An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Old Bawn Community School
Old Bawn, Dublin 24
Roll number: 91336W
Date of inspection: 11 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Old Bawn Community School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject 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, deputy 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.
Old Bawn Community School is situated in Dublin and has a current enrolment of 753 students. The school offers a number of curricular programmes including the Junior Certificate, the Transition Year Programme (TYP), the Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). German is offered in all programmes with the exception of the LCA.
German and French are the languages on offer in the school. Incoming first-year students are offered a choice between these two languages and this choice must be made in advance. These students have assessment tests prior to taking up their place in first year. As a result of these tests the students are banded. A trend has occurred over the past number of years that the more academically able students are assigned to or opt to study French. The majority of the local feeder primary schools offer French as part of the curriculum. It is recommended that the introduction of a ‘taster’ programme for languages in first year be given consideration. Ideally students would have the opportunity to study French and German for a period of time. This would enable students to make a more fully informed decision with regard to subject choice.
The German department comprises three qualified teachers one of whom is a substitute teacher. The German department holds current membership of the German Teachers’ Association and teachers attend in-service courses. Members of the German department have corrected and carried out Leaving Certificate oral examinations with the State Examinations Commission. More recently teachers have up skilled in the area of ICT and language learning. Such commitment to professional development is laudable.
The timetable allocation for German is good and in line with national norms. In junior cycle and in TYP students have four class periods per week. In senior cycle five class periods per week are allocated to the teaching of the subject. Only single periods are allocated to German. This is good practice.
The school has a wide range of resources to support the teaching and learning of German. Suitable books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, films and a class set of dictionaries have been purchased. Members of the German department have also built up a comprehensive range of very good language learning materials which they have created themselves. In addition the school management authorities have invested in ICT resources such as data projectors and computers which are used to enhance the teaching and learning of the language. It is recommended that an inventory of all existing resources be taken and included in the planning documentation. This will enhance the use of existing resources and assist in review of acquisition of new resources.
German is taught in base classrooms. These rooms were most appropriately decorated. There were also photographs of school trips on the wall. A large map and other student work were also on display. Portraying students work in this manner is most praiseworthy as it gives the students an increased sense of ownership of their learning environment.
The management authorities of the school show their support for languages by awarding languages scholarships to students in German, French and Irish. These scholarships enable students to take courses in languages in the summer months. This is very effective practice and the Board of Management is to be commended for its support in this regard.
The school is engaged in school development planning and subject departments have been established. Time is allocated for subject planning at staff days at the beginning of the academic year. Thereafter many informal meetings are held by the German department. A coordinator for the subject has been appointed. This is good practice. It was evident in the course of the inspection that there is very good collaboration between members of the German department who share a clear common vision for the development of their subject area. Further evidence of the good cooperation was the staff’s commitment to sharing resources and teaching materials. This is very effective practice and ultimately benefits the students.
A subject plan for German was presented in the course of the evaluation. This outlined aims and objectives, information on course materials and cross-curricular planning as well as suggested teaching methodologies. Very effective planning for the use of ICT in the classroom was noted. The content of the programme for German for each year group was outlined. It is recommended that this section of the plan be developed to include information on specific learner outcomes. This will clarify what exactly the learner is expected to be able to do at the end of a unit of learning.
It is noteworthy that the planning documentation also included a number of action plans developed by the German department to address issues impacting on the uptake of the subject within the school. These include practical strategies which have been submitted to the school management authorities for consideration. This is evidence of effective team work on the part of a department who is committed to a solution-oriented approach to challenges which arise. This is most commendable.
Lesson content in all classes observed was very good and appropriate to the needs of the learners. In senior cycle students learned to talk about their daily routine. In junior cycle the learners studied the theme of weather. Choosing lesson content that is suitable to the needs of the students and in line with the requirements of the syllabus is good practice and to be commended. In some lessons the theme of Christmas and German Christmas traditions were being discussed. In these lessons a good effort was made to develop the learners’ knowledge of German culture. For example, typical Christmas food was shown. The integration of cultural awareness in lessons is good practice and in line with requirements of the syllabus.
A variety of teaching methodologies was in evidence in the lessons observed. Best practice was observed where an integrated approach to skills development was used. For example in senior cycle students began the lesson by given oral descriptions of pictures relating to the theme of Christmas. This was followed by a listening comprehension exercise where students were asked to complete the text of a Christmas carol which involved reading and writing. Ensuring that the skills of speaking, reading, writing and listening are integrated facilitates the consolidation of learning and is most effective.
The use of the target language was good and every effort was made to communicate with the students in German. It is recommended that, in order to build on the good practice observed, increased opportunity be given to students to interact with one another. Increased student-student interaction will maximise the learners' possibility of using the target language and this will enhance communicative competence. It was noted that on occasion in senior cycle the less formal version of you (du) was used when addressing the students. It is recommended that once students are in the senior cycle only the formal version of you (Sie) is used. This form is used in the Leaving Certificate oral examination and it is therefore preferable if students are familiar with it.
The advance preparation of materials and handouts was uniformly excellent. An impressive PowerPoint presentation of Christmas traditions in Germany was used in senior cycle. In junior cycle a very comprehensive worksheet was used to develop vocabulary and phrases relating to the weather. Handouts were all made out using ICT and were presented in a most clear and attractive manner. The dedication to advance preparation on the part of the German department is highly commendable.
Project work forms part of the programme for German. For example, students had made Christmas cards and an advent calendar. As part of this project students also made an advent wreath and were given the advent story to read in German which they acted out in class. The cards, calendar and wreath all formed an eye-catching display in one of the classrooms. Encouraging project work among learners is an example of best practice.
The classroom atmosphere in all lessons observed was very good. Student-teacher rapport was good and all interactions were characterised by mutual respect. Students were encouraged to answer questions and where errors were made these were corrected with sensitivity. It was clear that students felt a sense of security in the classroom. Creation of a positive learning environment such as this is praiseworthy.
Formal assessment of student learning takes place twice a year. Reports are sent to parents/guardians. In first and second year German is assessed by means of a written paper which tests the skills of reading and writing. It is recommended that throughout the junior cycle formal assessment of all skills of language acquisition take place including speaking and listening. The ability to comprehend the spoken word is central to the development of communicative competence. In addition the aural component of the Junior Certificate examination accounts for a high percentage of the total marks. It is therefore vital that this skill is tested formally throughout the junior cycle. Mini orals should also be held at this level to ensure that all aspects of the students’ communicative competence are developing appropriately.
An innovative approach to assessment is taking place in the TYP. In the summer of 2006 the school installed a Class Server programme. This is a Virtual Learning Environment. Members of the German department are using this system to create German learning resources and assignments on line. The TYP students access and submit their assignments through this virtual learning environment. This system is working very well and students are using the most up to date systems to complete assignments. This is very commendable.
Homework was assigned in all lessons. Student written work is monitored regularly. It is recommended that the approach of Assessment for Learning (AfL) be adopted. This will require students to follow up on a limited number of mistakes and will enhance the learning process. Further information on AfL can be accessed on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment at www.ncca.ie.
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 German, the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.