An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Roll number: 60840K
Date of inspection: 22 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Maryfield College, Dumcondra. 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 teachers. The inspectors 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, deputy principal and relevant staff. The board of management of the school was given an 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 of this report.
Maryfield College, Drumcondra is an all girls’ secondary school with an enrolment of 634 students. The curricular programmes on offer in the school are: the Junior Certificate (JC), the Transition Year (TY) programme, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate established (LC). German is offered in all curricular programmes.
In Maryfield College first-year students are offered a choice between German and French. This choice is made prior to entry. Approximately one third of students in junior cycle choose German. Study of a modern European language is mandatory in the school and this is to be commended. Previously students had the possibility of sampling optional subjects (with the exception of languages) in first year. This system was discontinued and students now make all choices regarding optional subjects prior to entry to the school. A board of studies is being established in the school to review curriculum provision. This is commendable. It is recommended that the manner in which choice of language in junior cycle is made in advance of enrolment be kept under review. The possibility of a small taster programme in modern languages should be considered.
The school has many resources, such as books, CDs and magazines to support the teaching and learning of German. There is an annual budget for the purchase of resources. In the current academic year sets of dictionaries were bought. This is a most effective use of the allocation for German as training students in the use of dictionaries is a vital skill in language learning. It was noted that access to a TV and DVD player was not easy in one of the base classrooms which is situated on the first floor of the building. It is suggested that, resources permitting, access to a TV and DVD in this classroom be reviewed, as their use in language teaching is extremely beneficial. It is recommended that an inventory of resources be compiled and included in the planning documentation. This will ensure that resources are regularly updated and reviewed. This inventory will also inform planning for use of such resources.
Maryfield College has one computer room. Students of German have some access to this room. However it was reported that there is heavy demand for use of the room and it is not always possible to have as much access as would be desirable to this facility. It is recommended that, according as resources permit, ways be sought to increase the provision of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the school. The board of management introduced a grant to enable members of staff to purchase laptops. This has proved very successful. Members of the German department have availed of this grant and the use of a laptop for preparing work sheets for students was impressive.
There is a good time allocation for the subject. This is praiseworthy. First-year students have four class periods of German. The provision for German in second, third, fifth and sixth year is five class periods. In TY three class periods are allocated to German. There are two base classrooms available for German. These were well decorated. Posters, maps and student work were on display. This is very good practice and enhances the learning environment.
The German department comprises a group of committed teachers. Some members have acted as oral examiners in the certificate examinations. Teachers also attend seminars and conferences pertaining to the teaching and learning of German. Such dedication is laudable and benefits students. A school membership of the German teachers’ association, Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (GDI), is paid for by the board of management and indicates the board’s commitment to the subject.
There are some co-curricular activities to support German. Students are encouraged to take part in language exchanges. On average every second year a trip to a German-speaking destination is organised. Students are brought to see German films and have also had opportunities to taste German food through activities organised in the school.
The school is engaged in development planning and this process is co-ordinated by the senior management team. There is currently no co-ordinator of school development planning in place. The German department meets formally once per term at a time allocated by management. At present there are no formal structures in place for liaising with senior management. It is suggested that formal procedures be put in place and that the minutes of the planning meetings including decisions taken be recorded and passed to senior management. In between formal meetings a lot of informal meetings and effective co-operation take place. This is good practice and to be commended.
Long-term planning documentation was presented in the course of the evaluation. This was good and included information on curricular content in all years. It is recommended that these plans be developed to include details of intended learning outcomes for students. Student learning outcomes should be specified in terms of the skills of language acquisition, that is, what is expected of the learner in terms of aural and reading comprehension and in terms of written and oral production. The long-term plans for German take into account the differentiated needs of the students. Strategies for use in class and in assessment have been identified. This is very good practice and to be commended.
The planning documentation for German does not make any detailed references to the use of ICT in the German programme. It was reported in the course of the inspection that students of German are brought to the computer room. It is therefore important that this aspect of the teaching and learning of German be included in the planning documentation. In this context it would be useful to include a list of useful websites suitable for learning German.
The plan for German in TY outlines the aims, objectives and the content which will be taught in the course of the programme. The plan also refers to some cross-curricular links with Geography and History. It is recommended that the cross-curricular content be further developed and links with other subjects and modules in the TY programme be developed. It is also recommended that a section on evaluation of the German programme in TY be included in the plans in accordance with the brochure Writing the Transition Year programme which is available on the website of the Second Level Support Service at www.slss.ie.
A variety of effective teaching methodologies were employed. There was good integration of the skills of language acquisition: reading, writing, speaking and listening in all lessons observed. This is good practice as it allows for the reinforcement of the language. Pair work was used very frequently as a methodology in lessons observed. This is effective practice.
Good use of resources was made. In a lesson observed students were shown a clip of a comedy film in German related to the theme of skiing holidays. Students clearly enjoyed this and engaged very readily with the topic. Other materials such as dictionaries and flash cards were used to good effect. Handouts used in lessons were of a very high standard. Some of these contained nice images which enhanced their usefulness. All handouts were produced on computer, which ensured their clarity. The use of resources as observed in the course of the evaluation is laudable.
The skill of listening was developed in all lessons. This is good practice and to be commended. In a lesson observed, the task associated with the listening activity was well explained in advance and the learners were clear about what the task involved. This is praiseworthy and should be extended to all lessons. It is recommended that, when teaching this essential skill of language acquisition, teachers circulate to assess how students are getting on with the task. In some lessons the content of the listening comprehension appeared rather easy for the students. This will be established more easily through teacher circulation. In order to facilitate such circulation it would be most useful if the remote control supplied with the CD players could be used by teachers.
Teacher use of the target language was very good. German was used as the medium of communication to manage learning activities. This is to be highly commended. Student use of the target language was good overall. In interaction with the inspector, students showed good levels of comprehension and were able to respond appropriately. In one lesson observed, students were asked general questions in German at the outset. This is effective and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to all lessons. The use of general questions on familiar topics helps to build students’ confidence in the use of the target language.
Lesson content in all lessons was appropriately chosen and matched the requirements of the syllabus. In order to build on this good practice it is recommended that all lessons include a specific amount of new vocabulary according to the level of the students. In lessons observed the pace could have been a little faster. Establishing specific learning outcomes as recommended under planning, above, will help to ensure that the pace of lessons is improved. Materials such as photocopies of tasks and vocabulary were used effectively to support teaching and learning.
The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was good. The nature of student-teacher interactions was positive. Students’ efforts were affirmed. Where errors were made these were corrected with sensitivity. It was clear that teachers and students had a good rapport. The environment in the classrooms was conducive to learning. This is commendable.
Formal assessment takes place at Christmas and in the summer. The students are assessed in reading, writing and listening. Currently there is no formal or informal oral assessment at any level. Such assessment should be undertaken. In the state examinations, the oral assessment counts for twenty-five per cent at higher level. This represents a significant percentage of the marks. It is important therefore that students receive formal oral assessments in order to ensure that any weaknesses or areas for development of the oral skill be ascertained. In view of the expertise on the staff regarding oral assessment in the certificate examinations, the developmental feedback students would receive would be very beneficial. It is recommended that oral assessment take place at all levels. In the junior cycle very short oral assessments can take place within lessons. It is recommended that ways be sought to facilitate oral assessment at senior cycle outside of lesson time.
The school has a homework policy. In the course of the evaluation homework was assigned in most of the lessons observed. It is recommended that homework be given in each lesson in line with the school’s homework policy. In the course of the evaluation some students in all lessons did not have copybooks with them in class. This is not optimal practice. It is recommended that strategies be developed to ensure that students bring all necessary copybooks to class every day. A sample of copybooks was viewed on the day of the evaluation. Students had completed many homework tasks over a period of time. There was evidence to suggest that homework was monitored and corrected. It is recommended that the good practice of signing and dating homework be extended. It was noted that on occasion students do not follow up on errors made. It is recommended that strategies be developed to ensure this is done. It is also recommend that the principles of assessment for learning (AfL) be adopted. Further information on the approach of AfL can be obtained at the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is good whole-school support for German.
· There is good collaboration between members of the German team.
· A variety of effective teaching methodologies were employed and teacher use of the target language was very good.
· The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was good and the rapport between teachers and students was positive.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A review of resources should be undertaken with particular reference to access for students of German to ICT facilities and audio-visual equipment such as a TV and DVD.
· It is recommended that learner outcomes in terms of the skills of language acquisition be included in the planning documentation.
· It is recommended that the pace of lessons be increased and a specific amount of new material be covered in lessons, particularly in senior cycle.
· It is recommended that oral assessment be introduced on a formal basis in the school and that senior management support this.
· It is recommended that the approach of assessment for learning be adopted and that students be required to follow up on errors made.
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 September 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the report as an affirmation of the strengths of German teaching in the school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
1. The Board has agreed the provision of further IT capacity within the school from which the German department can expect to benefit greatly.
2. Oral assessment of German on a panel basis was introduced at all levels for the summer examination and will be feature of German exams for the future.