An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)

 

REPORT

 

Bandon Grammar School

Bandon, County Cork

Roll number: 62060R

 

  

Date of inspection: 14 May 2007

Date of issue of report: 4th October 2007

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Bandon Grammar School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Construction Studies (CS) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) 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 teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher. The board of management was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Bandon Grammar School is a co-educational boarding and day school with a long history of educational provision from its foundation in 1641. Provision is made for technology education in the curriculum of the school through the inclusion of MTW for junior cycle students and CS for senior cycle students. It is commended that all students are presented with the opportunity to choose to study a technology subject and the commitment shown by the board of management in providing for this from it own resources is also commended.†

 

The strengthening of collaborative subject-department planning was the focus of development planning in the school in the current school year. It is commended that formal subject-department planning meetings were facilitated at the beginning and in the course of the year. For these meetings the teacher of MTW and CS engaged in some joint planning with the teacher of Art.

 

The teacher of MTW and CS has attended each session of the programme of continuing professional development (CPD) made available through the technology subjects support service, t4.† The school is commended for its support of this programme particularly at a time of change when revised and new technology-subject syllabuses are being introduced to senior cycle. Involvement by teachers of MTW and CS in this programme will be of great benefit to schools.

 

In junior cycle, MTW is allocated two class periods per week. The double-period arrangement of the allocated time is helpful. However, acknowledging that at present the school has just one teacher of the subject and that the curriculum is crowded, this time allocation is clearly insufficient. Much of the project work is completed in the evenings and on Saturdays outside of timetabled hours. Acknowledging the dedication of the teacher and the students, this arrangement is not ideal for the delivery of the syllabus in all its aspects and tends to place undue emphasis on the completion of practical work without full advantage being taken of the other learning opportunities presented. It is recommended that the time allocated to MTW in each year of junior cycle be increased to four periods per week. School management is urged to continue to explore the most viable ways to achieve this increased allocation of teaching time.

 

Transition Year (TY) is allocated one double-class period per week. In fifth year and sixth year, CS classes are allocated five class periods per week. This time allocation is sufficient to allow the syllabus to be covered. The class periods are configured as one double period and three single periods in fifth year and as two double periods and one single period in sixth year. In each case the configuration of periods is appropriate to support the efficient teaching of the practical, theory and drawing elements of the syllabus. While the distribution of the periods across the week is generally very good, the scheduling includes two fifth-year lessons on Friday. This should be avoided where possible.

 

In junior cycle, there are three subject-option blocks. These blocks are set. Students make their selections on entry to first year, choosing between MTW and Art in one block.

 

In senior cycle, the subject-option blocks are devised by the school based on annual surveys of the studentsí preferences. Students choose subjects from these blocks. It is suggested that a little more formality should be brought to the devising the of subject-option blocks. This could be achieved by providing students initially with a wide choice from all optional subjects. Students would at this stage select three subjects to be studied in addition to the three core subjects and a modern language. This would provide the most transparent and robust basis on which to devise the most suitable subject-option blocks, taking account of constraints of staffing and timetabling.

 

Students and parents are supported in the process of subject choice by means of a parentsí evening and by relevant information and advice provided by the guidance councillor. It is commended that those students who opt to study CS in TY are supported in making their choices for Leaving Certificate by having had this experience of the subject. Such support would be further enhanced if a module of CS was provided for all students in TY and it is urged that this possibility be explored.

 

While students of both genders are equally represented in the school and the numbers of girls studying MTW is relatively high, it is noticeable that the proportion of girls choosing to study CS is small. There were no girls in the fifth-year or sixth-year classes at the time of the inspection. Management is urged to look at the reasons for the gender imbalance and to encourage equal involvement of male and female students in CS.

 

The management of Bandon Grammar School is commended for its provision for the teaching of MTW and CS in terms of rooms, equipment and materials. While acknowledging that all reasonable requests for purchase of materials, consumable items and small pieces of equipment are acceded to without delay, it is recommended that the possibility of providing an annual budget for such items be considered. Such an annual budget would encourage and provide an incentive for continued careful planning within the subject department. This encouragement would be particularly valuable in the context of another teacher possibly being added to the subject teaching team.

 

Teaching of MTW and CS takes place in a large workshop and an adjacent drawing and theory room. There is a large store area attached to the workshop. The workshop is a new, purpose-built extension while the drawing room, store and other adjacent rooms including a computer room are housed on two levels in the original structure, formerly farm outbuildings. The range of woodwork projects undertaken by students and the quality of their finish are commended, however, it is recommended that projects are removed from the workshop on completion and that current work is kept in the store between lessons. It is recommended as far as possible that wood and other materials be stacked appropriately on racks in the store and that the tool racks in use in the workshop are placed on or by the wall in order to minimise obstruction. It may be necessary to relocate the materials racks from the workshop to the store. The area available in the workshop provides ample space for the students to learn not only the skills and processes of woodwork but also best practice as regards the organisation of their surroundings. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on tidiness and order in the workshop to provide a more suitable learning environment.†

 

There is very good provision for minimising dust within the workshop. Effective dust extraction is provided by a central unit placed outside the workshop to which the machines are ducted. Additional discrete air filters are provided to remove free dust from the air within the workshop.

 

The drawing and theory room is conveniently positioned adjacent to the workshop. This room, formerly the workshop before the construction of the extension, is bright although quite small. The facilities of the room include slope-top drawing desks, five modern personal computers, a television and DVD player, an overhead projector and a small, wall-mounted white board which was, however, obstructed by the work area provided for the computers.

 

Health and safety was reviewed throughout the school in January 2006. MTW and CS had an individual safety audit at the beginning of the current school year. This ongoing commitment to health and safety is commended.

 

The computers in the drawing and theory room provide the opportunity for the use of ICT in an integrated way in the teaching of MTW and CS. It is urged that the SolidWorks programme being provided for the introduction of the revised technology syllabuses in senior cycle be installed on these computers, if feasible, as soon as possible. It is desirable that this software would be introduced to all students of MTW to aid their project-design work from the beginning, in first year if possible. It is also urged that SolidWorks be installed in the information and communication technology (ICT) room, the use of which should be sought when available to introduce MTW and CS students to the program. The ICT room might also be used for the introduction of students to SolidWorks during computer classes and at other times for its use in design project work.†

 

Management is commended for its foresight in planning for further development of teaching accommodation for MTW and CS and other subjects in the curriculum. The provision of a larger room for theory and drawing, as part of this proposed development, will provide a solution to the problems of space faced in the present room. It is urged that advantage be taken of this opportunity to provide for the integration of ICT in the teaching of MTW and CS through provision for equipment such as personal computers, printers and data projector in the room layout, as well as suitable white boards for the development and display of drawings.

 

The school management and MTW and CS teacher are commended for the provision of resources and time for the wood turning club that is held after school a number of days a week. This encourages the interest of all students and allows them to gain valuable experience of the craft outside the confines of the classroom environment.

 

 

Planning and preparation

 

The teachers of MTW, CS and Art engaged in some collaborative planning in the course of the year. This planning involved issues such as those arising from the numbers of students opting to study each subject and the cross-curricular aspects of TY. It is commended that a start has been made on subject-department planning. The cross-curricular aspect of this collaboration may be particularly valuable to the experience of the students in both areas. The recruitment of a second teacher of MTW and CS will put the value of this planning more in context. It is urged that the identification of the most appropriate teaching methodologies and strategies to approach the various aspects of the MTW and CS syllabuses would form an important part of subject-department planning activity. The aspects of the syllabuses to be considered include design, theory, drawing and practical work. The most successful approaches to specific learning and teaching tasks should be included in the subject plan, having been discussed by the teaching team, particularly in light of personal professional experience. Given the timetabled hours available until now for the completion of the MTW syllabus, it is clear that the planning of programmes of work for each of the years of junior cycle has had to be particularly careful and resourceful. Given the likely increase in the subject-teaching team and in timetabled class-contact in the coming school year, it is recommended that the opportunity is taken to review existing arrangements and to devise suitable programmes of work to take full advantage of these changes. It is further recommended that these programmes of work, together with the work plan for TY and programmes for the two years of Leaving Certificate CS, be included in the subject plan. Such planning will prove invaluable as the subject department continues to develop.

 

In each of the lessons observed, students were engaged in work that fulfilled requirements of the respective syllabus in line with good practice. These lessons were related to informal programmes of work which were nevertheless coherent. The programme of design-project work followed in MTW had involved the students in the design and realisation of a small number of projects which each involved a relatively large amount of repetitive work such as carcase construction based on multipin box-dovetail joints in thick material. It is suggested as part of the planning of revised programmes of work, in particular in first year and second year, that a greater number of smaller, more diverse design projects should be identified. This is in order to increase the frequency of the studentsí involvement with the full cycle of a design process and to provide increased opportunities for them to practice a greater range of woodworking skills.†

 

The photocopied materials prepared for use in a senior cycle lesson and the coherent approach to presenting subject content throughout the lessons observed provided evidence of planning. It is suggested that the teacher build further on this good practice by planning, in a wider context, in areas such as teaching methodology, where the use of a more varied range of methodologies would be beneficial, or use of teaching aids, where appropriate use of the white board and the overhead projector could be hugely beneficial for the development of particular lessons.

 

In addition to the overhead projector, already available for use, it is urged that the advantages of using a data projector and computer to improve the presentation of lessons in theory and drawing be considered. Particularly with the advent of broadband internet access, there is a broad range of teaching resources available to support the teaching of the technologies. In many cases, the carefully planned use of these resources can transform the studentsí experience of the material being learned. The introduction of digital teaching resources should not replace the use of actual components or models and the impact of physical teaching aids. It is urged that a range of models be assembled over time for use as teaching aids when dealing with particular aspects of MTW and CS, such as the various methods of jointing wood and the basic common building details. When space permits, in a larger drawing and theory room, some of these models could be placed on permanent display to reinforce the studentsí learning.

 

Students are encouraged to make use of ICT in the completion of their project-design work in MTW and CS. The range of applications used includes word processing, computer-aided draughting (CAD) and the use of the internet for project research. The CAD package in use, AutoSketch, provides for the creation of orthographic working drawings. Making this provision for the use of ICT is good practice. The expansion of the use of ICT in the teaching of MTW and CS is urged, in particular through the introduction of 3D parametric CAD with SolidWorks. This software has been identified for use in the delivery of all the revised senior cycle technology syllabuses. It is desirable that students of all technology subjects be introduced to this program from the beginning of junior cycle and make use of it as a support tool for project design. The use of the schoolís ICT facilities, as referred to earlier in this report, should be sought to facilitate this introduction. Further information, including information on the introduction of SolidWorks, can be accessed on the website of the technology subjects support service at www.t4.ie.†

 

Documentation from the State Examinations Commission detailing the procedures to be adopted for the completion of the coursework elements of MTW and CS was prominently displayed in the workshop, in line with best practice.

 

Personal protection equipment (PPE) was available for the use of teacher and students as required when using particular machines. This was good practice. It is urged that particular care is taken to ensure the appropriate use of PPE in all situations where this is deemed necessary, even if the machine is to be used for a very short time. Clear signs listed instructions for the safe use of individual machines. This is good practice. It is recommended, to improve safety awareness further, that appropriate, standard, colour-coded signs be placed adjacent to each machine indicating where the wearing of personal protection equipment is mandatory. The display of a range of such signs in the workshop will also reinforce the studentsí knowledge and understanding when issues of health and safety are being addressed. It is recommended that safe operational areas be demarcated around each machine. It is also urged that suitable notices be displayed indicating the rationale for safe operational areas and the implications for movement and behaviour in the vicinity of machines. It is recommended, where applicable, that the work benches be relocated away from machinery, being careful to provide sufficient space for twenty-four students to work safely and comfortably. It is recommended that the chop saw be used in a position where it is backed by a wall and that a safe operational area be clearly demarcated around it. If possible it should not be used while students are present in the workshop. It is recommended that the use of mains-voltage equipment be phased out as soon as possible in favour of 110 volt or rechargeable tools. The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), available on www.education.ie, should be consulted in detail in relation to the above recommendations and when reviewing health and safety in the workshop.

 

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

In the lessons observed the students were active in their learning and focused on their specific tasks. The content of the lessons was appropriate to each class group concerned.

 

The students in each of the lessons observed displayed clear expectations regarding the routine procedures involved in setting up for the particular lesson and clearing up at the end, indicating consistency in lesson structure. In lesson on building drawing, students efficiently collected their drawing boards from where they were stored and quickly moved to their work places where they immediately fixed their drawing sheets in place and were ready for work. The procedure at the conclusion of the lesson was equally well ordered and little time was lost. Similarly, the setting up and clearing away of tools and work pieces in the workshop showed that students were used to order and proper sequence in the organisation of their lessons. It is recommended, to further enhance the studentsí sense of purpose and to aid learning, that each lesson begin with a focussed, brief introduction in which the purpose of the lesson is clearly stated. Such an introduction will also present an opportunity to provide a link with related work done in earlier lessons. It is recommended also that the final part of the lesson would involve reflection on the progress achieved in the course of the lesson. The conclusion of a lesson provides opportunities for formative assessment and very effective reinforcement of the studentsí learning that should not be overlooked. Consistent conclusions also provide links forward to work to be done in subsequent lessons.

 

During a practical junior cycle lesson observed, the teacher employed very effective demonstration techniques. Demonstrations were generally given to individuals or small groups of up to three students. This very good practice was particularly valuable in the context of the lesson, the realisation phase of a design project. It is urged that strategies be developed to plan for the inclusion of regular demonstrations of practical skills and processes as an integral part of each practical lesson. Each of the lessons observed was well paced, allowing the students to learn effectively while ensuring that they were each kept engaged by the work.†

 

In a senior cycle CS lesson, the students were set the task of drawing a vertical section through a building detail. Each student was supplied with a photocopied sheet showing the section, the dimensions and the other information needed to complete the task. The students worked on their drawings while the teacher moved among them, affirming good work and offering help and encouragement as appropriate. This was good practice. To further improve teaching efficiency and to encourage interaction among students in support of learning, it is recommended in addition that the white board or projector be used to focus attention on various aspects of the detail being drawn. These aspects can thus be explained and discussed as they are being drawn. It is preferable that a range of teaching models and aids is used to help clarification. In general it is also preferable that photocopied teaching materials do not present the drawing in the format that the students are asked to produce to avoid reducing the task being undertaken to a copying exercise.†

 

While relaxed and secure as they undertook their work, students were disciplined in their approach. The discipline was intrinsic and willingly adhered to on the studentsí part. The atmosphere in each of the classrooms visited was positive and encouraging. There was clearly a rapport between teacher and students. Studentsí efforts were acknowledged and affirmed and all interactions between teacher and students and between students themselves were mutually respectful. The atmosphere in the lessons observed was in each of these respects conducive to learning. The surroundings in the drawing and theory room provided a high level of visual stimulation in the form of commercially produced charts of woodwork hand tools and photographic displays of studentsí design-project realisations. This is good practice and it is urged that a similar level of subject-related visual stimulation be provided in the workshop, facilitated perhaps by the removal of materials racks to the store. In each of the lessons observed, students were fully engaged in the classroom activities and were enthusiastic for their completion. In the workshop in particular, as they completed the realisation of their design projects, students worked with impressive independence and confidence, seeking the help or advice of their teacher when needed. Help, advice and affirmation were provided as appropriate while the teacher circulated among the students and this is commended. This approach allowed for constant support and guidance of the students and effective classroom management.

 

Effective learning took place. When questioned by the inspector, students in general displayed a firm grasp of the concepts and facts relating to the work of the respective lessons and they were able to communicate effectively on related matters within the respective syllabus.

 

 

Assessment

 

Formal assessment of studentsí progress is facilitated by Christmas examinations for all students and summer examinations for all except those undertaking state examinations. Third-year and sixth-year students, who are due to sit state examinations, undergo a further assessment in February. In MTW and CS each project is assessed on completion. These assessments are aggregated with the Christmas and summer examinations, accounting for about half the marks. This very good practice of aggregating results from student project work and formal written tests is compatible with the aims and objectives of the respective subject syllabuses. It gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theory learned. To further enhance the formative aspect of the assessment procedure, it is urged, where not already the case, that the studentsí work on the development and solution of each design brief be assessed and that these assessments be aggregated with the other marks also. This assessment of design books would help lay due emphasis on the creative and investigative aspects of student project design.

 

Student attainment in examinations and project assessments are carefully recorded in the teacherís diary together with the studentsí attendance. Formal reports are posted home at Christmas and summer and annual parent-teacher meetings are held for each year group at which the assessment marks are available. The studentsí journals are available for communication between the teacher and parents.

 

The achievement of the students in MTW and CS is of a high standard as are their skills and knowledge relative to their age and ability. In MTW, it is notable that the quality of the realisation of practical design project work is particularly high in the context of the short time provided on the timetable for the subject. It is clear that much time is spent outside of the timetable to complete this work and those involved are commended for this.

 

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

         The board of management of Bandon Grammar School is commended for presenting all students with the choice to study a technology subject and the commitment shown by providing for this from it own resources is also commended.†

         Management is commended for its foresight in planning for further development of accommodation for the teaching of MTW and CS. The provision of a larger room for the teaching of theory and drawing as part of this proposed development will provide a solution to the problems of space faced in the present room.

         Students displayed clear expectations regarding the routine procedures involved indicating commendable consistency in lesson structure.

         Very effective demonstration techniques were employed with individuals and small groups of students which was particularly valuable in the context of the realisation phase of design projects.

         The atmosphere in each of the classrooms visited was positive and encouraging and there was clearly a rapport between teacher and students.

         The very good practice of aggregating results from studentsí project work and formal written tests is compatible with the aims and objectives of the respective subject syllabuses and gives recognition to the skills learned during the term, while also placing a focus on the theory learned.

         Students worked with impressive independence and confidence on the realisation of design projects while help, advice and affirmation were provided as appropriate by their teacher.

         Effective learning was evidenced by students who displayed a firm grasp of the concepts and facts relating to the work of the lessons observed and who were able to communicate effectively on related matters within the respective syllabus.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

         It is recommended that the time allocated to MTW in each year of junior cycle be increased to four periods per week.

         It is recommended that the existing programmes of work in junior cycle and senior cycle be revised, include references to appropriate teaching methodologies and be included in the subject plan.

         It is suggested that first-year and second-year students of MTW be presented with a greater number of smaller, more diverse design projects, in order to increase the frequency of the studentsí involvement with the full cycle of a design process and to provide increased opportunities for them to practice a greater range of woodworking skills.

         It is recommended, to improve safety awareness further, that appropriate, standard, colour-coded signs be placed adjacent to each machine indicating where the wearing of personal protection equipment is mandatory.

         It is recommended that safe operational areas be demarcated around each fixed woodwork machine in the workshop.

         It is recommended that the chop saw be used in a position where it is backed by a wall, that a safe operational area be clearly demarcated around it and if possible that it not be used while students are present in the workshop.

         It is recommended that the use of mains-voltage equipment be phased out as soon as possible in favour of 110 volt or rechargeable tools.

         The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), available on www.education.ie, should be consulted in detail in relation to the recommendations concerning health and safety in the workshop.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of MTW and CS and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

  

 

 

 

Inspection Report School Response Form

 

Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

 

The School found the inspection and subsequent report helpful, supportive and formative in helping to develop our curricular plans for Materials Technology Wood and Construction Studies.

 

 

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 department is revising its programme of work and methodology in line with the recommendations.† The Board has moved to appoint an additional part-time teacher to enable an expansion of the Junior Cycle MTW class provision and for increased numbers of pupils. †A curricular committee is working on revising our curricular options and will have new recommendations in place for the 2008-09 school year.† The first fruits of this work are additional class time allocated for MTW and Art in Junior Cert 2 and 3 for 2007-08.