An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Roll number: 70141N
Date of inspection: 4 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject
Prior to entry into first year there is a comprehensive transfer programme incorporating school visits, individual profiling of each entrant and consultation with both primary school teachers and parents. Incoming first-year students also sit an entrance assessment test. On the basis of all the information gathered students are assigned to class groups. Students in two of the three class groups in first year have a short taster programme for all optional subjects. At the end of the taster programme, students choose one of two modern languages. Offering students the opportunity to try out optional subjects in this manner is to be highly commended. However a small group of first-year students who have been previously identified as having special educational needs can not access this taster programme. It is vital that schools provide a broad, balanced and differentiated curriculum for all students including those with special educational needs. All first-year students should have an equal opportunity to sample optional subjects and, with school and parental guidance, to make their final subject choices. This is a matter of equity. It is recommended that the school review present practice.
This year the content of the taster programme in first year for languages was changed to ensure that a more streamlined approach was taken. The German and French departments worked together on the content of the taster programme and the same topics were covered in both languages. The modification of the taster programme as outlined is clear evidence that the school is engaged in self-evaluation and self-review. This is most laudable.
The school has a small number of resources, such as textbooks, class dictionaries and CDs to support the teaching and learning of German. It is recommended that a stock of suitable resources for German be acquired as soon as possible and as school funding permits. The provision of a CD player for the exclusive use of the German department should also be made. A list of resources should be included in the planning documentation and should be updated regularly.
Sets of textbooks are provided for students through a book loan scheme. This is praiseworthy. However, in senior cycle the main textbook being provided was printed in 1994 and is out of date. These books contain a version of German spelling which is no longer in use and not acceptable in the state examinations. It is recommended that these books be changed as soon as resources permit.
There is a good time allocation for the subject. This is praiseworthy. Junior cycle students have four class periods of German. In senior cycle, German is allocated five class periods. The distribution of lessons throughout the week is optimal. German is taught in a base classroom. This room is well decorated. Posters, maps and student work are on display. This is very good practice and enhances the learning environment. Presently the German department does not hold membership of the German teachersí association, Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (GDI). Given that the management authorities of the school fund membership, it is recommended that membership of the teachersí association be acquired.
To support the teaching and learning of German, a trip to a language and outdoor pursuits centre is organised for junior cycle students. In senior cycle, as part of the Accessing College Education (ACE) programme, students are offered a scholarship to study German at the Goethe Institute. These activities are to be commended. It is recommended that some other activities related to cultural aspects of the language be organised in the school if time and resources permit. This will enhance the co-curricular provision for the subject.
As a support to students taking the Junior Certificate higher-level examination in 2009, an extra lesson outside of school time is currently being provided by the German department. While this is most praiseworthy, it is important that any student who wishes to attempt the higher level should not be precluded from doing so if he or she cannot attend this lesson outside of school time.
The school is engaged in development planning. A school development planning co-ordinator is in place. There are effective formal planning structures. The German department meets formally and regularly at times allocated by management. Formal meeting time is scheduled into the school timetable. This is excellent practice. The French and German departments meet together and work well both formally and informally. Very good minutes of planning meetings are kept. These form a clear record of decisions taken and who will complete tasks. This is most commendable.
Long-term planning documentation was presented in the course of the evaluation. This included information on curricular content in all years. To build on the work already done, it is recommended that the plans include details of intended student learning outcomes. It is recommended that the student learning outcomes be specified in terms of the skills of language acquisition, that is, what is expected of the learner in terms of aural and reading comprehension and in terms of written and oral production.
Planning for fifth-year German revolves mainly around the teaching of grammar. This is not in line with syllabus requirements and should be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The syllabus dictates that planning in senior cycle should be theme based.
In the current academic year, students of German have not accessed the information and communication technology (ICT) available in the school. It is recommended that the plan for German be developed to include the use of ICT and German. This could include short-term objectives such as students producing some written assignments using ICT and student use of selected websites for project work. Activities of this nature should be documented in the plans for all years taking the subject.
Individual lessons observed were well planned. Handouts were prepared for all lessons. These were well made out and showed evidence of good advance planning. This is most laudable. The aims of lessons were stated clearly in terms of expected learning outcomes. This is good practice and to be commended. It was noted that, at the end of each lesson, students were asked to recapitulate on what they had learned. This is also very good practice as it gives students a clear sense of achievement.
Lesson content was generally good, with the exception of one senior cycle lesson which focussed exclusively on grammar. It is recommended that grammar be taught in a communicative manner and not be the sole focus of lessons. It is also recommended that, when planning lesson content, the cultural diversity of the student cohort be taken into account and that content which is meaningful for newcomer students always be included.
In a lesson observed, students were given the opportunity to ask each other questions about where they lived and where they came from, in German. This is a good methodology and should be used a lot more frequently as, overall, the target language was used rarely in the lessons observed. It is recommended that, in all lessons, basic phrases which are common in the classroom setting be used in German. Students should be encouraged to use German as the means of communication. It is recommended that, at the beginning of lessons, students be asked short questions in German relating to themselves, the weather, school life or the topic being studied. Similar questions should be used every day to build up learnersí self-confidence in communicating in the target language.
Students engaged meaningfully with all tasks they were given. Many of these tasks focussed on the development of the skill of writing and this was done effectively. However, it is recommended that a balance between the development of the skills of language acquisition, reading, writing, speaking and listening, be provided. The development of the skill of listening did not take place in any lesson observed. It is recommended that this skill be developed in all lessons in the future. Listening comprehension represents approximately 44% of the overall marks in the state examinations at junior cycle and between 20% and 25% at senior cycle. It is therefore vitally important that students get plenty of practice in this skill. Teacher use of the target language would also provide opportunities for the students to develop this skill.
Teacher circulation was excellent in the course of all lessons. Students were thus afforded the opportunity to ask for and receive individual help. This level of differentiation and attending to the individual needs of the students is highly commendable. Teacher questioning throughout lessons was also very effective to ensure that learning took place. Frequently, questions were asked generally of the class group rather than naming individuals. It is recommended that students be called on more frequently on an individual basis.
The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was very good. Mutual respect between students and teachers was clearly evident. Students were affirmed in their efforts in the classroom. The nature of student-teacher interactions was positive. The atmosphere was, at all times, conducive to learning. Teachers and students are to be commended for the very good classroom atmosphere that prevailed.
In the course of one lesson observed, a student from another class was sent to the German teacher, who is also a year head, on a disciplinary matter. While this was dealt with in a most professional manner, it is recommended that students do not go to year heads on disciplinary related issues while they are engaged in their teaching duties.
Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in the summer. All skills of language acquisition are tested formally in senior cycle. In junior cycle reading, writing and listening skills are tested. It is recommended that formal oral assessment of studentsí progress take place. Reports containing the formal assessment grades, marks for studentsí efforts, and teachersí comments are given to parents after Christmas and in the summer. Parents are invited to come to the school to meet the year head, who gives individual feedback in relation to the studentsí reports. It was reported that the system is working well. The school is to be highly commended for such a thorough approach to reporting on formal assessment.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ German is offered as part of a taster programme in first year. This assists students in making informed subject choices and is commendable.
∑ Subject department planning is good and there is very good collaboration between the modern languages departments.
∑ The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was conducive to learning and the rapport between teachers and students was very good.
∑ Teacher circulation was excellent and the assistance given to individual students contributed to good learning outcomes.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ †It is recommended that a review of the curriculum take place to ensure equal access for all students to German.
∑ Resources to support the teaching and learning of German should be acquired as funding permits
∑ †Yearly schemes of work should be developed to include student learning outcomes. Planning should be theme based with an emphasis on the
††††† development of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
∑ It is recommended that use of the target language by teachers and students be increased and that all the skills of language acquisition be developed
††††† in the course of †lessons.
∑ †It is recommended that students be given short writing tasks in German. Written homework should be signed and dated by teachers when it is
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of German and 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, June 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
∑ New text books purchased
∑ German Teachers Association joined (GDI)
∑ CD Player provided