An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Bóthar Rath Tó, Baile Átha Cliath 7
Roll number: 60450U
Date of inspection: 20 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Mhuire, Bóthar Rath Tó Dublin 7. 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 teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and relevant staff. 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.
Coláiste Mhuire is a voluntary secondary school. The current enrolment is 146 students. German is offered in the Junior Certificate (JC), the Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate (LC).
The modern foreign languages on offer in Coláiste Mhuire are German and French. German is currently offered in the curriculum in third and fifth year, and in TY. Prior to 2006, students studied both languages in the junior cycle. However, a change in the manner in which subjects were offered took place and students were given a choice of studying either German or French. Due to low uptake, it was not possible to create a German class in first or second year over the past two years. This has since been reviewed and the management authorities of the school have decided that all students in first year, next year, will take German. This is indicative of management’s support for the subject. The school management is to be commended for reviewing the curriculum.
The school has a number of good resources, such as books, tapes, DVDs, dictionaries and short novels, to support the teaching and learning of German. Information and communication technology (ICT) is also available to support the teaching and learning of German. There is a computer room and a laptop available for the students of the language. A list of resources has been compiled. It is recommended that this list be included in the planning documentation and updated regularly. A specific budget is not assigned to German, but every effort is made by management to accommodate requests as resources permit.
There is a good time allocation for the subject. This is praiseworthy. Junior cycle and TY students have four class periods of German. In senior cycle, German is allocated five class periods. The distribution of lessons throughout the week is optimal.
German is taught in a base classroom. This room is very well decorated. German posters, maps and photographs were on display. Particularly commendable was the excellent standard of students’ work on display. Project work, relating to the Berlin Wall and student identity cards, in German, was displayed. This is very good practice and gives the students a clear sense of ownership of their learning environment.
There is a very good whole-school approach to continual professional development. Whole- school in-service has taken place regularly on themes such as assessment for learning and classroom management techniques. A staff in-service on transition year was also held in the school. In the last academic year, a new scheme was started in the school to promote peer support among the teaching staff. This involves teachers attending one another’s lessons and providing developmental feedback at the end of the lessons. This is an example of excellent practice which is indicative of the fact that management and staff are forward thinking and progressive. Presently, the German department does not hold membership of the German teachers’ association, Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (GDI). It is recommended that, resources permitting, this be reviewed.
The school is engaged in development planning. School management is very supportive of the planning process and a school plan has been developed. Subject department planning has been established in the school. In this context, the German and French departments work together to plan for the teaching of the modern languages on offer in the curriculum. This collaborative approach to planning is to be commended and is ultimately beneficial to the students.
Long-term planning documentation was presented in the course of the evaluation. The plan for German contains the aims and objectives of the programme and the topics which will be covered in each year group. To build on the good practice, it is recommended that the plan for German be developed to include student learning outcomes. These outcomes should be specified in terms of what the students will be able to do, in the different skills of language acquisition, at the end of a unit of learning.
The plan for the teaching of German in TY is good. The content shows evidence of cross-curricular links and the use of film. This is good practice and in keeping with the spirit of the TY programme. In order to develop the plan for TY, it is recommended that Part Two of the Department of Education and Science document Writing the Transition Year Programme be used.
Lesson content in all lessons was good and appropriate to the needs and interests of the learners. In all lessons observed, content was theme based. This is very good practice and in line with syllabus requirements. Teacher circulation in the lessons observed was good and provided opportunities for individual attention to students. This attention to students’ individual needs is particularly praiseworthy as there is a wide range of abilities among the student cohort.
Very high quality teaching and learning was observed in all lessons. A range of effective methodologies was evident. Group work and pair work were used to good effect. Particularly impressive was the use of running dictation and quizzes. A lot of advance preparation and planning had taken place to ensure the smooth running of these activities. This in turn ensured high quality student learning outcomes. This is most praiseworthy.
In the development of the skill of listening, in a junior cycle lesson, students were given questions in advance and asked to translate some of the questions into Irish. This strategy encouraged the learners to familiarise themselves with the questions. In order to build on this good practice, it is recommended that students be asked to anticipate the vocabulary that might occur in the course of the listening comprehension, in light of questions asked. This ensures that students are in a good state of readiness to approach the task.
Teacher use of the target language was excellent. German was used for all transactional communication in the classroom. In interaction with the inspector, the majority of students in all lessons showed very good comprehension. To build on this, it is recommended that more strategies be put in place to encourage greater student use of the target language. It is recommended that all lessons begin with general conversation about daily school activities, the weather, and seasonal events, which would help to stimulate student use of the target language. This activity, when repeated daily, becomes a ritual and serves the very positive purpose of increasing students’ self confidence in use of the language.
The atmosphere in all lessons was very positive. Students were on task and engaged fully in classroom activities. Teacher-student rapport was excellent. It was evident that many students derived considerable enjoyment from learning the language. Humour on the part of the teacher ensured a relaxed and enhanced learning environment. This is to be highly commended.
A wide range of assessment measures is employed in the German department, to ensure that students are making progress. Students are given oral and written homework on a very regular basis. Tests are given frequently, sometimes on a monthly or weekly basis. Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in the summer. All skills of language acquisition, reading, writing, speaking and listening, are tested formally in senior and junior cycle. This is in line with best practice. Assessment in TY is on a credit basis and students are awarded credits for homework, project work and examinations. This is commendable and in keeping with the Department of Education and Science guidelines for assessment in TY.
A sample of student journals was inspected in the lessons observed. Students diligently record homework in German. A sample of copybooks was also viewed in the course of the evaluation. This provided evidence that students are being assigned and are completing a variety of written assignments. Students’ work is corrected on a regular basis. Very good feedback is given to students and particularly noteworthy is the positive and affirming comments that are written in students’ copybooks. This use of praise is to be commended. Excellent use is made of stickers in copybooks to encourage students. This is motivational for the learner and is most laudable. Students themselves came up with the suggestion of displaying common errors over the white board in the classroom. This is an excellent strategy as it involves the learners in reflection on learning and in self-assessment.
A new mentoring system has started for students in third year, who will sit their Junior Certificate examination this year. The aim of this system is to provide additional support to students with regard to study and homework. A teacher meets two students once a fortnight to review their progress in these areas. This level of support to students is to be highly commended.
Good communication is maintained between the school and the parents of the students. School reports are sent home after formal assessments. Parent-teacher meetings are held for each year group. In addition parents are welcome to contact the school and seek an appointment with subject teachers if there are concerns about students’ progress. This is commendable.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is very good whole-school support for German.
· Following a review of provision for the subject, the school management authorities have decided that all first-year students in the coming academic
year 2009/10 will take German.
· The base classroom for German provides an excellent learning environment for students.
· Timetabling and provision of resources for German are very good.
· In the last academic year, a new scheme was started in the school to promote peer support among the teaching staff. This involves teachers
attending one another’s lessons and providing developmental feedback at the end of the lessons.
· Good teacher circulation during lessons allowed for effective attention to students individual learning needs.
· Very high quality teaching and learning was observed in all lessons. A range of effective methodologies was evident.
· Teacher-student rapport was excellent. It was evident that many students derived considerable enjoyment from learning the language.
· All skills of language acquisition, reading, writing, speaking and listening, are tested formally in senior and junior cycle. This is in line with best
· Students’ work is corrected on a regular basis. Very good feedback is given to students. Particularly noteworthy is the positive and affirming
comments that are written by the teacher in students’ copybooks.
· Good communication is maintained between the school and the parents of the students. School reports are sent home after formal assessments.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the long-term plan for German be developed to include student learning outcomes. These outcomes should be specified in
terms of what the students will be able to do, in the different skills of language acquisition, at the end of a unit of learning.
· It is recommended that more strategies be put in place to encourage greater student use of the target language. It is recommended that all lessons
begin with general conversation about daily school activities, the weather, and seasonal events. This would help to stimulate student use of the target
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher 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.
Published, November 2009