An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
St Mary’s Academy CBS,
Station Road, Carlow
Roll number: 61120E
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Mary’s Academy CBS, Station road, Carlow. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) form part of the school’s curriculum at junior and senior cycle respectively. Students are allocated four class periods each week for TG in first and third year and three class periods each week in second year. While it is recognised that this is an improvement on previous allocations, it is recommended that all junior cycle students receive a minimum of four class periods of TG per week in order to have sufficient time to cover the syllabus. The time allocated to senior cycle DCG is appropriate, with three class periods in TY and five class periods in fifth and sixth year.
All students partake in a half-term taster programme in first year, where they sample TG, Music, Art and Materials Technology Wood. Students are further supported when making their optional subject choices by advice given to them from the subject teachers and from the guidance counsellor. A ‘subject options committee’ is currently examining all possibilities in relation to subject choice, such as providing students with an open choice in first year as opposed to predefined subject option bands. This is a welcome initiative. At senior cycle, those who choose to partake in TY gain a useful insight into DCG and, prior to submitting their list of preferred subjects for fifth year, all students attend a seminar on each optional subject. This level of support for students at these important decision-making times is commended.
All members of the subject department are given the opportunity to teach all year groups. This is best practice and should be continued.
Currently there are two rooms used for TG and DCG. One room has recently undergone refurbishment to provide student and teacher access to the Department of Education and Science grant-aided Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources allowing for the new senior cycle DCG syllabus to be introduced. The work carried out by the subject department in the preparation of the room is commended. The other room used to teach TG and DCG is a general-purpose classroom. While this is not the ideal situation, the subject department and school management are currently examining all options to provide a better learning environment for TG and DCG students.
In a small number of cases, some DCG classes are not timetabled to take place in the upgraded room. It is recommended that school management ensure that priority is given to senior cycle groups when allocating specialist classrooms.
Members of the subject department team are currently participating in a number of continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service and by the Teachers Professional Networks. This commitment to CPD is commended.
Formal and informal subject department meetings are held regularly. At these meetings the subject convener, a role that is rotated among all members of the subject department, sets the agenda and records minutes. The issues raised at these meetings are reported to the school’s subject department planning coordinator, a role that is a post of responsibility. This structure provides an effective means of communication and a mechanism where common departmental planning issues can be addressed.
Two members of the subject department are also involved in the developing middle-leadership pilot scheme run by the Leadership Development Service (LDS) in partnership with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). This scheme has reportedly allowed for an increase in collaboration at subject level by promoting the sharing of resources and models of good practice. This level of collaboration is commended.
The subject department has developed a comprehensive subject plan. This plan contains agreed curricular plans for each year group including a developmental curricular plan for DCG, a concise long-term plan detailing strengths and challenges facing the subject, detailed minutes of subject department meetings and a variety of subject specific policies. This level of subject planning is commended.
A number of strategies are listed in the subject plan in relation to addressing difficulties faced by students with additional educational needs. These vary from devising strategies to allow wheelchair accessibility in classrooms to outlining specific teaching methodologies. An example of one of these methodologies is the use of large laminated flash cards that show diagrammatically some of the common parametric modeling commands used in class. This practice helps students with literacy difficulties to identify specific commands. The further development of this type of initiative would be beneficial to students with literacy problems.
The level of planning and preparation for all lessons observed was very good and a wide variety of resources was prepared in advance and used appropriately. These resources included physical and simulated models, digital photography equipment, overhead transparencies and a number of ICT resources.
Lessons were most successful when teachers shared the expected learning outcomes with students at the beginning of each lesson and used everyday applications of the subject to heighten students’ curiosity. An example of this was observed in a senior cycle lesson where communication of design was introduced to students. Students were asked to suggest a number of local and national examples where graphics were used to communicate a design. This was supplemented by displaying a number of illustrations of proposed building projects using the data projector. The use of such resources generated interesting discussion and dialogue. This approach to introducing new topics by linking them with technology in society is commended.
The predominant teaching methodology employed throughout the evaluation was teacher demonstration followed by student participation and teacher circulation. This was generally a successful strategy. Teachers’ demonstrations were supported by the use of overhead transparencies, the digital projector and the whiteboard, and in most cases, recognised standards and conventions were adhered to. In a senior cycle lesson, a number of common articles were used as models to help students to visualise a question on solids in contact. To further develop students’ visualisation skills, standard geometric solids could be included to complement these everyday items.
In DCG lessons, teachers took an integrated approach to the delivery of the subject matter by incorporating both the ICT and the drafting elements of the syllabus into lessons. This varied the students’ experiences and kept lessons interesting. This is commended.
ICT was used in all lessons and was effective in all instances. It was used to display problems clearly and to help students visualise abstract concepts. An example of this was observed in a junior cycle lesson where students viewed a simulated model from various viewpoints. The use of different colours on the various sides of the model further improved this demonstration technique. Another innovative use of ICT was observed in a lesson where students used a digital camera to photograph the elevation, plan and end view of a wooden model. This ensured that students had to physically position themselves in the correct location to capture the desired image. This inventive application of ICT in the classroom is laudable.
The DCG classroom had a variety of rendered parametric models and blueprints of buildings on display. In addition, some good quality student work was also exhibited and was regularly referred to during classes. This classroom provided students with a positive and visually stimulating learning environment.
Classroom management was effective throughout the evaluation. Where indiscipline occurred it was dealt with promptly and appropriately in class. In all lessons, students contributed to lively discussions and were keen to offer their opinions.
Students demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of the subject matter through their responses to questioning, their contributions to lessons and the quality of their work. This good level of understanding is further reflected in students’ achievements in school assessments and in examinations.
Regular formal assessments are held for all year groups. The results of these assessments are recorded and communicated to parents via the student journal, parent-teacher meetings and the regular reports sent home. Plans are afoot to enable parents to access their sons’ assessment records regularly through a secure web link. This is a welcome initiative that could allow for parents to be constantly updated on their sons’ progress.
During class, teachers regularly assessed students’ understanding and learning through frequent questioning and monitoring of homework. At present it is not subject department policy to award a proportion of examination marks for students’ coursework. It is suggested that this policy be introduced, as it would benefit students by preparing them for the coursework/project work element of the DCG syllabus while also rewarding them for maintaining up-to-date and complete portfolios.
Homework is assigned regularly and is generally signed and dated by the teacher on completion. During the inspection, it was observed that students received quality oral feedback from their teachers. It is recommended that this practice be further enhanced by providing students with written formative and affirmative feedback.
Currently no common policy exists in relation to the storage of students’ portfolios. As storage facilities in both rooms are an issue, the subject department should look at all possible solutions to this issue, and decide upon the most suitable. Proper storage of portfolios would help students to compile a substantial body of work during their programme of study and would be a valuable study resource especially approaching examinations.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics are offered to all students.
· First-year students partake in an optional subject taster programme prior to choosing their optional subjects.
· A ‘subject options committee’ has been formed and is currently reviewing the school’s optional subjects structure.
· The Design and Communication Graphics classroom is well resourced with ICT equipment.
· Quality subject planning is well established in the subject department.
· Planning and preparation for individual lessons were in all cases very good.
· A high level of collaboration within the subject department was evident.
· An integrated approach was taken in relation to the delivery of the various strands of the Design and Communication Graphics course.
· ICT was incorporated into lessons successfully and imaginatively.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· School management should ensure that all junior cycle students receive an appropriate time allocation for Technical Graphics.
· School management should ensure that priority is given to senior cycle groups when allocating specialist classrooms.
· Written formative and affirmative feedback on homework and portfolio work should be given to all students.
· A common policy for the storage of portfolios should be identified and implemented.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The BOM welcomes this very positive report on the teaching of Technical Graphics, CDG and Technical Drawing
The BOM would like to thank the inspector for the professional and thorough manner in carrying out the inspection and in delivering feedback to the teachers and management
The BOM is extremely concerned about the lack of facilities in all practical subjects and is actively pursuing a major infrastructural development with the Building Unit of the DES. Our limited facilities make it impossible to timetable all Drawing classes in the specialist room
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The ‘Subject options’ committee produced its report on 10th March at a staff day
The committee has identified a means of providing sufficient time for Technical Graphics in Second Year and this change will be implemented in the coming year
It also recommended that all subjects will be offered to First Years for the full year, from next year, and the choices will be made at the start of Second Year`. Students will be able to select more than one practical subject, if they wish, in line with the inspector’s recommendations. This policy will also be implemented in the coming year
The BOM will continue to vigorously pursue a plan to relocate the school to a new site or the redevelopment of our current facilities
The BOM hopes to address the storage problems in the redevelopment of overall facilities