An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of German

 REPORT

 

Greenhills College Dublin 12

Roll number: 70130I

 

Date of inspection:  8 May 2008

   

 

 

  

    Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Greenhills College, Dublin 12. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject 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 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, deputy principal and relevant staff. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Greenhills College, Dublin 12 is a mixed post-primary school under the auspices of County Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). The school’s current enrolment is 183 students. The curricular programmes on offer in the school are: the Junior Certificate (JC), Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), Leaving Certificate established (LC), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). German is offered in all curricular programmes.

 

German is the only modern language on offer in Greenhills College and there has been a long tradition of teaching the subject in the school. Prior to entry into first year, students are assessed and streamed into two class groups based on ability. There is a possibility of movement between class groups up to November. Thereafter, the class groupings are fixed. The students deemed to have higher academic ability are assigned to the German class. The other class group do not study any modern language. This raises an issue of equal access to the curriculum for all students. It is recommended that this practice be reviewed and that the opportunity to study German be offered to all students in the school.

 

The school has some resources to support the teaching and learning of German. There are CDs, tapes and books available. The school management is supportive of the subject and requests for resources are met appropriately. It is recommended that, resources permitting, a set of class dictionaries be provided as this enables the development of learner autonomy in the course of lessons. It is also suggested that if resources permit, some magazines specifically aimed for teenage learners of German as a foreign language be acquired. Such resources can prove quite motivating for learners.

 

German is taught mainly in student-based classrooms. These rooms are bright and well laid out. In one of the rooms a black board is available as the main medium for introducing new vocabulary and grammar. For health and safety reasons this cannot always be used. It is therefore recommended that a room with a whiteboard be made available for the teaching of German. Other solutions could be the provision of an overhead projector or a flip chart for the German department.

 

Members of the German department are currently not members of the Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (German Teachers’ Association). It is recommended that membership be acquired, as the subject association provides useful support for teachers. Further information can be accessed at www.germanteachers.ie.

 

There is a good time allocation for the subject. Throughout the junior cycle, students have four periods per week. In senior cycle five class periods are assigned to the teaching of German. For all year groups German is allocated single-class periods. This is effective timetabling as single-class periods facilitate regular contact with the language.

 

There are co-curricular activities to support the teaching and learning of German. Particularly noteworthy is the email project which is in operation in senior cycle. This is an effective way of bringing students in contact with their counterparts in Germany. A trip was organised to Berlin in the course of this academic year. In addition, groups of German visitors have been guests in the school and have interacted with students of German.  The school management and German department are to be highly commended for affording the students many opportunities to come into contact with German language and culture.

Planning and preparation

 

The school is engaged in school development planning and in this context, subject department meetings are held once every term. Agendas are set and minutes are kept of meetings. In addition to formal planning time, members of the German department meet informally and plan for the delivery of the subject on a very regular basis. There is a very strong sense of collegiality in the German department and it is evident that there is excellent team work in operation which benefits the students. This is highly commendable.

 

A long-term plan for the teaching of German was presented in the course of the inspection. This outlined aims, objectives, curricular content, including the themes to be covered in each year group, and assessment. It is recommended that student-learning outcomes be stated in these plans as this will bring clarity to what is expected that learners will know at the end of a unit of learning. It is recommended that the available resources for the teaching of German be itemised in the planning document. This will inform review and planning for the acquisition of new resources.

 

There is evidence of very good cross-curricular planning for German and other subjects in the curriculum. Links have been established with English, information and communication technology (ICT), Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and Art. Creating specific cross-curricular links as outlined in the planning documentation is very good practice.

 

Teaching and learning

 

Lesson content was chosen appropriately in all lessons observed. Themes such as careers, hobbies and school formed the bases of lessons. Using a thematic approach to the design of lesson content is in line with syllabus recommendations and to be commended. It is recommended that, when using reading texts, care be taken to ensure that the material is accessible to the learners and does not contain too much difficult vocabulary. Excellent practice was observed in a lesson where the content was linked to a recent visit of German students to the school. This is most praiseworthy.

 

Effective methodologies were evident in all lessons observed. In some lessons, the skills of language acquisition, reading, writing, speaking and listening, were integrated to very good effect. Students were given a variety of tasks that enabled them to practise the different skills. In these lessons student engagement was impressive. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all lessons. It is also recommended that consideration be given to introducing more visual material as a support for teaching and learning of German. The use of photographs from newspapers and magazines can be very effective and takes into account the individual learning styles of students. Such visual material can then be used as a stimulus for oral and written work in the language.

 

The German department is to be commended for using a differentiated approach in lessons. Students with additional learning needs received very good individual support in the course of lessons observed. This is highly commended.

 

Teacher use of the target language was generally good. In some lessons observed, German was used but was followed by an English translation. It is recommended that this be avoided and that the students be encouraged to understand the spoken language. In some lessons general questions on familiar topics were asked in German at the outset and students responded well. This practice should be extended to all German lessons as speaking on familiar issues instils in the learners a sense of confidence. In some lessons, flashcards were used to good effect as an aid to using the target language. In other lessons the structured use of pair work facilitated the development of oral skills among the learners. This is praiseworthy.

 

Individual lessons were well planned. Individual planning documentation was made available in the course of the inspection in respect of some of the lessons observed. There was evidence of comprehensive planning with a strong focus on integration of the language skills. This careful planning is highly commended as good practice.

 

The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was very good. The nature of student-teacher interactions was positive. It was clear that teachers and students had a very good rapport. The environment in the classrooms was conducive to learning. This is commendable. In some lessons observed, the seating arrangements were changed to allow students to carry out pair work. This was very effective and enhanced the communicative nature of the classroom. This approach could usefully be tried out in all lessons. Discipline was maintained to high standards in all lessons observed.

 

Assessment

 

Mid-term tests take place in October or November. Formal assessments take place at Christmas and in the summer. Reports are sent home to parents following these formal assessments. ‘Mock’ examinations take place for students in third and sixth year in advance of the certificate examinations. In senior cycle, students are assessed in German in all the skills of language acquisition. In junior cycle, assessment of reading, writing and listening take place. It is recommended that formal assessment of oral skills take place in junior cycle.

 

A variety of other assessments are used. Interim vocabulary tests are administered and homework is assigned regularly. It is recommended that principles underpinning the approach of assessment for learning (AfL) be adopted. This would require students to follow up on errors they have made and thus consolidate the learning process. Further information on this can be accessed at the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie

 

An excellent pilot project relating to student behaviour, achievement and homework is currently in operation in a junior cycle German class. One of the aims of this project is to foster among students a positive attitude to the completion of homework. Students themselves were involved in establishing a merit system in relation to the production of German homework and to achievement in class work. The outcomes of this project are very successful and great progress and improvement has been noted. Management, staff and students are to be highly commended for their commitment to this innovative project which is truly student centred.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         There is good whole-school support for German. The provision of co-curricular activities is very good.

·         Subject department planning meetings are held each term and there is excellent collaboration between members of the German department.

·         The quality of teaching and learning is to be highly commended. A variety of effective teaching methodologies was evident.

·         The use of the target language was generally good and the classroom atmosphere in all lessons was very positive and conducive to learning.

·         The pilot programme in operation to improve student homework, achievement and behaviour is excellent. 

 

 

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 manner in which German is offered in the school be reviewed and that equal access for all students to the subject be considered.

·         It is recommended that when budgets allow, some additional resources be acquired for the teaching of German. In particular, the provision of a room with a white board

      or an overhead projector should be given priority.

·         It is recommended that oral skills in German should be assessed formally in junior cycle.

  

 

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

 

 

 

Published March 2009