An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Roscommon Community College
Lisnamult, Roscommon, County Roscommon
Roll number: 72290R
Date of inspection: 12 December 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching of Irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Roscommon Community College, Roscommon. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning of Irish and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted in the course of one day, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed the teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with the students and teachers, inspected the students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school-planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and to the 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.
Roscommon Community College is one of the three post-primary schools in Roscommon town participates in the DEIS programme.
Good support has been given to the teaching and learning of Irish on the timetable in Roscommon Community College. Four or five single class-periods per week have been allocated to all year-groups in the school, with the exception of first years, who have three class-periods per week. It is recommended that this provision be reviewed, to ensure that this year-group has at least four class-periods for Irish per week. This recommendation is made in the context of the range of standards of Irish among students starting out in the school. There is just one class-group at every year-level except Leaving Certificate, year one. There are two class-groups at this year-level, organised according to levels in the State examinations. These classes are timetabled to run simultaneously, which facilitates movement between levels, as appropriate.
The teachers in charge of the teaching and learning of Irish are graduates of Irish and are members of Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge. Representatives of the staff took part in in-service courses run by the Second Level Support Services (SLSS) for Irish, for the past two years. The teachers are based in their own rooms and have made beneficial use of this advantage. The teachers are congratulated on their diligence in providing a stimulating learning environment for their students. The Irish-teaching teachers have access to good resources, including ICT resources, which enhance the teaching and learning of the language. A laptop computer and a data-projector are available in one of the rooms dedicated to Irish. A broadband service is available in the whole school. The department of Irish has accumulated a comprehensive supply of resources and all members of staff have ready access to them. It is recommended that this provision of resources be developed in the future, with the SLSS website, and the website as points of reference.
A total of 22% of the students in the school have exemptions from the study of Irish; 11% have identified educational difficulties and another 10% were educated outside the State. While the school management makes every effort to identify students with ‘unofficial’ exemptions, it sometimes occurs that there are students on whose study-programme Irish is not included, but who do not have an official exemption either. It is recommended that a question about exemptions from the study of Irish be included on the application form for new entrants to the school, to avoid such problems later on.
The teachers of Irish do their very best to raise the status of the Irish language and of Irish culture among the students in the school. Events are organised every year for Seachtain na Gaeilge, including quizzes, art competitions, music sessions and plays as part of this celebration. Gaeltacht scholarships are awarded every year under the Gaeltacht Scholarships Scheme of Roscommon Vocational Educational Committee (VEC). It is recommended that use be made of the Conradh na Gaeilge website www.snag.ie when organising events for Seachtain na Gaeilge in future. The teachers who organise extra co-curricular and extra-curricular events for their students are congratulated on their work.
The names of all classrooms are shown in Irish, as are the school’s mission statement and other notices throughout the school. The school is warmly congratulated on this good practice because it raises the status of the language among all the school partners.
This school is involved in the school-development planning process (SDPP) on a formal basis for some years. A subject-coordinator for the department of Irish has been appointed, and specific responsibilities have been assigned to this appointment. Among these is the organisation of formal meetings and of Seachtain na Gaeilge as well as the responsibilities involved in the allocation of the Gaeltacht scholarships already mentioned. The department of Irish holds a formal meeting at the end of every school-year, as well as regular informal contact throughout the year.
The department has developed wide-ranging aims and objectives for the teaching and learning of Irish. This work is commendable. To develop this work further, it is recommended that the teachers re-cast their objectives as learning-targets for the students across the four main language-skills. Curriculum-plans for each year group were presented to the inspector. It is suggested that these plans be reviewed, in order to develop an integrated approach as recommended in the syllabuses. The plans for senior foundation-level will be helpful with this project. The suggestions in Guidelines to support the Teaching of the Revised Literature Course from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) will be valuable as a reference point for this work, in the case of senior cycle ordinary level and higher level in particular.
It would be advisable to frame a plan of action to ensure the strategic development of the department. Since all the language-teachers in the school are members of the department of Irish, it would be helpful if co-operative research were undertaken on language-teaching and –learning methodologies, as well as on the role of assessment in language learning. This would promote a consistent approach, based on the most up-to-date research, for both teacher and learner.
Included in the planning portfolio were copies of the syllabuses, reports from the chief examiners, the marking schemes of the State Examinations Commission, as well as other reference documents. It is recommended that information from the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) be also included in the plan, to support the planning for the subject.
Good short-term planning had been carried out for all the lessons observed in the course of the inspection in which the four major language-skills were integrated. There was a good balance between teacher input and student activity in all the lessons. The teachers had prepared a good range of resources to support the teaching and learning. All teachers shared the learning intentions with their students. The teachers are commended for this planning and preparation which positively impacted on classroom activities.
There was a good standard of teaching in all the classes observed during the inspection. The teachers used a good range of methodologies which afforded students the opportunity of playing an active part in building their own learning. Good pair-work was employed, which created interactive opportunities and pair-learning within a structured framework. The worksheets supported the learning activities and they offered differentiated tasks corresponding to the various levels in the State examinations. This good practice is really worthwhile. In developing such worksheets, it is suggested that, when oral frameworks are being designed, prompts for the correct answers be included in addition to those for questions, for foundation-level students in particular. While students were undertaking tasks in pairs, the teacher moved around, monitoring the pairs’ progress, helping certain students and guiding the learning activities where necessary. The class normally concluded with a debriefing session which reinforced the students’ learning. All groups had an opportunity of showing the whole class what they had learnt during the group activity. The teachers are warmly congratulated on these teaching and learning techniques in which a worthwhile learning-context was created for the students and it is recommended that these approaches be more widely used.
At the end of one particular lesson, the most important points of grammar which arose during the lesson were reviewed. The teacher gave a very clear exposition of these points in the context of the subject-matter of the lesson. Those same points were recorded in a structured way and a precise reinforcement was undertaken, based on the students’ own experience. The teacher had done impressive short-term planning, particularly in regard to time-management, for this review. Effective use was made of the whiteboard and of slides to structure lessons, to record new vocabulary, to correct and set homework and to record answers to listening-comprehension excerpts.
Very good pre-skill work was done for all the learning-activities, by adapting the target vocabulary to the range of student abilities. Good simplification was deployed, with the use of gesture occasionally, which enhanced student participation in the classes and helped to avoid over-use of translation. In the case of those classes where students were asked to read aloud, it is recommended that the criteria for good reading be agreed and communicated to the various classes at the start of the school-year. Students can regularly assess each other’s reading, based on that negotiated criteria. It would also be helpful to use this pair-assessment method, which is a very valuable learning technique, to promote good writing-skills. It is recommended that the criteria for these two skills be displayed on a chart on the classroom walls.
There was a positive and an affirming atmosphere in all the lessons observed. The teachers had a really good knowledge of the work in hand. Every teacher had very effective class-management ability and the students were fully involved in the classroom activities.
Irish was used in all classroom exchanges. A stimulating learning environment had been created in the classrooms. The materials on display in one room took cognisance of the need for visual reinforcement of the core principles of the language. This provision is highly commended. It is recommended that the teachers consider the kind of vocabulary that various year-groups need, to ask questions, make requests and to clarify difficulties they may have with the target language during Irish lessons. It would be feasible to use target-vocabulary similar to the work started in the second-year copybooks as a template for this work. This specific vocabulary could be displayed on charts on the classroom walls and should be regularly updated. In this way, every year group will gradually build-up a stock of useful words year by year.
The department’s approaches to homework and to assessment are outlined in the plan for Irish. It is recommended that a whole-school plan for homework and for assessment be part of the plan for Irish. The methodologies to be used by the department in the areas of homework and assessment can be developed in the context of these comprehensive policies.
All pupils in the school are comprehensively assessed twice during the school-year, at Christmas and in the summer. Listening-comprehension tests are part of these assessments. It is recommended that oral assessment be part of this comprehensive assessment also, especially for those students who will be taking the new Leaving Certificate oral in 2010. It would be desirable also to specify the marks for oral skill in the reports sent home, to keep parents or guardians informed of the importance of oral skill.
It is a tradition of this school to set regular tests for the students. A decision was made last year to send monthly reports home, based on the students’ achievements on these regular tests. The students are awarded marks for the amount of work they do and the effort they make. The school is congratulated on this approach.
A random sample of the homework diaries showed that homework was being regularly set, but there was an over-emphasis on writing and memorising. Teachers are again reminded to give more balanced weighting to all language skills when setting homework. It is also commended that the homework set by the teacher was recorded in Irish in some of the diaries.
It was evident from all the copybooks inspected that a good range of work had been done in line with the requirements of the syllabuses. Continuity and incremental learning were characteristics observed in the work in the copybooks also. Some of the copybooks contained evidence that the study-programme for the year had been communicated to the students. This is commendable practice as a learning-guide and a framework for revision for the students as well as fostering independence in learners.
Good correction of grammar and spelling mistakes had been done. In certain copybooks, however, too much correction had been done on a single piece of writing. It would be preferable to focus correction on a particular aspect of the language syntax. In this way the correction process will not have a negative effect on the learning process, in terms of the level of motivation of the students. It would also be advisable to develop different approaches to correction for the students, according to their year groups, to ensure that the students get an opportunity to understand and internalise key corrections, rather than always having the correct version written in for them.
It is recommended that the department of Irish add to their correction instruments and the information on assessment for learning (AfL) on the NCCA website, www.ncca.ie, will be helpful as a point of reference for this approach.
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 with the teachers of Irish and with the principal were organised at the conclusion of the evaluation, meetings at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published October 2009