An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/Design and Communication Graphics
St Kieran’s College,
College Road, Kilkenny
Roll number: 61560J
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/Design and Communication Graphics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Technical Graphics (TG) and Technical Drawing (TD)/Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) are optional subjects for both junior and senior cycle. At senior cycle, DCG forms part of the Transition Year (TY) and the established Leaving Certificate programmes. There is an appropriate time allocation for TG and TD/DCG at all levels and these allocations include single and double class periods, the latter providing appropriate time for complex problems to be covered during class time.
There are three teachers timetabled to teach TG and DCG/TD in the school. One of these teachers holds qualifications recognised by the Department of Education and Science (DES) to teach the subjects to the highest level. While it is acknowledged that the teachers who are currently timetabled to teach the subjects have made valuable contributions to the development of a positive technology education culture within the school and have been significantly involved in the implementation of the new syllabus at senior cycle, it is recommended that school management makes every effort to deploy suitably qualified teachers to this subject department.
In choosing optional subjects, students receive a good level of support. At junior cycle, all students partake in a one-year taster programme in first year, where they sample all optional subjects. This is supported by the subject department’s involvement in an open day, a parents’ evening and advice to students from the guidance counsellor. At senior cycle, all students are supported by their involvement in the compulsory TY programme and through guidance from their subject teachers and from the guidance counsellor. This level of support for students when making subject choices is commended.
At the end of first year and again at the end of TY, student preferences are collated and suitable subject option bands are then designed with these preferences in mind. This system is student centred. A good proportion of students choose to study TG and DCG/TD in the college.
The junior drawing room is shared with the Art department. As both subjects are timetabled concurrently, an Art lesson and a Drawing lesson sometimes take place at the same time in this room. This is not a good arrangement. It is recommended that school management and the subject departments involved explore strategies to address this situation.
The senior drawing room has not been refurbished or re-organised to provide teacher or student access to the new Department of Education and Science grant-aided Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources for the DCG syllabus. Instead, school management and the subject department have identified a more suitable room and have worked closely in equipping it with the ICT resources. This work is almost finished and once completed it will provide the teachers and students with excellent accommodation. The work carried out by the department in this regard is highly commended. As the new syllabus requires easy access to these resources it is recommended that all senior cycle classes be timetabled for this room. To advance this process, it is suggested that suitable drawing boards be sourced for the room to allow for the simultaneous teaching of the various elements of the new DCG syllabus.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend the continuous professional development (CPD) courses currently being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service. This commitment to professional development is commended.
The subject department has formulated yearly subject plans for each class group for TG and TD/DCG. It is recommended, to build upon this good work, that the subject department should work collaboratively on the further development of the overall subject plan, with particular emphasis on long-term planning for the implementation of the new DCG syllabus and on a common agreed programme for the delivery of the syllabuses at junior and senior cycle. This plan should also include the knowledge, skills and learning outcomes that students should acquire during each year. This agreed programme would formalise the delivery of the syllabuses across the various year groups, while still allowing a level of flexibility for teachers.
The TY plan details the course content of the graphics module offered during TY. The content and methodologies, such as design and project work, listed in the plan are appropriate for the TY programme. It is recommended that the graphics module offered to TY students be further developed to include use of the ICT resources available and therefore complement the DCG syllabus.
Departmental planning meetings are held regularly. The subject coordinator convenes these meetings, records minutes and key decisions and identifies actions required. This practice is beneficial to subject planning. The role of subject coordinator rotates among the subject teachers. This is good practice as it allows all members of the department to bring their individual skills to the role.
The level of planning and preparation for all lessons observed was very good, and resources prepared in advance were used appropriately.
All lessons observed during the evaluation had a clear learning objective. This was achieved by recapping on previous work and by outlining the purpose of the lesson at the beginning. This focussed students on the task and allowed previous work to be revised prior to attempting more complex problems.
Most lessons were clearly structured. Effective practice was observed in a junior cycle lesson on the topic of ‘solids in contact’. Initially a simple problem involving two solids was introduced to students. The principle was further developed by the use of large models of spheres. Students were then given time to construct the solution to a similar graphical problem. This led to the introduction of a third solid using the ‘relaxing of constraints’ method. This clear and incremental approach to the introduction of a topic is good practice.
A range of appropriate teaching methodologies was employed in the lessons observed. Individual and group demonstrations were used to present correct drawing procedures to students. These demonstrations were carried out at the whiteboard or, if needed, at the student’s desk. In all instances the principles being demonstrated were correct, and when appropriate drafting techniques were used, all constructions were clear and unambiguous. It is suggested that the use of sketching on the whiteboard be reserved for the explanation of specific constructions and not for the demonstration of complete solutions.
ICT was used in most lessons observed. Effective use was evident in a junior cycle lesson on rotations. The use of the digital projector combined with the textbook support Compact Disc (CD) allowed for the question to be displayed clearly to students.
In all lessons observed, good quality resources were used to develop students’ understanding. The use of such resources supported teaching and helped students visualise abstract concepts.
Students were constantly questioned and encouraged to suggest the next step in the construction of a drawing. This type of questioning improved students’ overall understanding of topics and helped other students to consolidate their learning. This was particularly evident in a senior cycle lesson on the topic of the oblique plane. In this lesson, two construction techniques were analysed and students were questioned in relation to finding the positions of the vertical and horizontal traces of the oblique plane. This detailed examination of the construction methods, combined with the use of a simple model, helped to simplify this abstract topic.
Classroom management was effective in all lessons observed. The classroom layouts facilitated teacher movement around the rooms and supported teacher demonstrations on the whiteboard. In all lessons, teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful, and a genuine rapport existed. Student questions were not only welcomed but also encouraged by teachers and were seen as a positive input into the lesson. This practice is commended as it encourages student interaction thereby promoting learning.
Students actively participated in their learning and their questions, responses and quality of drawing reflected a good level of understanding. Students’ work-rates were very high with a number of questions completed in each lesson. To promote independent learning, it is suggested that the presentation of the solution to questions be delayed for as long as possible. This strategy would offer students the opportunity to think for themselves and develop their problem solving skills.
Students are assessed formally during timetabled examinations at Halloween, Christmas and Summer. In addition to this, third and sixth-year students also sit ‘mock’ examinations. Results of these examinations are conveyed to parents by reports, parent-teacher meetings and through the teachers’ use of the student journal.
A range of assessment modes was regularly used to assess student competence and progress. These included questioning in class, monitoring of homework and monitoring end-of-term tests. Best practice was observed when a proportion of the marks awarded for end-of-term tests was based on students’ coursework. This approach benefits students by preparing them for the coursework/project elements of the DCG syllabus while also rewarding students for maintaining up-to-date and complete portfolios.
There are no common arrangements for assessments in place within the subject department. It is suggested that the subject department consider the introduction of a policy of common assessment. This policy would support teachers’ short-term subject planning.
During the evaluation, feedback on assessments was used to assist students to reflect on their learning. This was achieved through oral feedback provided by the teacher and by written comments on student drawings and assessments. The practice of providing quality feedback to students is highly commended.
Teachers maintained detailed records of student attainment. The maintenance of such records allows student progress to be carefully monitored.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· A new Technical Drawing/Design Communication Graphics room has recently been equipped to facilitate the implementation of the new syllabus at senior cycle.
· There is an appropriate time allocation to the subject at junior and senior cycle.
· There is a good support system in place for students when making important optional subject choice decisions and subject option bands are determined based on student preferences.
· A large proportion of students choose Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/Design and Communication Graphics in St. Kieran’s College.
· School management and the subject department are fully committed to CPD.
· The subject department has developed yearly subject plans for each year group.
· Good planning and preparation for individual lessons was evident throughout the evaluation.
· All lessons observed had a clear learning objective and this was shared with students at the beginning of each lesson.
· Appropriate teaching resources were effectively incorporated into lessons.
· Quality feedback was given to students in relation to end-of-term assessments.
· A range of assessment modes was used to assess student competence and progress.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· School management should deploy suitably qualified teachers to the subject department.
· It is recommended that school management and the subject departments involved should explore strategies to address the current situation of Art and Technical Graphics being taught in the same room and often simultaneously.
· All senior cycle DCG classes should be taught in the newly equipped DCG room.
· The subject department should work collaboratively on the further development of the subject plan, with particular emphasis on long-term planning for the implementation of the new DCG syllabus and on a common agreed programme for the delivery of the syllabuses at junior and senior cycle.
· The DCG module for Transition Year should be further developed to incorporate the ICT resources available.
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.