An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Italian
Coláiste an Phiarsaigh
Roll number: 62301N
Date of inspection: 23 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in italian
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste an Phiarsaigh. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Italian 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 the students and the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the Principal and the subject teacher. 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 an Phiarsaigh is an all-Irish, co-educational school. Modern foreign languages enjoy a high status in the school: French, German and Spanish are on offer throughout the school. Italian was first made available as an optional subject in the Transition Year programme in the year 2000, and as an optional subject in the Leaving Certificate programme in the year 2002. A considerable number of students choose Italian in Transition Year (50% of this year’s total) and a small number of these continue on with the subject at Leaving Certificate level. This year, for example, 13% of Fifth Year students and 6% of Sixth Year students study Italian. It is possible that one of the reasons for this low uptake in Fifth Year and Sixth Year is that it is not possible to take Italian without taking another modern language also. This means that Italian is the fourth language for those who choose to study it. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of students is so low in Fifth Year and Sixth Year.
Without doubt, the school is to be commended on making the subject available as a Leaving Certificate subject even though only a small number of students opt for it. The school is to be complimented also on making a wide range of languages available and particularly on providing the opportunity of studying two modern languages for the Leaving Certificate, if the students wish to do so. Above all, the teacher of Italian is to be praised for the diligence with which she has cultivated an interest in the subject and laid the foundation for Italian in the school. It is felt that it is now time to build on this foundation and to place Italian on an equal footing with the other modern languages on the school curriculum. With this in mind, it is strongly recommended that the school management should reconsider the subject options provided, so that Italian would be made available in Junior Cycle, at least on a trial basis.
The teacher of Italian has assembled an extensive range of teaching and learning aids - textbooks, posters, compact disks, magazine articles, information and work sheets, videos, previous examination papers, dictionaries and grammar books. It is regrettable, therefore, that a specific room has not been allocated in which these resources, as well as the students’ work, might be put on display. It is recommended, if at all possible, that dedicated classrooms should be allocated to languages, in which the appropriate aids would be readily available and in which posters, maps and the students’ work would be put on display. As a minimum, some language notice boards might be put in place about the school.
A good beginning has been made in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching and learning of Italian. The teacher and students avail of internet sites such as www.dueparole.it to search for and download authentic reading material. This year, the Fourth Year Italian class, with the assistance of the Fifth Year computer class, compiled an Irish-Italian handbook. Undoubtedly, there are now many ICT resources available for the teaching and learning of languages, and this matter was discussed with the Principal in the course of the visit. It is recommended that the use of ICT should constitute an element of in-service development for the language teachers and that a beginning should be made in the provision of appropriate ICT resources for the school.
As regards extra-curricular activities, educational trips to Italy are organised for the students of Transition Year. In the current year, for example, they travelled to Rome and Sorrento. As part of their preparation for this trip, the students put together the handbook referred to above, Italiano: Lámhleabhar Gaeilge-Iodáilise. This is a well-produced, attractive handbook containing vocabulary and various expressions which would be of use to the students while in Italy. Without doubt, the students learned a lot of Italian while compiling it: this publication is an excellent example of the kind of work which is suitable for Transition Year.
Very effective planning is done for the teaching of Italian in the school. A planning file was made available during the visit, containing comprehensive schemes of work for all year groups. These schemes specified overall teaching aims, learning objectives, the topics to be explored, the aspects of language to be acquired, the resources to be utilised and the methods of assessment to be used. It was clear from the classes observed that short-term preparation is attended to with an equal diligence.
In the context of school development planning, meetings of teachers of modern languages are held and the minutes of these meetings were made available. A co-ordinator of modern languages has been appointed and a beginning has been made with compiling a plan for languages. In furthering this work, it would be well worth while drawing on the European Language Portfolio, with a view to specifying learning objectives for the various languages. The portfolio contains examples, based on the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate syllabuses, of specific objectives for the various language skills at levels A1 to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). In the case of Italian, for example, the first objective for spoken interaction at the most basic level is: sono in grado di salutare e formulare semplici frasi (per esempio prego, grazie), chiedere a qualcuno come sta e dire come sto. If specific learning objectives of this kind were set down in the form of “can-do” statements, they could be made available to the students at the beginning of the year, something which would foster learner autonomy and help the students to take responsibility for their own learning outcomes. These same specific objectives could also form the basis for the assessment process.
A high standard of teaching was noted in the classes observed. The objectives of the lessons were always clear and the lessons were well-structured and paced appropriately. The teaching style was lively and communicative. The students’ imaginations and their interest in the subject matter of lessons were stimulated - through the use of dolls as teaching aids, for example, in a lesson on clothes. An open, co-operative atmosphere prevailed in all classes, and the students participated willingly in the learning activities. Effective use was made of group work. The four language skills were practised in an integrated way. An extensive range of strategies and resources was availed of, and the various aspects of language were addressed - vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, for example. In the Sixth Year class, reading comprehension skills were taught through the use of a previous examination paper. In all the classes observed, emphasis was placed not only on the language itself but also on different aspects of Italian culture, including music: the students have learned some Italian songs. It is no exaggeration to say that an Italian atmosphere was created in the classroom. Italian was both the language of communication and the medium of instruction in all classes, and the students acquitted themselves well in speaking the language in accordance with their abilities.
It was apparent from the observations made during the visit that the objectives set down in the subject plan were being achieved. These include: a basic communicative proficiency for all students; familiarity with the people and culture of Italy; and the cultivation of an interest in and love for the language in the students. The teachers and students are to be congratulated on the standard of teaching and learning attained.
An extensive range of methods of assessment is used in Italian, for example, questioning in class, role-playing, written homework and aural comprehension tests. Reports are sent to parents twice a year. It is recommended that the assessment practices of the school should be expanded, by linking more closely the specific learning objectives (see the recommendations above under Planning and Preparation) and the systematic assessment of the acquisition of language skills.
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 teacher of Italian and with the Principal at the conclusion of the evaluation, when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, October 2008