An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Crumlin, Dublin 12
Roll number: 60800V
Date of inspection: †9 May 2007
Date of issue of report: †8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in the Loreto College Crumlin, Dublin 12. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the home economics department. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the home economics 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.
Home Economics is a vibrant subject on the schoolís curriculum as evidenced by the very good student participation rates in junior and senior cycle.
First year students study all Junior Certificate subjects provided by the school to facilitate the making of informed subject choices for second year. In order to meet the needs of as many students as possible option bands in second year are generated which are based on studentsí own preferences. †Subject option seminars are held for students to provide further advice and support. These practices are very commendable. The very good student uptake of Home Economics for the Junior Certificate generally results in the formation of three mixed ability classes in second and third year.
It is praiseworthy that all students in Transition Year (TY) complete a ten week module in Food Studies. Options for Leaving Certificate are once again determined by studentsí own interests and preferences. It was noted positively that every effort is being made to facilitate each studentís† subject options. The home economics co-ordinator presents a power point presentation on Leaving Certificate Home Economics at the senior cycle options seminar that explains choices. It was reported that student feedback indicates that this is found to be very useful in making subject choices. It is laudable that Hotel, Catering and Tourism is one of the vocational specialisms that forms part of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) in the school. This allows students who took Home Economics for their Junior Certificate and then progress into LCA to build on the knowledge and skills already developed.
The subject benefits from a very good level of provision. The teaching time allocated is very satisfactory and in line with syllabus requirements. While first year classes are allocated only three periods for Home Economics, the provision of five class periods in second and third year ensures that the time allocated to Home Economics over the duration of the junior cycle programme is very adequate. All senior cycle classes have five periods for the subject. The commendable arrangement of class time into double and single periods is particularly conducive to effective continuity in teaching and learning. Managementís efforts to ensure that there is a very good spread of classes across the week is particularly commendable.
There is very good whole-school support for Home Economics. Official documentation issued by the Department of Education and Science and the State Examinations Commission is disseminated promptly by management. The department receives a generous annual budget to update specialist equipment and purchase additional resources. This is very good practice as Home Economics coursework necessitates the regular updating of resources.
There are three specialist rooms for Home Economics, two kitchens and one textilesí room. As evidence of senior managementís commitment to the on-going development of Home Economics in the school, these rooms are being refurbished on a phased basis and to date very good progress has been made. In 2006/07, as part of the Department of Education and Science Summer Works Scheme one kitchen was extensively re-furbished and modernised to a very high standard. As an example of inclusive practice a wheel-chair accessible unit forms an integral part of the new kitchen. Management and the home economics team are commended for their commitment and efforts taken in the planning and design of such an excellent facility for the subject. †At the time of the evaluation the textiles room was being refitted. The remaining kitchen, while it has been recently equipped with new tables and chairs †remains in significant need of a major upgrade. The room, which dates back to the 1950s has no artificial ventilation and has very limited facilities for practical lessons. In view of the current condition of this second kitchen and with due regard to health and safety considerations and the requirements of the home economics syllabuses, it is recommended that access to the newly re-furbished kitchen for home economics classes must be reviewed. This would ensure that maximum use is made of this excellent facility for practical food studies lessons. Furthermore, given the number of home economics classes in the school, it is recommended that management progresses the refurbishment of the second kitchen as a matter of priority.
Health and safety procedures have been established for home economics lessons. A subject specific health and safety statement outlines procedures for room maintenance, stock control and procedures for reporting accidents. It is particularly commendable that specific control measures are outlined for some of the key equipment used in practical lessons. This list should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Some hygiene notices are displayed at sinks. To build on these good practices it is recommended that safety notices are clearly displayed regular intervals around the specialist rooms.
Subject department structures are established in Loreto College and this process is underpinned by a strong commitment to whole-school and subject-specific continuous professional development (CPD). This has ensured that a systematic and pro-active approach is taken to subject planning in Home Economics. It was noted positively that formal records are kept of the key points of information from each CPD course attended by members of the home economics team. This ensures that the information is available to each member of the team. Management facilitates formal meetings on a very regular basis throughout the academic year. An agenda is prepared and minutes are taken at each meeting to ensure that there is good continuity between meetings. The principal meets with the home economics team once a term. This very good practice ensures that there is a cohesive strategy for the long-term development and support of Home Economics in the school.
A professional and committed approach is taken to subject department planning. The position of subject co-ordinator is held by the senior home economics teacher but there are plans to rotate the position from the end of this current academic year. Due to the voluntary nature of the position this change would be good practice It is evident from the minutes of department meetings that there is good collaboration between the home economics team.
Good progress has been made in the development of a subject department folder. While the folder is based on the template devised by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), it has been further adapted to meet the specific needs of the home economics department and the school. This is very good practice. A range of additional resources and teaching aids has been collected and developed to support the teaching and learning of Home Economics. It was noted positively that a list of available resources is documented in the department folder.
The home economics department makes a commendable contribution to the extra-curricular and co-curricular programme that operates in the School. This work results in many vibrant cross-curricular projects with subjects such as Physical Education, Music, Art, Social Education and the modern languages. In addition, studentsí learning is extended beyond the classroom through a range of planned activities such as, field trips to facilitate the completion of coursework assignments and tasks and participation in competitions. The home economics department also plays an integral role in school events. These laudable activities broaden studentsí knowledge and skills in Home Economics, foster a sense of personal and community responsibility and ultimately enhance studentsí enjoyment of the subject. The willingness, generosity and commitment of the home economics staff through their engagement with these activities are acknowledged.
Subject planning demonstrates a commendable commitment to maximise the inclusion of all students in home economics lessons. Planning effectively takes account of the needs of international students in a manner that accommodates studentsí religious beliefs and cultural traditions. Students who have special education needs are provided for through the adaptation of teaching strategies, specifically designed worksheets and differentiated learning outcomes. It is laudable that the school provides the resources during the mock examinations that reflect the reasonable accommodation that candidates may expect in the certificate examinations. This good practice is very beneficial in helping students prepare for the State examinations.
The planned programmes of work that have been developed for each year group display many features of good practice. Each long-term plan is complemented by detailed weekly plans. In some instances the sequence of lesson content is presented as learning outcomes with some very good integration of theoretical knowledge and practical processes. In addition, time for revision and assessment is included. In planning for Leaving Certificate Home Economics it was noted positively that the sequence of work in fifth year is primarily based on the practical coursework assignments, as recommended in the revised syllabus. As a next stage in the continued development of curricular plans, it is recommended that on a phased basis that all plans should be reviewed and modified where necessary to include an outline of expected knowledge and understanding expressed as learning outcomes. This should be completed in a manner that reflects the integrated approach recommended in the home economics syllabuses and should include suitable teaching strategies and homework activities. Curricular planning by its nature is always work in progress. To facilitate regular review it is recommended that the agenda for the end of year planning meeting should include a formal review of each plan. Particular attention should be given to the effectiveness of the range of teaching strategies deployed and learning outcomes achieved for each unit of work.
Planning for the core textiles section of the Junior Certificate syllabus must be reviewed to take full account of current syllabus requirements. Furthermore, to assist students in the development of the higher-order thinking skills of the analysis, interpretation and evaluation of information, it is recommended that opportunities be explored to integrate the design brief process as a teaching and learning strategy from first year. Students, for example could complete a simple folder in tandem with their core textiles work. Occasionally a food studies lesson could be based on a simple design task.
An interesting food studies module is planned for TY that aims to promote learner autonomy, teamwork and co-operation. Assessment of the module is well thought out in terms of some of the skills identified. To further this good work, assessment criteria for the module should be documented. These criteria should be shared with students and form the basis of constructive feedback on the key pieces of project work assigned.
There is considerable interest among the home economics team in developing the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics. It is commendable that as part of home economics lessons, students are brought to the computer room to carry out research on coursework assignments. As the home economics department has shared access to a data projector, consideration should be given by the team to planning for the purchase of a dedicated laptop for Home Economics. This could be funded from the annual budget provided for the subject.
There was good advance planning and preparation for all the lessons observed. This included the advance preparation of a range of resources such as posters, worksheets and handouts. Lessons were well structured and purposeful and in most instances appropriately paced. The good practice of sharing the aim for the lesson with students was noted in all instances. In some instances this practice was developed further by drawing studentsí attention to specific learning outcomes for the lesson. This good practice effectively scaffolded the lesson structure and enabled students to maintain a clear focus throughout the lesson. This is a strategy that should be further encouraged to allow students to consolidate their learning and facilitate their self-evaluation of work.
In the lessons observed there was very good variation in the deployment of teaching strategies to accommodate the various learning styles evident in classes. In all instances very good efforts were made to link the lesson content with previous learning and a commendable concern was shown for studentsí understanding of lesson content. To clarify and reinforce explanations of new concepts deliberate efforts were made to link the topics being taught to the everyday experiences of students. One particularly good example of this occurred in a lesson where authentic menus were used to illustrate the differences between types of menus. The subsequent discussion proved effective in facilitating a deeper understanding of the key concepts being taught. Teachers adopted a visual approach to the teaching of Home Economics through the use of concept bubbles, posters, blackboard illustrations and diagrams. This good practice can be very beneficial in assisting studentsí understanding of difficult concepts and proved most effective in lessons where large and colourful graphics were used. There was some very good practice with regard to highlighting the key words and checking studentsí understanding of the technical language associated with the topics being taught. This should be encouraged further as it helps them develop the necessary linguistic skills in preparation for the written examinations.†
In keeping with the rationale underpinning syllabuses in Home Economics, active teaching methodologies proved effective in engaging students with the lesson content. Questioning was used to very good effect to check understanding and reinforce learning. On occasion, higher order questions challenged students to think more deeply about the topic under discussion. This is laudable practice and its use should be encouraged further. Questioning strategies proved most effective when questions were directed regularly to individual students in order to avoid chorus answering, focus student attention on lesson content and assess individual levels of learning. There was some very good use of role play and cleverly designed worksheets. However, optimal learning was observed in instances where students had adequate prior background information to enable the activity to progress smoothly. Particularly impressive was one lesson where students worked in pairs to assess each otherís knowledge and understanding of the digestive system. This strategy proved effective in engaging students with lesson content and encouraging student collaboration. In another lesson very good use was made of role play to assess students understanding and application of the correct procedures for taking a food order.
Very good procedures were observed for the management and teaching of practical food studies. Due attention was given to the active management of health and safety. There was a commendable balance between whole class teaching, spot demonstrations, individual teaching and student activities. Spot demonstrations proved particularly effective in emphasising the correct techniques for each food preparation process and highlighting the key factors to consider. This teaching strategy could also be used to highlight the integration of other relevant theoretical knowledge such as nutrition. Students displayed a good standard of culinary skills and were competent in following instructions and in the handling and organisation of equipment, given their level of experience and expertise. To build on these good practices consideration should be given, where time permits to including the evaluation of the dish as an integral component of the lesson. This would allow students to develop skills over time in the critical appraisal of dishes or tasks.
Learning activities were generally well managed. Best practice was observed in lessons where clearly established routines were evident. Particularly commendable was the manner in which students were encouraged to take ownership and responsibility for the maintenance of the specialist rooms. Good use was made of praise that affirmed studentsí efforts. Students displayed a sense of security in seeking clarification or assistance during lessons. There were instances where teacher movement around the room worked proved very effective in providing additional opportunities for students to seek individual help in a supportive manner.
Observation of classroom activities and interaction with students during the course of the evaluation indicated that in general they had a very good knowledge and understanding of the key concepts of each lesson. It is reported that some studentsí poor attendance is impacting on their levels of learning and attainment. Attendance is a whole-school issue and management is to be commended for the initiatives being taken to encourage regular attendance and is urged to continue the maintenance of a positive approach to addressing this situation.
Observation of studentsí recent project work in the area of design and craftwork indicated a commendable level of creativity and originality in the interpretation of the design brief. Students displayed a good level of competence in a range of craft and textile skills. Best practice was observed in instances where students, through their interpretation of the design brief, demonstrated very good levels of complexity in their chosen craft skills while at the same time bearing in mind their abilities and level of previous experience. It is worth noting that the chief examinersí reports and associated marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission are very useful for further guidance and advice on the coursework components. These documents are available at www.examinations.ie.
It was noted positively that studentsí achievement in Home Economics is recognised and commemorated. This was apparent from observing the range of colourful photographic displays in and adjacent to the home economics rooms that celebrated studentsí achievements in completing LCA tasks and on the recent completion of the Junior Certificate Food and Culinary Skills examination.
There is a strong culture of formal assessment in Loreto College. Formal examinations are held at Christmas and summer. In addition, students preparing to take the certificate examinations sit mock examinations in the second term. Reports are issued at Christmas, Easter and summer. The results issued at Easter are based on continuous assessment results. It is commendable that the home economics team send out a letter to parents of third-year and Leaving Certificate students regarding the procedures and requirements for the completion of practical coursework.
Summative assessment in Home Economics is primarily based on written examinations. Observation of in-house examination papers set by the home economics team indicated the questions aimed to assess studentsí understanding and application of knowledge. This is good practice. However, care should be taken to avoid the over use of short answer style questions to allow students develop skills over time in the answering of long answer questions. To build on the good practices already evident consideration should be given to listing the marks awarded for each part of the question on all examination papers. This approach has the advantage of training students in the interpretation of marking schemes, and in other examination techniques such as the timing and the depth of treatment required in answering examination questions. †
As the certificate examinations in Home Economics consist of a written examination and an assessment of practical coursework components, it is recommended that the range of assessment modes used in Home Economics should be extended to include where feasible an assessment of †all relevant practical coursework.† Grades of achievement could be issued to students at key times during the school year and could contribute towards an aggregate mark that reflects achievement in all examinable components of the syllabus. This would provide a more accurate indicator of each studentís achievements in the subject. The relevant marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission should inform the assessment criteria used.
Formative assessment is carried out on an on-going basis through oral questioning, homework assignments and the monitoring and observation of studentsí practical and project work. Written class tests are administered at regular intervals. Records of test results, class attendance and homework completed are systematically recorded in the teachersí diaries. This good practice helps to build an informative profile of studentsí progress and achievement in the subject over time, which is useful when providing advice to students on examination levels for the state examinations.
Homework is regarded as an essential tool to reinforce and encourage student learning and a range of homework activities is assigned regularly in home economics lessons. In cases where students were preparing to sit the certificate examinations good emphasis was placed on reviewing †past examination papers. †As the regular assignment of homework and the checking of studentsí written homework exercises, key assignments and project work are important elements of the formative assessment process, it is recommended that the homework policy for Home Economics should be reviewed. This would ensure that the range of homework activities assigned to all year groups includes regular opportunities for students to develop the writing skills to tackle long-answer style questions that require analysis, interpretation and the application of knowledge.
Observation of some student copybooks indicated that quite good progress is being made. The system adopted for the storage and filing of LCA key assignments is particularly laudable. There was some very good practice evident in the monitoring of studentsí work. Useful teacher comments in copybooks provided valuable feedback for students on their progress and affirmed work being well done. This good practice is encouraged further, as regular constructive feedback enhances learning by informing students about their own individual progress, highlights areas for improvement and ultimately assists students to reach their full potential. This practice is illustrative of some of the principles that underpin Assessment for Learning (AfL). Further information of AfL is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessmentís website at www.ncca.ie. When reviewing the homework policy consideration should be given as how to balance the amount of homework being assigned with the provision of constructive feedback. The subsequent responsibilities of students on receipt of this marked work should also be discussed.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Home Economics is a vibrant subject on the schoolís curriculum, as evidenced by the very good participation rates in junior and senior cycle.
∑ The subject benefits from a very good level of provision and whole-school support.
∑ Subject department structures are established in Loreto College and this process is underpinned by a strong commitment to whole-school and subject-specific CPD.
∑ The school adopts a student-centred approach to subject choice.
∑ There is considerable interest among the home economics team to develop the potential of ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics.
∑ The home economics department makes a commendable contribution to the extra-curricular and co-curricular programme in the school.
∑ Subject planning demonstrates a commendable commitment to maximise the inclusion of all students in home economics lessons.
∑ Short-term planning was good for all the lessons observed, with some commendable use of active teaching strategies that accommodated the various student learning styles evident in classes.
∑ Student achievement in Home Economics is recognised and commemorated through a range of colourful photographic displays in and adjacent to the home economics rooms.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ The access to the newly re-furbished kitchen for home economics classes should be reviewed to ensure that maximum use is made of this excellent facility for practical food studies lessons.
∑ Health and safety notices should be clearly displayed regular intervals around the specialist rooms.
∑ Planning for the Junior Certificate core textiles should be reviewed.
∑ The range of assessment modes used in Home Economics should be extended to include, where feasible, an assessment of the relevant practical coursework components.
∑ The homework policy for Home Economics should be reviewed.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the home economics department and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.