An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Killorglin Community College
Killorglin, County Kerry
Roll number: 70460G
Date of inspection: 5 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Killorglin Community College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teachers.† The board of management was given an 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 of this report.
Home Economics is offered as an optional subject on the curriculum in Killorglin Community College. Overall uptake levels in the subject are impressively healthy, both in junior and senior cycle, although it is clearly a more popular subject amongst the girls attending the school. As a result, management, in conjunction with the home economics department, is encouraged to investigate the introduction of strategies designed to further encourage boys to study Home Economics. One such strategy, which would help to improve the gender balance in overall uptake levels and which would also ensure that students make more informed subject choices, would be the introduction of a Ďtasterí programme for incoming first-year students. Students of Home Economics in Killorglin Community College are encouraged to aim for high academic standards. This is apparent in the numbers of students who take higher-level papers in the state examinations each year. †††
The timetabling of the subject in the school is very satisfactory, with the time allocated fully reflecting syllabus recommendations, both in junior and senior cycle. The provision of double periods also facilitates the delivery of the practical components of both syllabuses. These measures are applauded. In the main, lessons are also very well spread over the weekly timetable and management is encouraged in its efforts to maintain this approach to timetabling. Concern was expressed with regard to the number of lessons that one senior class group have missed as a result of their involvement in a series of subject-based or whole-school, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. While it is noted that this is an exception rather than a rule, it does highlight the need for careful planning of these very beneficial activities so as to ensure that studentsí access to examination subjects is not being compromised in any significant way.
The delivery of the subject is very much advantaged by the fact that the department is comprised of two classrooms, a sewing room and a kitchen. Both rooms are spacious and well laid out, with lots of storage space provided. A demonstration mirror in the kitchen is noted as a very valuable resource. However, attention needs to be devoted to the equipping of the kitchen, which is very much under-resourced. Not discounting the fact that in recent years a number of cookers have been replaced in the kitchen, this has arisen due to the fact that there has been little provision made for the purchase of additional equipment or the replacement of damaged, broken or old equipment, since the kitchenís inception. It is recommended that a resource audit of the kitchen be carried out without delay and that a resourcing plan be devised with immediate effect. This is paramount in order to ensure that students can fully avail of all potential learning opportunities that practical food studies lessons are designed to provide. When the facilities are resourced to the level required for a more efficient and effective delivery of both syllabuses, consideration ought to be given by management to the provision of an annual budget for the department. This could be used by the home economics department for the ongoing purchase of smaller items of equipment and resources such as books and DVDs.
The school houses three computer laboratories, although access to them for non-timetabled teachers and class groups is fairly limited. Plans are in place to facilitate all subject teachers in the incorporation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) into lesson delivery, through the provision of laptops to all first years entering in September 2007, as well as data projectors for in-class use by teachers. Planning for the provision of the appropriate training for teachers is also underway. This initiative is highly praised. The departmentís openness to the exploration of the use of ICT in this way is also noted as very positive.
It is commendable that a health and safety risk assessment has been carried out on the kitchen. The fact that two out of the three mechanical fans fitted in the room are not working is, however, a cause for concern. This, in combination with the fact that the floor in the kitchen is not non-slip, could contribute to the likelihood of an accident occurring, particularly when the room is fully operational. These two hazards need to be addressed as a matter of priority. †
It is very positive to note that the home economics department is facilitated by management in the task of collaborative subject-department planning, through the provision of formal meeting time approximately once a term. This level of provision is applauded. ††
Subject-department planning is co-ordinated by a member of the home economics department on a rotational basis. This approach to subject co-ordination, which reflects best practice, is commended. In addition to the formal meeting times provided by management for the purpose of collaborative planning, the home economics department also meets informally on a regular basis. This additional commitment is praised. The practice of providing agendas for meetings and of minuting the outcomes of meetings is well established in the department. This is noted as excellent practice. Consideration should be given to the housing of these agendas and minutes in the subject plan, which will be discussed in the next paragraph.
It is recommended that the department set about preparing a subject plan. As a means of initiating work in this area, the department is encouraged to investigate the template provided by the Home Economics Support Service, although this should not limit the scope of the plan. Similarly the template provided by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) could influence the contents of the plan but once again, should not restrict it. It is also recommended that some consideration be given to the regular revisiting of the completed SWOT analysis. This analysis, which seeks to identify the subjectís strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities for development and any possible threats to the subject, should be used to formally identify the short-term, medium-term and long-term goals for the development of Home Economics in Killorglin Community College. ††
Programme plans and schemes of work have been devised. Some of the schemes are well developed, outlining the topics to be covered along with lesson objectives, suitable activities and appropriate resources. They also provide some scope for the provision of evaluative comment following the completion of planned work. This approach is further encouraged. The schemes could also be expanded in time to include, where appropriate, provision for more practical food studies work, a greater integration of practical and theory lessons, links between different areas of the syllabus, homework, assessment and revision. Best practice is where schemes for each year group are agreed between the members of the department. The department is also strongly encouraged to investigate the use of ICT in the generation of schemes, as this would provide for a more efficient review process. ††
There is evidence of planning for the inclusion of experiences that extend studentsí learning beyond the classroom. This planning, which is achieved in the main through a series of planned co-curricular and extracurricular activities, is highly praised and fully encouraged. Activities include visits to food-processing plants and the organisation of guest speakers, as well as arranging and hosting fundraising activities. Providing for cross-curricular links when planning lessons is strongly advocated. Teachers are encouraged to seek to identify and underline these to students on a day-to-day basis, as a natural part of lesson delivery. This interdisciplinary approach provides opportunities for the reinforcement of knowledge, skills and understanding developed in other curriculum areas, as well as increasing the relevance of the present learning for the students.
It is wonderful to see evidence of planning for the development of a subject-specific resource library. The benefit of this to students researching both the optional areas of study and the food studies tasks in Junior Certificate, as well as the food studies assignments in Leaving Certificate should not be underestimated. Continued planning and provision for this resource is encouraged.
There was evidence of good quality short-term planning for lessons observed on the day of the inspection. An examination of teacher files suggests that this level of planning directs all lessons delivered. A wide range and number of resources were utilised during the delivery of lesson content. These included a pre-prepared blackboard, acetates, student handouts and activity sheets, food labels, stitch samples, classroom displays and posters. Lessons demonstrated clear aims which were openly shared with students, thereby providing a clear focus for all students from the outset of each lesson. This approach was very well developed in one instance, where the lesson commenced with a detailed outline of the planned lesson content being presented to students.†† †
The instruction provided by teachers was clear, accurate and thorough. Significant efforts were made in each lesson to contextualise new information being presented to students, thereby making lesson content more relevant and learning more accessible. A very good example of this was seen when the image of pushing a lump of fat through a sieve was used to help to explain the concept of homogenisation to students. Students were introduced to a number of approaches, such as the use of acronyms, to help them in the learning of lists of difficult words or concepts. Opportunities to link work being explored with work previously covered, as well as with other relevant areas of the course, were also, in the main, appropriately availed of. This strategy was used to good advantage in a lesson where the subject of lipids was being revised but where an appropriate referencing of the other two macro-nutrients was also apparent. Both of these strategies supported the intended learning outcomes of each lesson, with the former one also providing for the revision of topics previously studied. The inclusion of both is further encouraged. Where relevant, key concepts and phrases that permeate particular areas of the course such as nutritional value, dietetic value and composition, were clearly explained and appropriately emphasised. In a food studies theory lesson there was a very good interlinking of the topic being explored with practical work that students would have previously engaged in. This was impressively thorough. ††††††††
While members of the department are to be commended for the inclusion of a variety of strategies during lesson presentation, they are also encouraged to provide more opportunities that actively involve the students in their own learning. This would transfer some more of the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students themselves, while also providing a more Ďhands-oní experience for the students. Such an approach would also help to vary lesson momentum and style. Furthermore, the department is encouraged to build summaries into the end of all lessons. The style of summary used should incorporate approaches that would accommodate the checking of studentsí understanding of work covered in lessons.†
The questioning of students throughout each lesson ensured that students remained focused and concentrated on the topic under discussion. Questioning was also used intermittently over the course of some lessons to determine studentsí understanding of new work being explored. Where this was not practiced, such a strategy is encouraged. When required, for example when students found it difficult to answer a question or when a question was posed relating to an area that students might have some life experience of but no formal introduction to, teachers provided a number of prompts to help students find an answer to the question that was asked. This approach, which challenged students both to think and to participate, was used most effectively.† Some excellent examples of the incorporation of higher-order questions were also observed. On one occasion, for example, students, following a discussion about Supermilk, were asked to identify who they thought should consider drinking this type of milk. This style of questioning is further encouraged as it challenges students to analyse information and to apply it to different situations and circumstances.
In a revision lesson observed, following a thorough re-examination of the topic, students were given the opportunity to explore approaches to answering relevant examination-style questions. This included a discussion on paper layout, styles of questions, marking schemes, question analysis and good practice in terms of writing answers. This approach is highly commended. Some consideration should be given to exploring approaches to revision lessons that would require greater student input and less teacher input. Some suggestions include: the provision of homework exercises that would act as a precursor to revision lessons and that would feed into the lesson content itself; the use of pair or group quizzes over the course of the lesson; the incorporation of the Ďplace-matí strategy or the use of note-making strategies such as mind mapping.
Students are supported and encouraged to become autonomous and independent researchers and learners. An excellent example of this was seen in a textile lesson where students, having researched and practised an embroidery stitch at home, shared what they had discovered and learned with one of their peers. The exposure of students to a range of craft options including rug plan, embroidery, knitting and weaving is acknowledged and praised. In addition, the fact that students are allowed to choose to make a product of their choice is highly commended. This was evident in the array of finished products displayed on the day of the inspection which included duvet sets, cushions, bags, wall hangings, baby blankets, mobiles, soft toys and games.
Students appeared very knowledgeable, answering questions posed in an enthusiastic and natural manner. Studentsí curiosity for and interest in the subject matter being explored was apparent in their very natural tendency to ask questions during lessons. Many of these questions were very insightful. Excellent practice was noted in one instance where a teacher, using information covered in a previous lesson, helped the student to figure out the answer to the question he had originally posed. Studentsí application to their studies was apparent in completed project work as well as in studentsí copybooks and folders. It is very obvious, from lessons observed and upon examination of studentsí work, that students are provided with very good guidance for the completion of all tasks or work assigned. Teachers set high expectations for students and students have responded favourably. The organised and methodical fashion in which students filed and presented work can also be attributed to the training and direction they have received from their teachers. One class group visited, for example, had their work organised into a copybook for definitions, a homework copybook, a folder for journal work and an assessment folder. These were impressively maintained by all students.† †
Classroom atmosphere, in all instances, was very positive. This can be attributed in no small way to the rapport that has been established between the teachers and the students. Classroom interactions were characterised by a strong sense of mutual respect. Studentsí contributions were encouraged, welcomed and readily affirmed. Classrooms themselves were bright, spacious and highly organised. They also provided students with much stimulation through the display of studentsí work, word banks, posters, leaflets and task-specific notices. All of the above combined to create a classroom environment that was most conducive to learning.
Studentsí progress and achievement in Home Economics is determined using a number of assessment modes. It is very positive to note that, over and above the assessment of studentsí learning through oral questioning in class and the provision of end-of-chapter or topic tests, studentsí practical work and project work is also formally assessed. Studentsí achievement in both of these areas is acknowledged in the grade awarded to students at key times during the school year. This is noted as best practice, reflecting the assessment objectives of both syllabuses. It is also standard practice in the department to provide the occasional unannounced test. This is proving to be a very effective way of getting students to study work covered in class. Students, while keeping in mind the insight provided by teachers in class, are also required to correct their mistakes when test papers are returned to them. They are also encouraged to complete a reflection exercise that requires them to outline how they could improve their grade in the next test. Both of these strategies are to be commended for the manner in which they equip students with the skills and insight to enhance their achievement in Home Economics. On occasions, taking context factors into account, students are required to sit a repeat test. Some of the test papers issued to students are composed of questions that reflect the style of those in past state examination papers. It is recommended that this practice influence the setting of all test papers issued to students.†
It is policy in the home economics department that students are assigned homework on a regular basis, usually as a natural follow-up to work covered in each lesson. The monitoring of this work takes many forms. Some studentsí copybooks showed evidence of the date stamping of homework. This is a strategy employed at the start of most lessons to monitor the completion of work previously assigned. This approach, which helps to oversee studentsí application to their studies while at the same time motivating them to complete assigned exercises on time, is proving very successful. Following on from this and at regular intervals, normally upon completion of a chapter or topic, studentsí copybooks are collected for a more focused monitoring of studentsí work. A percentage of corrected exercises were illustrative of some very fine examples of comment marking, providing students with constructive feedback designed to inform their approach to future exercises. This approach is highly praised and further advocated. The department is encouraged to ensure that, when assigning homework, students are exposed to a variety of homework exercises.
An in-class award system also provides students with incentives to complete assigned homework, to apply themselves to assigned tasks and to improve their grades, both in homework and in class tests.†† It is important at this stage that all of the very good practice observed with regard to the assigning and monitoring of homework and the assessment of studentsí progress and achievement, be discussed openly amongst the members of the home economics department. The outcomes of this discussion should give rise to the production, in time, of agreed, subject-specific, homework and assessment policies.
Systematic records relating to attendance, behaviour, homework completion and performance as well as studentsí test results are maintained by the teachers. These inform feedback provided to parents through the school reports and the annual parent-teacher meetings. As required, student journals offer another means of communicating with parents.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Home Economics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Inspection Report School Response Form
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
Since the completion of the inspection, much time has been given to planning and improving the Home Econ. Dept. in line with recommendations. Quite a lot of small utensils were purchased.† An electrical contractor is proceeding with replacing the existing extractor fans with improved model.† Replacing the floor covering is an expensive undertaking but we are treating this matter as urgent and hoping to replace it in the coming months in line with school policy, planning is taking place to upgrade this department in a systematic manner over the next few years.