An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Coláiste Éamann Rís,
Callan, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 61510R
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Éamann Rís, Callan, Co. Kilkenny. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 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; a response was not received from the board.
Provision is made for technology education in the curriculum of the school through the inclusion of Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. At senior cycle, Engineering forms part of the Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate programmes. It is commended that all students are presented with the opportunity to choose to study a technology subject.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Engineering at senior cycle. This allocation includes three class periods per week during TY and five class periods per week at Leaving Certificate. The time allocation for Metalwork has recently been increased to three class periods per week in first and second year and four class periods per week in third year. While this allocation is still minimal it is a welcome increase for junior cycle students.
In choosing optional subjects, students receive a good level of support. At junior cycle, all students partake in a half-year taster programme in first year, where they sample all optional subjects. This is supported by the subject department’s involvement in an open evening where teachers and students are available to answer questions and demonstrate the skills learned in the subjects. At senior cycle, students who enrol in TY sample subjects prior to choosing their Leaving Certificate subjects. In addition, all students receive guidance from their subject teachers and from the guidance counsellor. This level of support for students when making subject choices is commended.
Over half of the students enrolled in the school study either Metalwork or Engineering. This demonstrates the popularity of the subject in the school.
The Metalwork/Engineering room is well resourced and very well maintained. The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005, and has updated the machinery and facilities. The items of equipment purchased are generally in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list of the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. The work carried out by the subject department in refurbishing the room is commended. It is recommended that school management and the subject department prioritise the needs of the Metalwork room and determine how the remaining funding will be spent to ensure the continued improvement of the facilities.
Recently, school management has undertaken a risk assessment of the Metalwork/Engineering room. There is a commitment to health and safety in the subject department and a wide variety of safety posters are displayed around the room in conjunction with standard safety signs. All machines are appropriately safeguarded and safety zones are clearly marked around them. Health and safety procedures are listed in the subject plan and were evident in practice. It is recommended that the first aid supplies held in the Metalwork room are regularly checked and re-stocked.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend continuous professional development (CPD) courses. This is commended.
The teachers of Woodwork, Art and Metalwork form a department in the school. This allows common issues to be discussed and policies to be formulated in relation to health and safety and the procurement of resources.
The subject department has compiled a comprehensive subject plan. It includes policies and procedures relating to: class organisation; homework; assessment; reporting; supports for students with special educational needs and record keeping. Clear curriculum planning for both the practical and theoretical aspects of the subjects at Junior Certificate, TY and Leaving Certificate is also included. It is recommended that the TY plan be reviewed to reflect the content and methodologies reported to be included in the current TY programme for Engineering.
Effective teaching and learning strategies are also planned for within the subject plan. An example of this planning includes the strategy to vary the visual stimulus for students regularly by utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT), interactive learning and individual and group demonstrations. This level of planning is commended. It is suggested that this good planning be further developed by including students’ learning outcomes for each module in the plan.
The subject department’s occasional use of a “teacher appraisal sheet” is very good practice as it allows for reflection in relation to areas like communication, classroom environment, use of resources and lesson planning. This monitoring, review and evaluation of the teaching and learning strategies employed during lessons allows for the further improvement of students’ learning experiences.
Teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The school has developed individual education plans for students with special educational needs and the subject department has devised a number of subject specific resources for use by the learning-support team. This practice is commended.
A number of resources have been identified and developed by the subject department including working drawings, process sheets, student handouts, purpose built jigs and large laminated colour posters of the current State Examinations Commission (SEC) projects and practical exams. The preparation of such resources complements the teaching experience for students and improves their overall learning environment. There are also many colourful diagrams on display that may be incorporated into lessons to highlight key concepts and terminology.
All lessons observed during the evaluation were carefully planned. Material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student and during each demonstration all equipment and tools were readily accessible. This level of lesson planning is commended.
All lessons observed had a clear learning objective. It is suggested that this learning objective be shared with the class at the beginning of each lesson. While it is acknowledged that in practical lessons students are aware of their own stage of manufacture, a short introduction to the lesson would refocus students on the various processes required to complete their projects.
All lessons observed were clearly structured so that the content and pace of the lessons were appropriate to the class group, the subject matter and the time available.
In all lessons, effective teaching methodologies were observed. These methodologies were varied and all practical lessons contained a significant portion of theoretical content. In a senior cycle lesson observed, students were exposed to a variety of learning experiences ranging from project design to project manufacture. The use of modelling and prototyping in preparation for the SEC design project is also commended.
Demonstrations to both the class group and to individuals were used regularly throughout the lessons observed. In all instances, the correct use of tools, equipment and processing techniques was highlighted and appropriate terminology was used. These demonstrations were clear and effective and consolidated previous student learning. These demonstrations were further supported by the preparation of individual process sheets for each part.
In all lessons observed the teacher circulated among the students to provide individual guidance and support. By doing this it was possible to assess student understanding and skills and set varying targets and learning outcomes for students.
Classroom management was effective and conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment. This was supported by teacher-student interactions that were engaging and mutually respectful and by positive affirmation especially to junior cycle students. The overall classroom environment was appropriate for technology education with a large number of subject specific textbooks available for student use. Students also stored their tools neatly and took pride in the cleanliness of the classroom.
Where ICT was incorporated into lessons its use was effective. This was evident in a senior cycle lesson where students were encouraged to take digital photographs of their project prototypes. This provided them with evidence to include in the “Investigation of Possible Solutions” section of their design folio.
Students actively participated in all lessons observed and their actions and responses to questions reflected this. Students’ practical work was of a good quality and indicated a good level of learning consistent with the skills necessary to complete the syllabus.
Students were challenged and motivated in all lessons observed and were organised and purposeful in their work. This is supported by the detailed records of student work maintained by the subject department and through the communication of deadlines for project work.
All students are encouraged to follow the higher-level course at both junior and senior cycle and generally achieve quite well at this level. This is commended.
Student assessment occurs through both formal end-of-term examinations, and through informal assessment techniques employed during the year. These included in-class questioning, monitoring of student practical work, homework, worksheets and end-of-term class tests. Records of student progress are maintained and were available throughout the evaluation.
The end-of-term examinations for all year groups are made up of written examinations combined with a practical element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subjects’ syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. The method of assessment used to assess project work ensures that students concentrate on the quality of their work and the skills required rather than the quantity of artefacts produced. This differentiation allows students of all abilities to achieve at their own level.
Homework is assigned and corrected regularly. All project, practical and written work is corrected and feedback is given to students both orally and in written form. This feedback is both summative and formative. This level of individual feedback is commended.
The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents three times per year. The communication of student progress is also carried out through parent-teacher meetings and through the student journal. Each parent also receives a confidential individual progress sheet outlining student punctuality, behaviour, homework and ability. This practice is commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Metalwork and Engineering form part of the curriculum of the school at both junior and senior cycle.
· There is an appropriate time allocation for Engineering at senior cycle, and the allocation of time for junior cycle has recently been increased considerably.
· The Metalwork and Engineering room is very well resourced and maintained in terms of equipment, materials and resources.
· There is a commitment to professional development in the school.
· There are supports in place for students and parents in relation to subject choice at both junior and senior cycle.
· A large proportion of students choose to study Metalwork and Engineering in the school.
· The subject department has developed a quality subject plan.
· ICT was used effectively in the teaching and learning process.
· Classroom management was effective and was conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment.
· Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful.
· The assessment modes used are congruent with the aims and objectives of the syllabuses.
· Detailed records of student progress are maintained with achievable targets set for students.
· All students are encouraged to follow the higher-level course.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· School management and the subject department should prioritise the needs of the Metalwork/Engineering room and determine how any remaining funding will be spent to ensure the continued improvement of the facilities.
· The first aid supplies held in the Metalwork room should be regularly checked and re-stocked.
· The TY plan should be reviewed to reflect the content and methodologies reported to be included in the current TY programme for Engineering.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Metalwork and Engineering and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.