An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of
Design and Communication Graphics
and Construction Studies
Saint Joseph’s College, Newport, County Tipperary.
Roll number: 72450N
Date of inspection: 15 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Design and Communication Graphics and Construction studies
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Joseph's College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Design and Communication Graphics and Construction Studies 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 teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Construction Studies (CS) are optional senior-cycle subjects in St. Joseph's College. The subjects are well provided for in this co-educational vocational school and this is commended.
Senior-cycle students study DCG and/or CS as part of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)) students study a vocational specialism in Graphics and Construction Studies.
The school also has a relatively large number of students who are completing Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Two of these courses, Architectural Drawing and two-dimensional (2D) computer aided design (CAD) are directly related to DCG and CS and are accredited by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) as Level 5 courses. This provision is highly commended.
All DCG and CS classes are of mixed ability and students sit State examinations at the level appropriate to their ability. While all first year students are exposed to TG and MTW during the 'taster' programme the number of girls studying the subjects from second year onwards is small, with no girls studying DCG in senior cycle. While girls are enabled to participate in the subjects and have done so in the past it is recommended that ways to encourage more girls to study the subjects should be explored by the school.
Teachers of the subjects liaise with the school's learning-support team when planning for students with additional educational needs in their classes and this is commended.
Appropriate time for the delivery of the DCG and CS programmes is provided and the allocation of double and single class periods to the subjects reflects good practice. This is commended.
All DCG and CS teachers have attended in-service related to the implementation of the new DCG syllabus provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) in recent years together with a range of whole-school in-service programmes. This level of teacher involvement in and commitment to continuous professional development is highly commended.
The majority of DCG and CS lessons are currently taught in two woodwork rooms. These rooms are well-appointed and equipped. DCG and CS teachers and students also have access to the computer room where appropriate computer hardware and software has been provided for the delivery of the new DCG syllabus. Subject teachers were centrally involved in the recent refurbishment and re-equipping of this room and their commitment to the improvement of the school's information and communication technology (ICT) facilities is highly commended. This room is also used for the delivery of related PLC courses but DCG classes have priority access to this room when required. The smaller woodwork room is also equipped with a computer and appropriate software and the permanent provision of a digital projector and printer is also planned. The rooms used for the delivery of the CG and CS syllabuses are decorated with numerous colourful wall charts, photographs of previous project work and examples of students' work and this provides a stimulating learning environment for students of the subjects and is commended.
First-year students in St. Joseph's College choose to study Technical Graphics (TG) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) at the end of a 'taster' programme where they sample available optional subjects. Most TG and MTW students transfer to DCG and CS in senior cycle having been given an open choice of available optional subjects. An open evening is provided for students and parents each year and additional support is provided by subject teachers, the guidance counsellor and the senior management team when final optional subject choices are made in junior and senior cycle. These practices are commended.
All Department of Education and Science grants received by the school for the upgrading and provision of equipment in the woodwork and DCG rooms have been expended appropriately and in an effective and timely manner. Detailed records of this expenditure were available during the inspection and subject teachers are highly commended for their work in this area.
There is a very strong emphasis on health and safety in the woodwork rooms and both are permanently wired to enable the use of 110v portable power tools. The approach adopted by the subject teachers to promoting safe practice during lessons and in the organisation of the rooms is informed by the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary School and is highly commended.
Teachers in St. Joseph's College share the responsibilities associated with co-ordination of DCG and CS in the school. They meet formally at the beginning of each year and this meeting is supplemented by frequent informal meetings where subject-related issues are discussed on an on-going basis. These arrangements are reported to work effectively and are commended.
Teachers have developed comprehensive DCG and CS subject planning documentation. Subject plans include sections in which targeted subject knowledge and skills are clearly identified and these are related to appropriate teaching methodologies. Complementary individual planning documentation to support the subject plans has also been developed and teachers' work in the area of subject-department and individual planning is commended. In order to further enhance this planning documentation it is advised that it be regularly reviewed and refined to reflect the reality for the subjects in the school during any given school year.
A range of DCG and CS resources has been developed by teachers in the school and this, supplemented by resources developed by T4, is used to support teaching and learning. Additional resources for the subjects may be accessed, when required, following consultation with the principal. This arrangement is reported to work effectively in the school.
As part of the planning process, students' outcomes in State examinations are analysed and compared to the national averages each year. This process informs planning for the following year and is commended.
Very good teaching of DCG and CS was observed during the inspection.
The parabola was the topic covered during fifth year DCG lessons while sixth year CS students were engaged in drawing a building detail to scale. Lessons were delivered in the schools woodwork rooms.
Lessons had clear aims and objectives and were delivered in an appropriately ordered learning environment. Lessons were structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses and activities were well-managed. This ensured that students' interest was maintained, that planned tasks were completed and that they could progress independently. Lesson aims and objectives were differentiated to meet the needs of individual students in the mixed ability class groups and this practice is commended.
Teachers employed suitable methodologies during the lessons observed and a range of strategies was used. Students' learning was scaffolded when teachers demonstrated DCG and CS principles and skills incrementally to whole class groups, to small groups, and to individual students. This is commended as good practice.
An integrated approach to the presentation of lesson material was adopted by DCG and CS teachers. Chalkboards were used very effectively to model the development of solutions to geometric problems in DCG and the development of scaled drawing details in CS. Chalkboard presentations were supplemented by the use of charts displayed in the rooms, scale models and by references to local examples of the topics being studied. This approach is commended.
Teachers used and emphasised the terminology associated with DCG and CS during lessons and this allowed students to assimilate subject-specific terminology while working on their own DCG and CS drawings. This practice enhanced both teaching and learning and is highly commended.
At the time of the inspection Leaving Certificate CS students had completed their projects for examination purposes. This work was undertaken during fifth year and comprised mainly a variety of woodcraft projects. The organisation, management and monitoring of the complex task of facilitating the completion of individually designed practical projects in CS is highly commended.
A variety of individual and group questions, including higher order questions, was used during DCG and CS lessons and this is commended.
Textbooks prescribed for the subjects were used, but not overly relied upon, during the lessons observed. Texts were used as a resource for students in the completion of classroom tasks and during the completion of homework assignments. This practice is commended.
During lessons teachers moved around the woodwork rooms and engaged with individual students. They monitored students' progress in the completion of classroom tasks during their interactions and also provided assistance to individuals when this was required. This practice is commended.
The woodwork rooms were very well organised and classroom routines were evident during all lessons evaluated. These routines promoted responsibility for creating an ordered learning environment among students and are commended.
Students’ displayed the quality of their understanding of topics studied in the competencies exhibited during the completion of classroom tasks and in their ability to ask and answer questions during lessons. This is commended.
Homework was a feature of all DCG and CS lessons and this helped to ensure continuity with previous and future lessons. This practice is commended.
Students' DCG drawing portfolios and CS theory note copies contained a range of work appropriately related to syllabus topics. This demonstrated an emphasis on the key theory skills of making scaled and freehand drawings together with concise, technical information-rich notes. This approach is commended.
Opportunities for independent and collaborative learning were included in all lessons observed and this practice is commended.
Students communicated effectively with their peers and teachers using DCG and CS terminology. This is commended.
An excellent teacher-student rapport was evident during all lessons evaluated. This created an atmosphere where students enthusiastically engaged with lesson activities and received appropriate affirmation from their teachers.
St. Joseph's College has formal homework and assessment policies and these inform all practices and procedures used in DCG and CS. This is commended.
First, second and fifth year students sit end-of-term and end-of-year formal house examinations. Leaving Certificate students sit formal examinations in November and a trial Leaving Certificate examination each year in February.
The results of assessments are recorded systematically and used to identify trends in students' achievement, to inform future teaching strategies and to address the needs of individual learners. These practices are commended.
Good practice in respect of assessment of students' drawings, notes and homework copies was observed with students' work being routinely marked, graded and commented on by teachers.
The nature of students’ progress in DCG and CS is communicated to parents by means of school reports, through the student's journal and during parent-teacher meetings. Further contact may be organised should the need arise.
Students displayed a high level of enthusiasm for the subjects during the inspection and their subject-specific knowledge and skills, relative to age and ability, were appropriate.
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 Design and Communication Graphics and Construction Studies and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published February 2009