An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
Blessington Community College,
Blessington, County Wicklow
Roll number: 70760S
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN TECHNICAL GRAPHICS AND DESIGN AND COMMUNICATION GRAPHICS
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Blessington Community College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics 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 the teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers.† The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) are offered as optional subjects to students in Blessington Community College as part of its Junior and Leaving Certificate programmes. All graphics subjects receive appropriate time allocations and class contact time is timetabled evenly throughout the week. Currently, DCG is not offered to students in the schoolís compulsory Transition Year (TY) programme. It is recommended that an appropriate module be included in the TY programme to provide students with an opportunity to sample DCG and to help them gain an appreciation for graphical communication techniques.
The graphics subjects are currently delivered in three different classrooms: the metalwork room; the woodwork room and a specialist graphics room. The graphics room is the most appropriate of the three rooms. It is recommended, when timetabling, that this room be prioritised for TG and DCG.
Three teachers are currently deployed to teach TG and DCG in the college. Currently, two teachers share the teaching responsibilities for the first-year class and both senior cycle DCG classes. This situation should be avoided. It is recommended that all year groups should complete their entire programme of study with the same teacher in order to ensure continuity for students.
At junior cycle, students are facilitated in making informed optional subject choices in a number of ways. An open evening is held in the school prior to student entry when teachers and students are available to offer advice, information and guidance to parents of incoming students in relation to subject choice. In addition to this, first-year students get the opportunity to choose their optional subjects having experienced all optional subjects in a two-week sampling programme. This helps them to make their choices based on their experiences and aptitude for the subject. Optional subject bands are then devised based on studentsí preferences, as is good practice. The supports in place to assist students at these important decision-making times are commended.
Uptake for TG and DCG is generally good among boys and girls. At senior cycle however, the small number of girls choosing DCG is a cause for concern. The possible introduction of DCG to the TY programme may improve the current situation.
School management encourages and facilitates members of the subject department to engage with continuous professional development (CPD). Members of the subject department have attended all of the recent CPD courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This engagement with CPD is commended.
School management facilitates planning meetings throughout the year. In addition to these meetings the subject department meets informally on a regular basis. †Records of these meetings illustrate discussion in relation to a variety of relevant topics for example resource needs, classroom allocation and room layout. Currently, the role of subject coordinator is shared, with one teacher responsible for TG and another responsible for DCG. It is suggested that these two roles be consolidated into one specific subject coordinator for the graphics subjects and that this role be rotated on a regular basis.
The subject department has developed a subject plan. This document lists a number of departmental polices in relation to dealing with specific issues and is based on the School Development Planning Initiativeís (SDPI) subject department planning template. This plan includes a section that details the subject departmentís policies to further include students with additional educational needs in lessons. It is recommended that this section of the subject plan be reviewed. The subject department should liaise closely with the schoolís SEN and learning-support team to help them identify and introduce specific strategies into lessons that would be appropriate to studentsí needs. Specific guidelines for graphics teachers can also be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/PP_Tech.pdf.
Curricular planning has been developed for each year group. This planning is content based and requires additional clarification in areas such as the desired student learning outcomes, methodologies employed, resources used and specified timeframes for the completion of topics. This is particularly necessary where two teachers share a class group.
Teachersí preparation for each lesson observed was adequate. This included: prepared lesson plans, models and drawings. The preparation of some information and communication technology (ICT) resources to further assist students in their visualisation of the various concepts being explored would also have been beneficial.
The senior cycle DCG lesson observed began with a short introduction in order to share the desired learning outcomes with the students. This approach ensured that students were aware of the teacherís expectations of them and of the criteria for success. It also provided the students and teacher with a clear focus for the lesson. This approach should be adopted by all members of the subject department as it would help to provide a structured environment where a topic could be introduced, developed and summarised.
A sequential approach was adopted in a senior cycle lesson observed where studentsí progress through the prescribed problem was managed in incremental steps in order to arrive at the desired solution. This is a useful strategy, especially when a topic is being introduced. In a junior cycle lesson, students continued with their study of rotations and were assigned questions from their textbooks. This allowed students to progress at a pace suitable to their abilities and provided the teacher with the opportunity to monitor their work closely. This strategy, while useful in some contexts, should be implemented judiciously in order to avoid a passive learning environment becoming commonplace. This could be achieved through the promotion of quality interactions through questioning, student participation and active learning methodologies.
Teachersí use of the blackboard was effective in all cases with appropriate attention paid to detail through the use of colour and appropriate line types. Teachers should ensure that students model this good practice by indexing all points in the various orthographic views of objects on their drawings.
In the lessons observed, teachers used global questioning to assess student understanding. A suitable combination of both global and individual questioning should be incorporated into lessons to avoid particular students answering the majority of questions and to ensure that all students remain focussed on the questions being posed to them.
TG and DCG class groups in Blessington Community College are mixed ability and some efforts were made in both lessons observed to accommodate students of all levels. These methods were generally informal and unplanned. It is recommended that a planned strategy to incorporate differentiated teaching into TG and DCG be developed to ensure that all students reach their potential.
In one lesson observed modelling was used to encourage and promote independent learning. This was a very worthwhile strategy and should be continued. The use of parametric modelling could also be introduced to lessons where possible to improve studentsí visualisation skills and to promote the ICT elements of the DCG syllabus.
Students were well behaved and productive throughout the evaluation. A positive learning atmosphere permeated throughout each lesson and this was enhanced by the good rapport that has been developed over time between teachers and students.
The DCG room is well equipped to provide a suitable graphical learning environment for students. The other two rooms used for TG and DCG are adequate. If graphics lessons are to continue to be timetabled for these rooms, measures should be taken to improve the drawing boards used by students and to create a graphics rich environment more conducive to the teaching and learning of the subjects.
Students demonstrated good knowledge and understanding of class work through their responses to questions. The quality of work and drafting observed in studentsí portfolios varied considerably.† The majority of students attempt ordinary level at junior and senior cycle in state examinations and achieve very well at this level. It was reported that efforts are being made to increase the number of students taking the higher-level examination and that the majority of the current third-year group are following the higher-level course.
It is subject department policy to assign homework at the end of each lesson and this practice was observed in all lessons. Student assessments take cognisance of both the results of terminal examinations and of assigned coursework. This is a positive method of assessment as it gives students recognition for their portfolio work and also prepares students for terminal examinations. By developing an appreciation among students for their drawing portfolios the subject department is also assisting students in becoming accustomed to the examination criteria used for the revised DCG syllabus.
Class groups are given common examinations and end-of-topic tests. To help all students realise their full potential, it is suggested that the subject department consider differentiating student assessments to reflect studentsí abilities. This strategy could help more able students achieve at a higher level in state examinations.
Students received good quality constructive and affirmative feedback orally during lessons. The formative and summative assessment administered to studentsí portfolio work varied. It is recommended that the subject department formalise its procedures to ensure that students complete all prescribed questions and that the quality of student work is monitored closely. This could be achieved by listing a number of essential drawings that students must complete to gain a nominal mark for their coursework component in their end-of-term assessment. The number and difficulty of these drawings could be determined based on the studentís individual abilities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ All students are given the opportunity to sample Technical Graphics prior to making their optional subject choices in first year.
∑ Students were well behaved and productive in all lessons observed.
∑ School management has encouraged and facilitated the subject departmentís engagement with CPD.
∑ Teachersí use of the blackboard was very good and helped students to model good practice.
∑ Studentsí end-of-term assessments include both terminal and coursework elements.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ It is recommended that an appropriate DCG module be included in the schoolís TY programme.
∑ It is recommended that the specialist graphics room be prioritised for TG and DCG.
∑ All year groups should complete their programme of study with the same teacher in order to ensure continuity for students.
∑ The curricular plans for each year group should be clarified further to include areas such as: learning outcomes for students; appropriate methodologies; required resources
for the planned subject matter, and specified timeframes for the completion of topics.
∑ The subject department should further develop its planning for students with special educational needs.
∑ Lessons should include a brief introduction to share the learning outcomes with students, the development or reinforcement of a topic and a summary at the end.
∑ The subject department should monitor student portfolio and coursework on a more regular basis and differentiate assessments according to studentsí abilities.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2009