An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technology
Meánscoil na mBráithre Críostaí
An Daingean, County Kerry
Roll Number: 61290G
Date of Inspection: 12 November 2006
Date of Issue of Report: 21 June 2007
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technology
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Christian Brothers Secondary School, An Daingean. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technology 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 to the subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the outcomes and on the recommendations in the report; the board opted to accept the report without comment.
Meánscoil na mBráithre is the main provider of education for boys in the town of Dingle and in the surrounding areas. This is a Gaeltacht school catering for students through the medium of Irish. A wide range of subjects is available in the school. These include ample technology subjects: Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing as well as Construction Studies (CS), Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Technology (TEC). The focus of this inspection was CS, MTW and TEC. The board of management and school management as a whole are commended for the healthy technology provision available as a choice for students of the school. This is the school’s last year as from next September Meánscoil na mBráithre will be amalgamated with the Mercy Convent Secondary School as the newly established Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne. This is a decisive moment in the history of education in west Kerry. The school will be situated on a very fine sight on the edge of the town and will be fortunate in having many excellent resources.
Significant progress has taken place recently in the development of subject planning in the school. Time is provided at the beginning of the year for subject planning meetings, and again at staff meetings throughout the year. An agenda which included a broad range of items was provided for the initial meetings. Space was provided on the agenda sheet to record the outcomes of the meetings. This support by the school for subject planning is commendable.
The continuous professional development provided for teachers of the technologies under the aegis of the support services, t4, www.t4.ie is a valuable resource. It is recommended that all teachers be encouraged to derive maximum benefit from this opportunity. The work in progress on three-dimensional computer-aided design, which will underpin the teaching of all the technologies in future, is particularly important.
Three periods a week are allocated in the first year of junior cycle for MTW and for TEC. Although this allocation is low, every student studies all subjects in first year. Therefore when one includes Technical Graphics the students have a total of nine periods per week allocated to the technologies. It is a great support for students to have had this experience as they decide on subject choices for second year. In order to derive maximum benefit from this time allocation in first year it would be very helpful if the teaching team of the technologies were to plan carefully for sharing the teaching of the aspects of these subjects that are common to the various syllabuses. It is recommended that this planning be done as part of overall subject development planning. In second year and third year four class periods per week are allocated to MTW and TEC, and this is adequate in each case for these subjects.
Five periods per week are allocated in fifth year and six periods in sixth year to CS. In the case of each subject, classes were timetabled for both single-period and double-period classes. This organisation of time facilitated the teaching of both practical and theory classes.
In first year every student has an opportunity to study all junior-cycle subjects available in the school. This support for students as they prepare for subject choices in second year is commendable. It is good that every student takes Technical Graphics to Junior Certificate level providing cross-curricular support for MTW and TEC. It is commendable that the optional-subject groupings in second year and third year are based on the students’ preferences. In the senior cycle the subject groupings are again based on the choices the students make. All subjects are made available on the Transition Year programme, and this supports students as they make their subject selections for fifth year. Students have a wide choice of subjects and the implementation of the choice is equitable.
One teacher is responsible, as part of his post of responsibility, for compiling a list of class materials, equipment and other requirements for CS and for MTW and for ordering materials that are required at the beginning of the year. This arrangement, which facilitates the provision of the subjects, is consistent with good practice.
The school has one woodwork room as well as dedicated rooms for TEC and for Drawing. All these rooms were neat and well-organised during the inspection period. It was very good to see the strong emphasis on safety in the practical workshops.
The school has a computer room with twenty four computers and a broadband connection. These facilities are currently used in the teaching of TEC. Information and communication technologies are used to good effect in TEC and this is commendable. While some computers in the computer room have a computer-aided design package installed it was mentioned that there were significant difficulties with it and that it is therefore not much used. There is a computer available in the drawing room as well and another one in the staff room.
As an extension to the significant planning taking place in all subject areas within the school, the technologies teaching team is urged to continue to develop the structure of its subject department. It is desirable that the technologies teachers, including the teachers of Technical Drawing, Technical Graphics, CS, MTW and TEC, would work together as one subject department for planning. The subject plans, as they are developed for each subject respectively, could be presented to the technologies department for discussion and for teachers to have an opportunity to share good practice with each other. This would be a great help to the staff when they are working on the same aspects of planning, in particular teaching and learning as well as the general development of the subjects.
In order to work towards excellence in planning for the technologies department, it is recommended that the teaching team select a convener annually on a rotating basis. It is recommended that meetings be held regularly and that brief minutes be kept in the form of bullet-points of the main outcomes of the meetings.
Careful preparation had been done for the classes observed in the course of the inspection. A range of interesting resources was used to support teaching and learning and these included transparencies, drawings and worksheets. It is commended that each of the subject teachers of CS, MTW, and TEC had an individual programme of work. The usual arrangement in the school is for a single teacher to be assigned exclusively to teach particular technologies subjects. It is recommended, when plans are being prepared for the subjects, that the programmes of work already in place be further developed. It is recommended in particular that reference be made in each subject plan to the teaching methodologies and strategies that are most effective in achieving specific teaching and learning objectives. It is evident that the teaching staff has commendable experience and understanding that should greatly support the planning process. As mentioned earlier, it would be very beneficial when subject plans are being presented to meetings of the technologies department, if the methodologies and strategies that worked well were shared with the subject teaching team as a whole. It is appropriate to be undertaking this subject planning at this time given the establishment of Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in the next academic year. Consideration should be given to the resources available in the new school when the subject plans are being developed.
Three-dimensional parametric computer-aided design will enhance the teaching of all the technologies. With Solidworks software and appropriate hardware being provided for schools around the country, it is essential that careful planning be done to derive full benefit from these. It is intended that these resources be used not only in Design and Commnication Graphics but in all the technologies at senior cycle. Additionally three-dimensional parametric computer-aided design is an excellent resource for the teaching of design as a central element of MTW. The CS and MTW team is urged to reserve the available computer facilities and to make Solidworks available to students of the subjects as soon as possible. It is desirable that MTW students use Solidworks as a support in the design process from first year onwards.
There is good provision for health and safety in the workshop. Students’ attention is drawn to safety issues by standard signage for mandatory personal protection equipment (PPE) and the marking of safe operational areas on the floor around machines. In order to further enhance this good practice it is recommended that the rules regarding the use of each machine be displayed on the walls adjacent to the machine to which they refer. It is also recommended that the general rules regarding behaviour and conduct in the workshop be displayed. Safe operational areas are demarcated around machines in the workshop in order to draw students’ attention to issues of safety as well as to provide safe work surroundings. It is therefore urged that notices be displayed close to the safe operational areas to explain the rationale for them and the consequent implications for movement and behaviour within the workshop. It is recommended that the document Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), be used as a reference point when health and safety issues in the workshop are being discussed. The teaching staff for CS and MTW will have a very good opportunity to organise the workshops in the new school in accordance with the guidelines outlined in the document and they are wished well in that work.
The methodologies observed in the course of the inspection were appropriate to the abilities, needs and interests of the students. The objective of each lesson was clarified at the beginning of the lesson. Lessons were well structured and appropriately paced. In a junior-cycle TEC lesson students worked on orthographic projection. It was evident that careful pre-planning had taken place. Photocopied material was used to present the measurements of the solids that were being drawn to the students, giving them freedom to undertake the work at their own pace. At the beginning of the lesson the teacher used skilled questioning to clarify the work being undertaken. The blackboard was used well to indicate to the students what had to be done. When everything was clarified students were given the time to undertake the drawing at their own pace. Students as a class group were assisted at times during the lesson but even more help was given individually as the teacher moved around the class offering encouragement and praise as appropriate.
A range of teaching strategies was used effectively in the lessons observed. In one CS lesson on sound the teacher used the opportunity that was presented to revise the structure of a suspended timber upper floor. The overhead projector was used effectively. After clarifying the dimensions through questioning of the students, the teacher drew a sketch of a vertical section through the floor on the blackboard. This strategy is commended as a means to consolidate students’ understanding. After a review of reverberation time and other aspects of sound in buildings and delivering on the main aspects of the lesson, sound insulation, the students undertook freehand drawing of the methods of sound insulation that had been clarified. The depth of interest the teacher had in the subject was evident and this contributed greatly to the impact of the lesson. This is commended.
Although Irish was the language of the workshop and the classroom, it wasn’t the first or a second language of some of the students. The teaching team for CS and MTW are highly commended for their effective support of Irish and of the students learning the language. In one MTW class students were learning how to mark out and cut wood. Good use was made of the demonstration of practical skills so that the language deficit would not impinge too much on students’ learning. This good practice was very helpful not only in the learning of woodwork skills but as an additional support to learning Irish.
The good mood prevailing in the classrooms is commended. Discipline and good behaviour was evident in each class observed. Students accepted the discipline willingly and it was not forced. There was a good relationship between the students and the teacher and between the students themselves. The interaction between students and teachers was evidence of the mutual respect they had for each other. Students’ efforts were affirmed. Teachers often circulated amongst the students in class to praise and encourage them.
There was a pleasant learning atmosphere created in the classrooms and in the workshop. Very often suitable posters as well as displays of students’ work were helpful as an additional source of stimulus in the environment. This good practice is commendable and should be extended. It is particularly recommended that vocabulary lists containing new words would be displayed on the walls so that the terminology associated with the subjects is visually present for students until they have learned them. This terminology should be presented in Irish.
It was evident from the answers students gave to the teachers and to the inspector that they had a good understanding of what they were studying. They were engaged in the activities of those lessons observed, and they displayed good knowledge of the concepts and facts pertaining to MTW, TEC and CS.
Formal examinations are held in the school at Christmas and again in the summer. In addition to these, mock examinations are held at mid-term in the spring for students undertaking state examinations. A report is issued to homes with these examination results.
Regular assessment of students’ progress takes place in MTW, TEC and CS and this is good practice. These assessments are based on class tests given approximately every two months in MTW and in CS and from time to time in TEC. TEC homework is also assessed. Every design project is marked on completion. These continuous assessment marks are taken into account with the marks from the formal examinations at Christmas and in the summer to provide the final mark. The teaching team is urged, in pursuit of excellence, to undertake the planning of common assessment strategies for the technologies. If the details of this common assessment procedure were then made clear to students they would understand the implications of the marks awarded to them for their overall result. With information communicated to them regularly regarding their own marks, students would be affirmed with regard to their progress and motivated to improve when necessary.
Teachers, in accordance with good practice, retain detailed records in their diaries of the attendance, achievement and homework of students. Parent-teacher meetings are arranged once a year where the progress of each student is discussed. The records of students’ progress are made available to parents at these meetings. In addition to these meetings, any parents wishing to discuss any aspect of their son’s progress at school are welcomed. Good practice is adhered to in regard to ongoing communication with parents.
In all lessons observed students displayed diligence and enquiry in regard to the respective subject. The skills and knowledge acquired by students were appropriate to their age and ability and accordingly they were learning well.
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:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technology and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.