An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Adamstown, Co. Wexford
Roll number: 71600B
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Abbain, Adamstown, Co. Wexford. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the 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.
Provision is made for technology education in the curriculum of the school through the inclusion of Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. At senior cycle, Engineering forms part of the Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). It is commended that all students are presented with the opportunity to choose to study a technology subject.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle. This allocation includes four class periods per week at junior cycle and six class periods per week at senior cycle. Metalwork and Engineering lessons are delivered in double periods in all instances. This provides adequate time for practical, project and theoretical work to be accommodated.
Students entering first year must select optional subjects from a pre-set subject band. School management has removed Home Economics from the Metalwork subject band and has replaced it with Business Studies. This strategy has seen a marked increase in the number of girls choosing to study Metalwork in first year. School management’s decision to de-couple these two subjects has allowed all students to choose optional subjects without preconceived gender stereotyping influencing their decisions. A large proportion of boys study Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle respectively in Coláiste Abbain. Presently the number of girls studying Engineering at senior cycle is very low. As school management have taken steps to address this imbalance at junior cycle, it is hoped that the number of girls studying Engineering will increase in due course.
Prior to entering first year, students from feeder primary schools attend an open day to sample the various subjects offered in Coláiste Abbain. As part of this open day, the Metalwork/Engineering department organises the demonstration of simple processing techniques, culminating in the production of a small artefact for each student. This is commendable.
Students are supported in making their subject choice by being given a short taster programme of each subject at the beginning of first year. This allows students to make a more informed choice and reduces the likelihood of dissatisfaction with their choice of subject. At senior cycle, students’ preferences are surveyed and subject option bands are devised based on these preferences. This approach is student centred and is commendable.
The Metalwork/Engineering room is very well maintained and very well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching aids. The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005, and has updated the machinery and facilities. The items of equipment purchased are generally in accordance with the relevant Department circulars as they appear on the current equipment list. There are a number of network points available in the room and it is recommended that further information and communication technology (ICT) resources be provided to allow for the integration of ICT into practical and theory lessons.
Recently, school management has reviewed the health and safety statement, and has undertaken a risk assessment of the Metalwork/Engineering room. It is recommended to further build on this good practice that safety zones should be demarcated around all machines and standard safety signage should be displayed throughout the room.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend continuous professional development (CPD) courses. The continued attendance at these courses, provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service, is important to the department’s continued progress.
The subject department has compiled a comprehensive subject plan. It includes clear long-term curriculum planning and outlines the knowledge, skills and learning outcomes that students should acquire in each school year. This thorough long-term planning supports the short-term planning for each year group. These individual schemes of work are clear, and plan for the delivery of the practical and theoretical elements of the syllabus. This level of planning is commendable. It is suggested, to further build on this good practice, that the individual yearly schemes be consolidated into one planning folder.
The planning for each year group also focuses on developing student awareness in relation to appropriate Metalwork/Engineering room practices. These include: correct layout of hand tools; job allocations; health and safety procedures and cleaning of the work area.
Teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The subject plan outlines a number of strategies reported to be used when dealing with students with special educational needs. It is suggested to further this good practice, that a list of common engineering terms be highlighted by the department and circulated among students requiring learning support.
A number of resources have been identified and developed by the subject department including laminated working drawings, prepared projects, student handouts and the preparation of a purpose built demonstration area. The preparation of such resources complements the teaching experience for students and improves their overall learning environment. There are also many colourful posters displayed in the room that may be incorporated into lessons to highlight key concepts and terminology.
All lessons observed during the course of the evaluation were carefully planned. Material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student and during each demonstration all equipment and tools were readily accessible. This level of lesson planning is commendable.
Practical projects planned for each year group were of a very high standard. These projects are compiled into a student handbook allowing students to plot their own progress and reflect on their developing skills. The availability of high quality completed past projects complements this approach and increases students’ attention to detail and pride in their work.
In all lessons observed, a clear learning objective was shared with the class from the beginning. This was observed in a senior cycle lesson where students were given a copy of a past practical examination and were asked to analyse it. The correct marking out procedures were then demonstrated to the students and material blanks were then distributed. This focused the students on the task and allowed for important points to be reiterated to them. This type of re-focusing was carried out a number of times during the lesson to ensure all students were kept on task. This is to be commended as very good practice as it allows the teacher to guide the students but also allows them to undergo experiential learning during practical lessons.
All lessons observed were clearly structured so that the content and pace of the lesson were appropriate to the class group, the subject matter and the time available.
In all lessons, effective teaching methodologies were observed. Demonstrations to both the class group and to individuals were used throughout the lessons. In all instances, the correct use of tools, equipment and processing techniques was highlighted and appropriate terminology was used. These demonstrations, carried out at the designated demonstration workbench, were clear and effective and consolidated previous student learning.
In all lessons observed the teacher circulated among the students to provide individual guidance and support. By doing this it was possible to assess student understanding and skills and set varying targets and learning outcomes for students.
Classroom management was effective and conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment. In all lessons observed discipline was sensitively maintained through positive interactions and by maintaining student interest through challenging projects. All tools were stored safely and openly to assist in tool checks at the end of each lesson. The subject department is commended for implementing such a strategy. Students stored their tools neatly and took pride in the cleanliness of the workshop.
In all lessons observed, teacher-student interactions were engaging and mutually respectful, and students demonstrated an eagerness to co-operate in all classroom activities and discussions. The overall classroom environment supported this atmosphere.
The importance of surface finish was stressed regularly to students throughout the evaluation and students took great care in marking and shaping all components to ensure accuracy and a quality finish. This was especially apparent during a junior cycle lesson where students were making a mobile phone holder from acrylic. Each student was aware of a number of procedures that would improve the finish on the edges of the project. This attention to detail and surface finish will benefit the students during the practical and project components of the state examinations.
During the evaluation, there were a large number of high quality student projects on display around the room. This is a very good method of drawing attention to individual student’s work and highlighting their achievements. It can also act as an incentive for lower ability students to succeed and improve. In addition to this, students had recently completed a considerable group project. This project was the design and manufacture of a go-kart. The undertaking and completion of such a project to such a high standard is a credit to the students and to the subject department.
Students actively participated in all lessons observed and their actions and responses to questions reflected this. Students’ practical work was of a good quality and indicated a good level of learning consistent with the skills necessary to complete the syllabus.
Student assessment occurs through both formal end-of-term examinations, and through informal assessment techniques employed during the year. These included in-class questioning, monitoring of student practical work, homework, theory tests and end-of-term class tests. Records of student progress are maintained and were available throughout the evaluation. The end-of-term examinations for all year groups, with the exception of first year, are made up of written examinations combined with a practical exercise and a coursework element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subjects’ syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. In third and sixth year, students sit formal written examinations at Christmas while they are completing the project and practical elements of the state examinations.
All project and practical work is corrected and feedback is given to students orally. This allows students to learn from their practical experiences and to improve their skills. This individual feedback is commendable. It is recommended, to further build on this good practice, that individual feedback be given to students in relation to their written work on a more regular basis.
The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents biannually. The communication of student progress is also carried out through parent-teacher meetings and through the student journal. This practice is commendable as it gives parents an accurate reflection of student progress. Each exam year student meets with the principal a number of times during the course of the year. This individual monitoring of students is also very beneficial.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Metalwork and Engineering are available to students at both junior and senior cycle and there is an appropriate time allocation, allowing for adequate time to complete practical, project and theoretical work.
· The Metalwork and Engineering room is very well resourced and maintained in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources.
· CPD is both facilitated and encouraged by management.
· There are supports in place for students and parents in relation to subject choice at both junior and senior cycle.
· The subject department has developed quality short and long-term plans, and has extended this planning to include student project booklets for each year group.
· Classroom management was effective and was conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment.
· Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful.
· The assessment modes used are congruent with the aims and objectives of the syllabuses.
· Student projects are varied and interesting and of considerable educational value.
· The overall quality of student project work is of a very high standard and demonstrates significant student learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Safety zones should be demarcated around all machines and appropriate standard safety signage should be displayed throughout the room.
· Additional ICT resources should be provided for the subject department.
· Individual feedback should be given to students in relation to their written work on a more regular basis.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Metalwork and Engineering 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
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
Very thorough and complementary report
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
· Safety zones have been marked out and safety signage is now displayed throughout the room.
· The school has provided Metalwork/Engineering teacher with laptop for subject planning and lesson planning. He will be provided with data projector next calendar year.
· More feedback will be given to pupils as a matter of school policy.