An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Scoil Mhuire Community School
Clane, County Kildare
Roll number: 91372D
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN METALWORK AND ENGINEERING
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Scoil Mhuire Community School, Clane, Co. Kildare. 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 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 deputy 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.
Scoil Mhuire Community School provides its students with the opportunity to study technology subjects in all programmes offered in the school. Metalwork is offered to all junior cycle students and Engineering is offered to senior cycle students as a modular component of the schoolís Transition Year (TY) programme and also as part of the schoolís established Leaving Certificate programme. In addition to these subjects, Graphics and Construction Studies is offered to students enrolled in the schoolís Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. The commitment to technology education in the school is commended.
Timetabling is good across all year groups and the time allocated to Metalwork and Engineering is appropriate as it allows sufficient time for both teachers and students to complete all aspects of the syllabus. These allocations are distributed in a combination of both double and single periods allowing the theoretical and practical strands of the syllabuses to be covered in an optimum manner. Teachers are appropriately deployed to their specialist areas on a rotational basis and continuity with class groups is maintained in almost all cases.
There are two bright and spacious Metalwork and Engineering rooms in Scoil Mhuire. These rooms are generally well equipped and have suitable subject specific resources and posters on display to further underpin the schoolís technology education culture. One of these rooms was recently built and fitted with modern equipment and machinery. The original room is in the process of being modernised and significant work has been carried out to bring it up to the desired standard. The work that has already been carried out by the subject department in both rooms is commended. While most of the items of equipment and machines in use in the rooms are in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list as specified on 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. Where machines are deemed unsuitable or unsafe, school management in collaboration with the subject department should instigate a repair or replacement programme as per circular letter PBU 5/2005.
Quality student projects are displayed in both rooms to promote student achievement and to raise student expectations. All tools and equipment are stored safely using a variety of storage solutions and students have been encouraged from the beginning of their programmes to adhere to these storage and organisational rules. The newest room is also fitted with information and communication technology (ICT) resources allowing ICT to be integrated into all lessons easily.
Upon entering first year, students are asked to choose their preferred subjects from a list of all available subjects. These preferences are then used to generate the most suitable option bands. In order to help students and parents make fully informed optional subject decisions, an open day is held in the school and prospective first-year students and their parents are given a tour of the schoolís facilities. During this tour representatives of the Metalwork and Engineering department, assisted by students, demonstrate project work and common processes. This type of intervention helps to inform both students and parents and is most beneficial.
The number of girls who choose to study Metalwork and Engineering is a cause for concern. To remedy this situation the subject department should identify possible methods of promoting a positive gender balance in the subject. These may include promoting the subject in the feeder primary schools, highlighting successful past students in the subjects to parents of incoming first-year students and possibly introducing a short subject sampling programme to help all students make their optional subject choices based on their experiences and aptitudes for subjects similar to the subject-sampling layer already in place in the schoolís TY programme.
School management has facilitated the subject departmentís attendance at a variety of continual professional development (CPD) courses. The subject department is also involved in the Engineering Technology Teachersí Association (ETTA) and in the relevant Teacherís Professional Network (TPN). This commitment to CPD and to professional associations is commended.
School management facilitates subject department planning meetings. Records of these meetings are regularly maintained, as is best practice. Although the coordination of this subject department is in theory rotated between both teachers, in practice it is a shared collaborative role.
As a result of planning meetings, some long-term goals have been identified by the subject department. To progress these plans, it is suggested that the subject department identify strategies, resources, CPD needs and timeframes in order to achieve these identified goals.
The subject department has developed comprehensive curricular plans for each year group. These curricular plans identify the theoretical content and skills required by each year group. The TY plan strives to provide an appropriate module for students with wide-ranging skill and ability levels. This plan could be further improved by introducing pair work and group work and by varying the assessment model currently in place. The curricular planning for fifth and sixth-year groups includes some essential design elements and skill development project work in addition to the planned theoretical content. Teachersí individual planning complements the curricular plans and a significant quantity of quality resources has been accumulated by the subject department.
The subject department is fully informed of all students with special educational needs (SEN) who choose Metalwork and Engineering. To facilitate SEN studentsí full inclusion and participation in lessons some useful strategies are employed such as ensuring worksheets are appropriate for students with a variety of reading ages and providing significant individual attention to SEN students especially in practical lessons. The continued development of SEN teaching strategies should be progressed with the assistance of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/PP_Tech.pdf.
All lessons observed were very well planned and prepared for in advance. This preparation included parametric models of assemblies, student handouts, ICT presentations, prepared demonstrations and student material. This level of preparation for lessons is commended.
All lessons observed had clear learning outcomes. Best practice was observed where these learning outcomes were shared with students at the beginning. In doing so, students were provided with a focal point for the lesson and teachers had measurable criteria to evaluate the lessonís success. The content of lessons observed was appropriate for the levels, skills and abilities of students and was consistent with the curricular plans for their specific year group.
Lessons were very well organised and were generally comprised of both theoretical and practical elements. This is commended. Transitions between practical exercises, demonstrations and student activity were well managed and promoted continuity within lessons.†
Theoretical content was reinforced through the use of keywords at the beginning, during and in the summation of lessons and this had the effect of highlighting the main objectives of the lessons. Practical lessons were orderly, participative and active with all students engaging in the required processes. Students carried out a wide variety of processes during each lesson and were independent in their learning where appropriate. Design was encouraged in one lesson through the distribution of grid paper to students in order to help them to design elements of their projects, and modelling was used in some cases to help students realise their design solutions. These strategies are commended as they help to foster a culture of design and realisation in students. In some cases, students were encouraged to work collaboratively and, where pair work was observed, this was seen to be mutually beneficial to the students involved.
The predominant methodologies employed included: teacher explanation of concepts using supporting material, student discussion and activity, group demonstrations and question and answer sessions. These varied methods were effective and helped to maintain student interest in and enthusiasm for the subject matter.
A variety of questioning strategies was used throughout the inspection. Generally, questions were directed to individual students and adequate time was given to them to answer. Questioning was most successful where it was directly related to studentsí practical work. For example, when a number of students were in the process of completing a soldering exercise the entire class group were posed a series of relevant thermal joining questions. This type of questioning helps students to apply their knowledge in practical situations and to use their practical skills to inform their answers.
In all lessons observed students were very well behaved. A positive rapport between students and teachers was evident and this contributed to the positive learning atmosphere that was apparent throughout the evaluation. Students accessed tools and equipment in an orderly fashion and this was facilitated by the layout, organisation and overall cleanliness of the classrooms. Tools and personal protective equipment were easily accessible to students and their layout and storage provided students with a model of best practice.
Students demonstrated very good practical skills appropriate with their level and abilities. When questioned by the inspector, students were found to have very good knowledge of the subject matter and were clear in their understanding of the processes and topics at hand. All students demonstrated a positive work ethic and were purposeful in their activities.
Students in Scoil Mhuire achieve very well in the state examinations in Metalwork and Engineering with the majority of students taking higher level.
Students are formally assessed in end-of-term examinations. These examinations consist of a combination of both practical and theoretical assessments and are often weighted similar to State Examinations Commission (SEC) examinations. In doing so, students receive meaningful feedback in relation to their overall progress. This method also gives students appropriate recognition for the practical skills that they have developed as well as the theoretical work that they have completed during the course of their studies. Studentsí project work is also corrected regularly to help teachers and students identify strengths and areas for development.
Students received very good oral feedback during practical lessons. This type of feedback is most useful to students as it helps them to improve their skills based on the advice and guidance of their teacher.
By clearly outlining the learning intention of each lesson, teachers provided themselves with measurable criteria for success. At the end of lessons, teachers used these learning intentions to assess student knowledge and understanding. This strategy allows teachers to modify their strategies when studentsí understanding or skills have not reached their expected level. This strategy was brought one step further in one lesson where self-assessment was encouraged. Using the SEC chief examinersí report for the practical Engineering examination, students were asked to identify areas for development in their own work. In doing so, students identified a number of key areas including the lessonís primary learning objectives of developing studentsí understanding and appreciation for accuracy, finish and function.
The subject department provides students with the opportunity to enter their Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate project work in the regional and national competitions organised by the Engineering Technology Teachers Association (ETTA). The school has also experienced success in the F1 in Schools competition with two teams reaching the regional final and one team progressing onto the national finals later this year. This co-curricular activity adds to the subjects appeal while also contributing to the studentsí understanding of key concepts and manufacturing processes. The continued participation in these competitions will help to promote the subject in the school and is commended.
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 Metalwork and Engineering and with the deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published February 2010
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 †††††††††