An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering

REPORT

 

Bunclody Vocational College

Bunclody, County Wexford

Roll number: 71620H

 

Date of inspection: 7 March 2008

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Bunclody Vocational College, 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 the teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ 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 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.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Bunclody Vocational College currently offers the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) to its students. All students in the college are given the opportunity to choose to study Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. The number of class periods allocated to each year group is appropriate and is divided into both double and single class periods, as is best practice. This accommodates the teaching and learning of practical, project and theoretical work.

 

Students entering first year choose the optional subjects they wish to study from pre-defined optional subject bands. On occasion, the opportunity has arisen to allow some students to partake in a brief sampling programme in order to allow them to make more informed optional subject choices.  Currently, first-year students are given the choice of Metalwork or Business and fifth-year students choose between Engineering, Design and Communication Graphics or Home Economics. This structure somewhat limits students’ choices. While it is acknowledged that the school operates within the constraints of the vocational subject groupings for all senior cycle students, efforts should be made to create optional subject bands based on students’ preferences.

 

In choosing optional subjects, students are supported in a number of ways. Prospective first-year students attend a ‘School in Action’ day where they get the chance to sample the various optional subjects on offer. In addition to this, parents of incoming first-year and fifth-year students attend an information evening where the various subjects and the implications of choosing them are discussed fully. As there is no sampling programme for first-year students and Transition Year is not offered in the school, students’ exposure to optional subjects prior to making optional subject choices is limited. It is therefore imperative that the college continue to ensure that students are given as much information as possible in order to allow them to make the best possible optional subject choices.

 

Uptake of Metalwork at junior cycle among boys and girls is very good. However, at senior cycle, currently no girls choose to study Engineering. The subject department is commended for making the subject a viable option for girls at junior cycle and should continue in its efforts to promote the subject among girls at senior cycle.

 

In first and second year, the Metalwork class groups have been divided in two. These groups are timetabled concurrently. This has caused a timetabling problem as there is currently only one Metalwork/Engineering room, resulting in the situation where each group must be taught in a general-purpose classroom for two periods per week limiting each group’s access to the specialist room. This will be particularly difficult when preparing students for the completion of Junior Certificate projects and practical examinations in third year. In order to address this issue, school management has applied to the Department of Education and Science (DES) and received approval for the construction of a new Technology room. The completion of this new room would alleviate some of the timetabling difficulties. In the meantime, school management should explore all possibilities to ensure that all Metalwork class groups receive appropriate tuition time in the specialist classroom. 

 

The Metalwork/Engineering room is very well maintained and, even though space is at a premium, the subject department has been innovative in arranging the layout of the classroom and the storage of tools and equipment. The work carried out in this regard is commended. The current layout of the room does not allow for a blackboard or projector screen. It is recommended, in order to enable the teaching and learning of theoretical content in the Metalwork/Engineering room, that the subject department identify an appropriate board or screen to be incorporated into the room. In doing so, teachers would also gain improved access to the teaching resources in the specialist room, thereby improving the learning experience for students.

 

The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005, and has updated the machinery and facilities. While most of the items of equipment purchased are in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list of the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars, there are a number of machines that do not comply. School management should instigate a full risk assessment of these machines and reconsider their suitability in a classroom situation.

 

All members of the Metalwork and Engineering subject department have attended the relevant continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This commitment to CPD is commended.

 

Planning and preparation

 

The teachers of Metalwork and Engineering work collaboratively as a subject department and meet regularly, both formally and informally, to discuss planning matters. A subject co-ordinator has been appointed to convene planning meetings and to develop teaching resources. It is suggested that this role be rotated among all members of the subject department in order to ensure that the responsibilities of co-ordination are shared while also allowing each member to bring complementary skills to the role.

 

A clear subject department plan is currently being developed. This plan details a number of appropriate polices and practices such as a policy for students with additional educational needs and agreed assessment and homework procedures. The subject plan also contains agreed curricular plans for each year group. Considerable planning was particularly evident for the first-year group where each student had their own folder containing working drawings of the various projects to be completed during the year. This was supplemented by a variety of worksheets and colourful teacher-made resources that allowed students to apply the knowledge gained through practical work in a theoretical context. This planning for the integration of practical and theoretical learning is very good practice and is commended. To further develop this practice, similar student portfolios of work could be designed for all junior cycle year groups.

 

The subject department incorporates a number of educationally worthwhile projects into the agreed curricular plans. Some of these projects are accompanied by diagrammatic process sheets to assist students in their manufacture and to encourage independent learning. While many of these projects build on key skills and techniques, it is recommended that the subject department update some of the more traditional projects in order to make the subject as exciting and interesting as possible to all students while maintaining the educational value and key skills required.

 

There was a considerable level of planning and preparation for each lesson observed. Resources were prepared in advance and, in some cases, information and communication technology (ICT) was used to display planned procedures graphically on prepared lesson plans. In order to further develop this good practice, it is recommended that the subject department plan for the further integration of ICT into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering.

 

A number of displays have been prepared by the subject department and are exhibited around the classroom. These displays highlight a number of aspects of the syllabuses such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC), mechanisms and electronics. Such displays contribute to the technological learning environment that has been created for students in the Metalwork and Engineering room. 

 

Teaching and learning

 

All lessons observed had a clear learning intention. In some cases this was shared with students at the beginning. Practical lessons were well structured and all began with a clear introduction that focussed students on the required tasks. It is suggested that all teachers endeavour to revisit the key learning outcomes of each lesson at the end in order to further support student learning.

 

In practical lessons, the predominant methodology employed was teacher demonstration supported by class circulation and individual assistance and guidance. This was a successful strategy. Group demonstrations were well planned and appropriate to the task in all instances. Students received very good individual attention throughout all practical lessons. The further incorporation of diagrammatic process sheets especially with junior cycle class groups will help to promote increased independent learning and taking personal responsibility for project and practical work among students.

 

In a theoretical lesson observed, pair work was utilised to promote discussion and most students took an active role in this dialogue. It was noticeable however, that not all students became fully involved in the discussion. It is suggested, in order to create a more inclusive environment where all students can contribute, that alternative methods of engaging less confident students should also be explored. The subject matter explored in this instance focused mainly on preparing students for their practical Leaving Certificate examination. It required a more structured approach with specific learning outcomes identified from the outset and would have been an ideal opportunity to incorporate parametric modelling software as a demonstration technique.

 

At junior cycle, students of varying abilities were accommodated in their learning through teachers’ use of differentiation by task incorporated in project work. This practice enabled students to work on projects appropriate to their level while still allowing them to gain the required practical skills in various disciplines. This practice is commended.

 

Questioning was utilised throughout all lessons observed allowing teachers to constantly monitor student learning and understanding. The standard of questions and answers offered in response to questions was generally good.  However, in some cases, increased benefits could be gained from questioning by allowing students adequate time to consider and to formulate their answers before redirecting the question to other students or answering the questions for them.

 

The incorporation of ICT into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering was minimal throughout the evaluation. This is due to the current layout of the specialist classroom and to the lack of ICT resources in the general-purpose classroom used for theoretical lesson observed. The subject department has, however, developed a number of resources that could be used when appropriate demonstration media are installed in the room. The incorporation of these resources into the teaching and learning environment will be a welcome development.

 

In almost all instances, students worked and operated machinery in a safe and controlled manner. A variety of appropriate health and safety signs and posters was on display in the classroom and teachers insisted on compliance with health and safety regulations.

 

Classroom management was very good in all lessons observed. An innovative seating arrangement has been devised for practical lessons where students work at octagonal workbenches. These benches are suitable in this environment and provide good demonstration areas while also allowing for informal peer learning to take place. In practical lessons, students were regularly and appropriately affirmed. This contributed to the pleasant teaching and learning environment evident in all lessons. A large quantity of student work is displayed throughout the room. It is suggested that only the best examples of student work be retained in the classroom to provide students with attainable goals while also recognising student achievement.

 

The level of student project work and students’ application of skills demonstrated a good level of learning. Students were proud of their projects and were able to explain the various processes utilised in their production. This level of student engagement is commended.

 

Students are encouraged to follow the higher-level course for both Junior Certificate Metalwork and Leaving Certificate Engineering and a good proportion of students do so. Student achievement at their chosen level is good especially at junior cycle where students achieve particularly well. This is commended.

 

Assessment

 

Students are assessed regularly both formally and informally. The formal end-of-term examinations for all year groups consist of written examinations combined with a practical element. It is suggested that the percentage awarded to students for theoretical work be similar to that awarded during state examinations. This would provide teachers with a more accurate indication of students’ abilities.

 

Currently, it is not subject department policy to administer common examinations to class groups of similar ability. It is recommended that this practice be considered to further support the collaborative planning already in place.

 

All projects are corrected upon completion and feedback is given to students orally. This feedback enables students to reflect on their learning and to improve their skills by implementing the advice and guidance given to them. When questioned by the inspector, most students were found to have a significant understanding of the processing techniques being used and followed the correct procedures in manufacturing their projects.

 

The students of Bunclody Vocational College have had success at a number of regional and national competitions organised by the Engineering and Technology Teachers Association (ETTA). The participation and success in these competitions is commended.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         All students are given the opportunity to choose Metalwork and Engineering.

·         There is a very good uptake of Metalwork among both boys and girls.

·         The subject department is collaborative and has done considerable work in upgrading the Metalwork/Engineering room and in developing a subject department plan.

·         Practical lessons were well structured and had a clear learning intention.

·         Students received very good individual help and assistance in all practical lessons.

·         Classroom management was, in all cases, very good, which led to a positive learning environment.

·         All students are encouraged to follow the higher-level course and they achieve very well at their chosen level.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         Acknowledging the constraints imposed by the vocational subject groupings for the LCVP, school management should consider formulating optional subject bands based on students’ preferences where possible.

·         School management and the subject department should work collaboratively in identifying and implementing the most suitable method of display, be it a whiteboard or projection screen, to enable the teaching and learning of theoretical content in the Metalwork/Engineering room.

·         School management should undertake a full risk assessment of the machines in the Metalwork and Engineering room to assess their suitability and use in a classroom situation.

·         School management should explore all possibilities to ensure that all future class groups receive appropriate tuition time in the specialist classroom.

·         Some of the more traditional projects currently incorporated into the agreed curricular plans should be updated.

·         The subject department should plan for the further integration of ICT into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering.

·         The subject department should consider the introduction of common assessments for groups of similar ability.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Published January 2009

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

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          

 

·         Acknowledging the constraints imposed by the vocational subject groupings for the LCVP, school management should consider formulating optional subject bands based on students’ preferences where possible.

·         All LCVP Students options will be based on student’s preference where teacher allocation permits.

 

·         School management and the subject department should work collaboratively in identifying and implementing the most suitable method of display, be it a whiteboard or projection screen, to enable the teaching and learning of theoretical content in the Metalwork/Engineering room.

·         School Management have implemented this recommendation re: data projector.

 

·         School management should undertake a full risk assessment of the machines in the Metalwork and Engineering room to assess their suitability and use in a classroom situation.

·         The Co. Wexford VEC is in the process of undertaking a Health and Safety Audit for all School Buildings. 

 

·         School management should explore all possibilities to ensure that all future class groups receive appropriate tuition time in the specialist classroom.

·         The present situation was an exception with regard to number of students choosing Metalwork.

 

·         Some of the more traditional projects currently incorporated into the agreed curricular plans should be updated.

·         In relation to updating projects for classroom use, the subject teachers revise these on a regular basis having assessed the motivational appeal and educational merit of projects tried in the classroom.   The requirements/skills demanded by the practical day test at Junior and Leaving Certificate also contribute to the decision to include certain projects of classroom use.

 

·         The subject department should plan for the further integration of ICT into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering.

·         The subject teachers fully support the recommendation for further integration of ICT.   Teachers do access an interactive Whiteboard when timetabling permits.  This however is in a separate room.  Further integration in the engineering room in the opinion of the teachers, involved, is not viable due to the current chronic lack of space.   This problem would be alleviated should the new Technology Room sanctioned for our school became a reality. 

 

·         The subject department should consider the introduction of common assessments for groups of similar ability.

·         In relation to common assessment recommendations while teachers follow a similar plan, student ability is very diverse and therefore this is not always achievable.   The subject teachers however will strive to take this recommendation on board.