with brief advice on what students can do to improve their work.
The science department has also a target of giving students credit for in-class tests in their school examinations. This practice could also be extended to their performance of practical work.
The work of the science department is supported and informed by the school’s homework policy.
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:
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the teacher 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 June 2009