An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technical Graphics
Listowel Community College
Listowel, County Kerry
Roll number: 70500P
Date of inspection: 14 May 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technical Graphics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Listowel Community College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Construction Studies (CS), Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Technical Graphics (TG) 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, deputy principal and subject teacher. The board of management of the school 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.
Listowel Community College provides post-primary education for boys and girls from the town of Listowel and its environs, continuing a service which began over eighty years ago. While the majority of students in the college are following Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and further education courses, provision for second-level students is comprehensive with a broad range of technology subjects being offered including Metalwork, Engineering and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) together with the subjects covered by this inspection report: CS, MTW and TG. This broad provision of technology subjects, and the provision of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), represents good practice in providing for the interests of the students.
The subject department is very effectively co-ordinated by the sole teacher of the subjects. The co-ordinator has recently planned and overseen extensive reorganisation of the woodwork room and the spending of the annual budget for the subjects within the ordering procedures and financial controls of the college and Kerry Education Service (KES), the vocational education committee in Kerry. The allocation of an annual budget is effective as a means of encouraging and affirming good planning practice. Subject documentation includes detailed subject plans for CS, MTW and TG. These plans follow the format presented by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and contain a wide range of information including programmes of work consistent with the contents of the respective syllabuses. This is good practice.
School management supports in-career development to a commendable degree. In addition to regular whole-staff continuing professional development (CPD), the teachers of the technologies have been supported in attending the CPD sessions organised through t4, the support service for the technology subjects. Attendance at JCSP training has also been supported.
The allocation of one double period per week in first year for MTW and TG is low. However, when viewed in the context of first year students being given the opportunity to study all the technology subjects, it is acceptable. A collaborative approach to planning should be fully exploited with regard to planning for all the technologies in first year to ensure that the time available in each of the subjects is used in the most efficient manner. Since both MTW and TG are taught by the same teacher, an integrated approach is taken to planning for these subjects. In second year and third year MTW is allocated two double periods per week. This is adequate. It is recommended however, that the allocation to TG, which is currently three periods per week in second year and third year, be increased to four periods per week in both years. CS is allocated two double periods and one single period in senior cycle. This is a good allocation of teaching time for the subject. The scheduling of double-period lessons in each of the subjects makes appropriate provision for the completion of practical work. This is good practice.
The accommodation provided for teaching the subjects is good and the learning spaces are bright and welcoming. Two specialist rooms are used; the woodwork room and the graphics room. Both of these rooms were neat, tidy and well maintained when visited. The graphics room is equipped with a data projector and screen and six personal computers with a range of software installed including SolidWorks, a three dimensional computer-aided design package. The woodwork room has recently been reorganised. New equipment has been installed together with dust-extraction facilities. This work has been done with commendable care and attention to detail. The tools in the woodwork room are appropriate, in very good condition and suitably stored for easy distribution to the students. The necessary materials for teaching the subjects are provided from the annual budget and are carefully stored and used.
An effective and appropriate emphasis on health and safety was clear in subject documentation and in classroom practice. The resources provided by the Department for the upgrade of health and safety provision in the woodwork room have been effectively deployed. Planning for further enhancement of health and safety provision is in place. Standard safety signage was effectively displayed in the woodwork room in line with good practice. To further improve on this very good practice, it is recommended that additional instructional sign boards be displayed adjacent to machines showing the procedures and practices to be observed for their safe use. These sign boards should list concisely the points made when the students are introduced to the use of the particular machine. It is further recommended that safe operational areas be demarcated around all machines. Informational sign boards should be displayed adjacent to the safe operational areas indicating the purpose of the lines and the implications for movement in the vicinity of the machines.
It is also recommended that a safety statement be written that deals in detail with the maintenance of the health and safety of all users of the woodwork room. This statement should be presented to the principal for adoption and ratification by the board of management and for inclusion in the schoolís health and safety statement. Relevant safety-related material already forms part of the subject plans and this should be included in the safety statement for the woodwork room. The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), should be consulted in detail when reviewing issues relating to health and safety. This publication is available for download at http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/review_oh_safety_tech.pdf.
The arrangements for studentsí choice of subjects are satisfactory. In junior cycle all students study MTW to Junior Certificate and they choose between TG and Home Economics as a second subject. In senior cycle, students choose between CS and Engineering and between Art and DCG. The subject-option groups are fixed in both junior and senior cycle. This is acceptable in the context of a small enrolment. The management of the school is satisfied that the subject choices available meet the interests and needs of the students. It is urged that the practicality of offering students an open choice of optional subjects be kept under review and that such a system be introduced should it become viable through increasing student enrolment.
Students study all subjects in first year. This is commended, particularly for the support it provides to students in making informed subject choices when entering second year. Students are given further support and advice relating to subject choices, by the guidance counsellor in the course of timetabled weekly Guidance lessons and by the subject teachers, as they transfer into second year and fifth year. Parents should also be involved in this process. To this end it is urged that meetings of parents be held to clarify the subject-choice process, to discuss all related issues and to ensure full parental involvement.
There is clear evidence of collaboration between teachers in planning for CS, MTW and TG. This planning takes place largely in an informal setting and often relates to JCSP activities such as the Make-A-Book Project. Planning for other cross-curricular undertakings include those developed for the Learning School Project. This is an action research project involving fifteen schools, focused on the empowerment of individual learners and the development of collegiality among teachers and institutional responsiveness in the schools. The involvement of the school and the subject teachers in this project is commended. Collaborative planning is facilitated by management and is embraced by the teacher of CS, MTW and TG. This is strongly commended.
To build on the good practice in evidence it is recommended that an increased degree of formality be brought to subject department planning. The teachers of the technologies in the woodwork and metalwork areas collaborate in planning, particularly regarding the project work which the students will undertake. Meetings however, are not formally scheduled for such planning and it is appreciated that this reflects the small number of teachers involved and the closeness of staff collaboration. The increased formality should be achieved by setting up a department of the technologies that would involve teachers of subjects with areas of common interest, for example CS, Engineering and Home Economics. The coordination of this department should rotate between the teachers on an annual basis. Meetings of the department should provide opportunities to discuss and compare approaches to imparting both practical and theory content. They could also provide a forum to consider the further development of teaching methodologies and strategies that are found to be of particular value. Such a subject department would help to further reinforce the commendable progress achieved through collaboration in JCSP and the Learning Schools Project.
Evidence was presented of good planning for the development of the subjects in the school. Cross-curricular elements, particularly those related to studentsí project work, were prominent. Broadening of the courses in the technologies to include new areas such as parametric modelling of projects using SolidWorks software in first year is a good example of long-term planning for the development of the subjects that is now being advanced. Detailed programmes of work, which are in line with the respective subject syllabuses, indicate a very good level of short-term planning. Particularly worthy of commendation is the inclusion of details, among others, of the teaching methodologies to be adopted when teaching each of the topics in CS. This provides a valuable structure to plan for the further differentiation of strategies and methodologies. As a next step in development of the programmes of work it is suggested that similar notes be included in each of the subject plans focusing on differentiation of teaching strategies, methodologies and approaches including more group and pair work, where appropriate. Planning for the inclusion of students with additional educational needs within CS, MTW and TG lessons is of a high standard. Teaching strategies, homework, assessment modes and project work are varied to suit the needs of these students.
Planning for the acquisition and maintenance of resources is very effective. Recent outcomes of this planning are impressive. Digital media have been integrated into teaching, including a textbook in digital form in TG and PowerPoint presentations in each of the subjects. The woodwork room has been completely restocked with hand tools and machines. An impressive range of teaching resources has been acquired including posters, charts, videos and DVDs. Planning for the acquisition of further resources has identified clear priorities in each of the subjects. This is good practice. It is commended that planning has included a focus on introducing students to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in CS, MTW and TG. Planning for the use of SolidWorks by junior-cycle students for project design from first year is particularly commended.
Teaching and learning of a high standard was observed in the course of the inspection. The teaching methods applied were observed to be appropriate to the abilities, needs and interests of the students. In particular, very good use was made of teacher demonstration, reinforced by individual teaching, as students completed the work that had been demonstrated. In an MTW lesson the teacher responded to the needs of a student, who was new to the school and the subject, by providing individual demonstration of the use of the tenon saw while the class continued with the realisation of the project in hand. Additional demonstration of the use of the marking gauge was also provided in response to requests from other students. Such ready responses to the needs of individual students was evident in each of the lessons observed and is commended.
Teaching of the theory elements in each of the subjects was often integrated with the practical demonstrations in a very effective manner. When, as in CS, there was a need for more sustained teaching of theory, it is suggested that the teaching approaches observed should be further differentiated. To develop the very good practice already observed in this context, more opportunities for pair work and small group work should be explored in order to further broaden the range of learning styles catered for in lessons. In very small class groups, one of which was observed in the course of the inspection, regular changes of approach should be used to further encourage interest and to ensure the studentsí active involvement in learning. This is a particular challenge when, as in this case, the focus was on revision towards the end of the year. This challenge should be further discussed by the teachers of the technologies. Sharing of teachersí experience should lead to the identification and detailed exploration of the most successful approaches to be adopted.
The purpose of the lessons observed was made clear from the outset by means of introductions during which the teacher quickly recapitulated the work of previous lessons and presented expectations for the current work to be completed. In TG, a lesson on orthographic projection moved smoothly from the introduction of a standard solid, by means of discussion with the students to their completion of the orthographic drawings on paper. Careful and effective questioning and the teacherís completion of views on the chalkboard helped in ensuring success for the students. This cycle was repeated for each of the solids: cylinder, cone and sphere. Such effective structuring was typical of the lessons observed. The pace of lessons was also appropriate and the teacher moved among the students as they completed their work offering help and encouragement as appropriate. This also ensured that students made progress as expected.
Very good use was made of a variety of teaching aids. A detailed, well-prepared model of house construction was used in CS to explain and reinforce the details of wall and foundation design and construction. While SolidWorks modelling was very effectively used in TG to display solids in three dimensions, and to generate orthographic views when appropriate, it is suggested that this be further enhanced by the use of suitable physical objects or models. Such models could be simple cut-outs of orthographic views. These might be presented to pairs or small groups of students who would collaborate to choose the appropriate views and place them correctly on the drawing sheet. The use of teaching aids in this way would add further diversity to the studentsí activity and engagement. The use of further supports for studentsí literacy within the woodwork and graphics rooms is also encouraged. These supports should include key word and terminology lists. Reference should be made to JCSP resource materials, which can be accessed on http://jcsp.slss.ie/ , when investigating such supports.
The atmosphere in each of the lessons was pleasant and conducive to learning. Interaction at all levels, between teacher and student and between students themselves displayed a high level of empathy and mutual respect. Studentsí effort and progress were consistently affirmed by their teacher. The woodwork and graphics rooms provided an attractive, well-organised physical learning environment. Students worked at their assigned places and were at their ease while they focused at all times on the work of the lesson. Students were disciplined in their approach to their work, showed an acceptance of classroom routines and responded positively to instructions, including those to tidy up and replace tools and equipment in their assigned places at the end of lessons. Students showed appropriate levels of knowledge and understanding in their responses to questions in the course of lessons and when engaged in discussion by the inspector. Studentsí work, in wood, in drawing and in written form, showed evidence of effective learning.
A range of assessment modes is used effectively to monitor studentsí progress and to provide feedback to students as assessment for learning. Formal tests are set in each of the subjects at Christmas and at the end of the summer term. The results of these tests are sent home twice a year in school reports. The format of these reports includes information on studentsí personal and social development as well as their attainment in the subjects. Tests are also set at mid-terms. Mock examinations are held for classes in examination years. Studentsí design projects are assessed on completion in MTW and the results of the best three of these assessments are aggregated with the end-of-term test results. This approach is consistent with the assessment of the subject in Junior Certificate and is good practice. Studentsí drawings in TG are assessed on completion and consistent written feedback is provided as annotation on the drawings. This very good practice reinforces studentsí learning. Formal assessment of CS includes projects, drawn and written work consistent with the assessment mode provided for in the Leaving Certificate syllabus. This is good practice.
Suitable short-term learning targets are identified for students of MTW and TG who follow the JCSP. The achievement of these targets is updated in a systematic manner at meetings of the JCSP team throughout each year of the programme. As the students achieve their learning targets they also complete longer-term learning statements which together constitute their individual JCSP profiles. The JCSP also provides opportunities for involvement of the technology subjects in various events which form part of the JCSP programme. These include the Christmas Party, attended by parents, which incorporates a display of the studentsí work and JCSP postcards home to affirm studentsí achievements. This involvement provides an admirable enhancement of the assessment modes in MTW and TG as well as providing for very effective profiling of the studentsí achievement. The full and active involvement of MTW and TG in JCSP related activities displays very good practice.
The approach to record keeping is comprehensive and effective. Records that are systematically kept by the subject teacher include attendance, attainment in tests and examinations, and studentsí behaviour. Information is provided to parents of each student at parent-teacher meetings.
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:
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the teacher of Construction Studies, Materials Technology (Wood) and Technical Graphics and with 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, December 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1†† Observations on the content of the inspection report†† ††
The Board of Management considered the report in detail.† It is encouraged by the reportís findings which commend specific school and subject department practices.† It values the advice contained in the report aimed at building on the identified strengths.
Area 2†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
†††††††††††††† activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection. ††
Management will endeavour to implement all the recommendations and will seek resources specifically to provide additional time for the subject.