An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

 Subject Inspection of German

 

REPORT

  

Douglas Community School

Douglas, Cork

Roll number: 91396R

  

Date of inspection:   3 & 4 May 2007

Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007

 

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 German

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Douglas Community School, Cork. 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 two days 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 relevant staff. The board of management was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Douglas Community School is an all boys’ school situated in Cork city. It offers a wide variety of curricular programmes including the Junior Certificate, Transition Year Programme (TYP), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate established (LCE). German is offered in all curricular programmes.

 

The modern languages on offer in the school are French and German. Each year one first-year group is assigned to the German class and all other students take French. This system was put in place as the numbers of students wishing to take German had fallen and in order to ensure the viability of the language in the school students were allocated to German. In discussion with the school management authorities it was stated that if any student who was assigned to German has a strong preference to take French then this preference is accommodated. It is important that this happens as students should not be denied access to subject options. It is recommended that the manner in which German is offered in the school be reviewed and a system whereby students are offered choices with regard to modern languages be put in place.

 

The timetable allocation for German is good. In junior cycle and in the TYP students have four class periods per week. In senior cycle five class periods are allocated to the teaching of the language. Class periods are single and are distributed evenly throughout the week. This is good practice as it allows for regular contact with the language throughout the week.

 

The German department holds membership of the Gesellschaft Deutschlehrer Irlands (German Teachers’ Association). Courses held by this association are frequently attended. In addition members of the German department have attended courses in Germany. The Board of Management has supported attendance at courses both in Ireland and in Germany. Such commitment to continuous professional development on behalf of the management authorities and the staff is most laudable.

 

There are good resources to support the teaching and learning of German for example, films, DVDs, posters, books, games, tapes and CDs. There is a particularly wide range of story books in German. These resources were catalogued and well organised.

 

Many co curricular activities are organised to support the teaching and learning of German. These include a European Union day, German food tasting events and guest visits from native speakers. Students are taken to see German plays and films when there are opportunities to do so. The learners are encouraged to take part in the Siemens national debating competition and the Austrian embassy essay competition. Students in TYP can avail of an exchange programme. This is an excellent programme which enables the students to avail of work experience while in the country. In interaction with the inspector, students who had taken part in this exchange spoke fluently and with enthusiasm of their experiences. It was evident that the exchange had provided them with a wonderful learning opportunity. Staff and management are to be highly commended for their commitment to the provision of such effective co-curricular activities.

 

German lessons are held in a base classroom. This was well decorated with posters of Germany, maps of Europe and Germany. A lot of material relating to the German exchange was on display. This is commendable as it raises students’ interest in the subject.

 

Planning and preparation

 

Subject department planning is well established in the school. A school development planning coordinator has been appointed and subject departments have been established. Staff involved in the teaching of modern languages work together. The Modern Languages department works very well together. This collaboration across individual language departments is good practice. Time is allocated for meetings of the modern language department and issues pertaining to modern languages are discussed.

 

Yearly plans for the teaching of German were presented in the course of the evaluation. These were most comprehensive. They included information on the themes to be covered and materials that are used including text books. It is recommended that these plans be extended to include information on individual learner outcomes. Specifying what is expected of the learner at the end of a unit of learning is effective practice and provides clarity of purpose when designing lesson content and assessment activities.

 

Individual lessons were very well planned. Individual lesson planning documentation was presented in the course of the evaluation. This outlined lesson content and methodologies to be used. Individual lesson plans also clearly stated intended learning outcomes. This is exemplary practice and enhances the learning and teaching process.

 

Teaching and learning

 

Lesson content was very good. In senior cycle students learned about typical characteristics of German people and compared these with Irish people. In another lesson students studied texts about immigration and issues associated with this. In junior cycle the learners revised a number of topics such as illnesses, numbers and invitations. Choosing lesson content on a theme basis is good practice and matches the requirements of the syllabus.

 

In general lessons were well paced and students were on task at all times. In a lesson observed students were asked to cover a variety of themes and were given short and varied tasks to complete. The pace was swift and the learners moved quickly from task to task. This swift pace ensured that the learners remained focussed and covered quite a lot of material. This practice is to be commended.

 

Different materials were used to enhance and support lesson content. In most lessons observed handouts of German texts were used. In senior cycle a well thought out handout had been prepared with a variety of tasks. This was used to good effect. In one lesson observed the handout appeared to be quite dated. It is recommended that in so far as possible current up-to-date texts be used. This will ensure that learners interest is sustained.

 

A variety of effective methodologies were employed to ensure student learning was maximised. For example in junior cycle students were asked to complete a listening comprehension exercise. This was then followed by a written exercise on the same theme. In senior cycle students were asked to read a text and then speak about it in German. The students then completed a written exercise in the target language on the text. This methodology of integrating the skills of language acquisition i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening is in line with best practice and most commendable.

 

The target language was used in the classroom to manage some classroom activities. In some instances English was used to manage these activities or to communicate generally with the students. In line with best practice it is suggested that the use of the target language be increased for classroom interaction as much as possible. It was noted that where students read in German mistakes were corrected with sensitivity. It is suggested that to build on this effective method students be given dedicated pronunciation exercises. This will serve to enhance the learners communicative competence. In interaction with the inspector students showed evidence of good comprehension of questions asked and were able to respond appropriately. This is praiseworthy.

 

The classroom atmosphere was very good in all lessons observed. Discipline was maintained sensitively. Learning activities were managed well and students were motivated to contribute in class. The teacher-student rapport was excellent and genuine concern for the well-being of the students was evident. The atmosphere was conducive to learning and students were praised for their efforts. This is highly commendable.

 

Assessment

 

Students are assessed on a very regular basis both formally and informally. The school operates a system of continuous assessment across all subjects. Formal assessment takes place in mid October, early December, spring and summer. Parents/guardians receive reports on the students’ progress and attainment. This represents a very regular flow of information to the parents/guardians and keeps them up to date. In addition parent/teacher meetings are held for all year groups. It is noteworthy that the German department have assisted parents of newcomer students at parent/teacher meetings by acting as interpreters for them with teachers of other subjects. Such provision of assistance is to be highly commended and will undoubtedly have helped these parents greatly.

 

In German, students are assessed via homework assignments and project work. In the course of the inspection a sample of copybooks were examined. It was evident that homework is assigned to and completed by the students on a regular basis. Students receive comments at the end of their assignments. It is recommended that the principles of assessment for learning (AfL) be adopted when correcting homework. This will encourage learners to build on the work they have already done and ensure that they follow up on errors made. Further information on the AfL can be found on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • There is good whole school support for German.
  • Many co-curricular activities are organised to enhance the teaching and learning of German.
  • The school is engaged in school development planning and comprehensive yearly plans for German have been established.
  • Lesson content in all lessons was good and matched the requirements of the syllabus.
  • Discipline was sensitively maintained and a very positive atmosphere was noted in all lessons
  • Assessment of students’ learning and progress is made on a continuous basis.

 

 

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

 

  • The yearly plans for German should be extended to include information on learning outcomes
  • The use of the target language in the classroom should be increased. Dedicated pronunciation exercises should be undertaken to enhance communicative competence
  • It is recommended that the principles of assessment for learning be adopted to ensure that learners follow up on errors they have made.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of German and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.


Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

The Board of Management welcomes this report on the teaching of German which affirms the high quality of the teaching and educational supports provided by the school.  We acknowledge the professional manner in which the inspection visit was conducted and the support for, and affirmation of, good practice by the inspector.

 

The Board of Management commends the commitment of the school’s teacher of German in working continuously to improve the teaching and learning of the language.  We welcome the report’s findings and recommendations which will inform our ongoing review of good practice as part of our continuing work on school development planning.

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The Board notes the overall positive findings of the report and welcomes the three recommendations made by the inspector.

 

These recommendations have already been implemented as follows:

 

·         The yearly plan implicitly includes information on learning outcomes: this will now be made explicit.

·         The use of the target language in the classroom has been increased.

·         Principles of assessment for learning have been adopted as part of the assessment process.