An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Crumlin, Dublin 12
Roll number: 60841M
Date of inspection: 29 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Rosary College. 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 teachers. 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 department. 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.
Rosary College is a co-educational voluntary secondary school under the trusteeship of the Religious Sisters of Charity. Home Economics is an integral part of all of the curricular programmes offered in the school.
There is a good level of whole-school support for Home Economics. Official subject documentation is disseminated promptly and teachers are facilitated to attend appropriate continuous professional development courses (CPD). School development planning is underway in Rosary College. This process is being facilitated by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). Formal subject department planning is at an early stage of development in Home Economics. The willingness and commitment of the home economics department in embracing this process is acknowledged and commended. To advance subject planning further, it is recommended that management facilitates some formal planning time for the purposes of subject planning as part of the calendar of staff meetings.
The school endeavours to adopt a student-centred approach to subject choice. Students participate in a taster programme throughout first year. This commendable initiative facilitates more informed subject choices. It is also evident that it has been instrumental in reducing gender bias in relation to subject choice, as evidenced by the good uptake of Home Economics among the male student cohort. At this stage consideration should be given to reviewing the current arrangements for the operation of the taster programme. Home Economics is in an option pool with Art and French. Every first-year student studies each subject for one double class per week for only eleven weeks in first year. Students make a final decision on subject choices for their Junior Certificate at the end of the year. This arrangement presents significant challenges in ensuring effective continuity in teaching and learning as students have limited exposure to Home Economics. The current timetabled allocation of one double period per week is impeding progress through the home economics syllabus, as evidenced by the fact that there is insufficient time to cover one section of the Junior Certificate syllabus namely the core textiles practical coursework. Best practice occurs when Junior Certificate classes are allocated the equivalent of four class periods per week for Home Economics. While is it recognised that the allocation of a fifth class period in third year attempts to redress some of this imbalance, it is very difficult to develop studentsí practical skills with the current arrangements. Consideration should be given to running a shorter taster programme for just part of the academic year or reviewing the number of class periods allocated to the optional subjects in first year to allow for the incremental development of knowledge and skills over the three years of the junior-cycle programme. Uptake of Junior Certificate Home Economics is good. It is laudable that the option pools at the end of first year are generated from studentsí preferences and that every effort is made to accommodate students in their subject selection. This good practice ensures that the curriculum programme offered meets the needs of each student cohort.
Two senior-cycle programmes, the established Leaving Certificate programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) are offered in Rosary College. Hotel, Catering and Tourism is a vibrant vocational specialism in LCA. Leaving Certificate option bands are once again generated from studentsí preferences and every effort is made to accommodate all students in their subject selection. Uptake of Leaving Certificate Home Economics has varied in recent years as it is dependent on firstly the number of students who select the Leaving Certificate programme, and then on the number who select Home Economics. There is currently no Leaving Certificate Home Economics class in fifth year as the majority of that particular student cohort progressed into LCA, and the number of Leaving Certificate students who chose Home Economics was too small to create a viable class. This situation needs to be monitored closely. The home economics department, in consultation with management, is encouraged to explore strategies to promote the subject for Leaving Certificate.
Teaching time, with the exception of first year is in line with syllabus requirements. There is a very good spread of classes throughout the week, thus facilitating effective continuity in teaching and learning.
There is just one specialist room for Home Economics. This room operates as a dual-purpose room for practical lessons in food studies as well as design and craft work. The room is in significant need of an upgrade. It was noted during the course of the evaluation that some press doors are missing or hanging off their hinges, some floor tiles are missing and the formica is lifting off some of the worktops. In addition, the mechanical ventilation system has not been working for some time. These are potential health and safety hazards that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Therefore it is recommended that the home economics department in consultation with the senior management team and the board of management explore strategies that would address these issues as resources permit. It is laudable that the board of management have recently undertaken a needs analysis of resource issues throughout the school. The necessary upgrading of the specialist room has been highlighted to the board by the home economics department.
A range of additional resources is available to support the teaching and learning of Home Economics. The home economics department has access to a television and DVD player as well as to an overhead projector. Management is commended for the system introduced to update resources. Each department is requested to carry out an annual needs analysis to establish the level of resources required. This information is then discussed with the principal who allocates an annual budget to the subject department. This good practice should ensure that home economics students have access to an adequate range of updated resource books necessary for the coursework research. The annual budget should also accommodate essential upgrading and servicing of the specialist equipment on a phased basis. The school operates a book rental scheme to support student learning. It was noted positively that the Junior Certificate text book for Home Economics, which hadnít been updated in some time, was replaced this year. This is commended as it is essential that students have access to updated information in order to maximise their learning in Home Economics.
Students of Home Economics have access to information and communications technology (ICT). Observation of studentsí coursework indicated some effective use of ICT in the completion of coursework tasks. The use of ICT as a tool to progress the LCA task is particularly noteworthy. This very good practice is encouraged as ICT is a useful tool to engage students in the independent and guided research that is appropriate to the coursework requirements in Home Economics.††
A whole-school insurance audit was carried out last year. There is a whole-school health and safety policy which is due for review. It is commendable that all members of staff have opportunities to feed into such a review. In the lessons observed due care was given to health and safety procedures in Home Economics. To build on good practices already evident it is recommended that the home economics department in consultation with school management develop a health and safety statement for Home Economics. This safety statement should include systematic procedures to highlight potential hazards and prioritise maintenance issues. Such procedures would assist in the upkeep of specialist equipment and facilities. In addition, clear safety notices should be displayed in the home economics room.
Formal subject department planning is at an early stage of development. The home economics department, in advancing a subject plan for Home Economics, may find the support materials produced by the Home Economics Support Service for subject planning very useful. This information can be downloaded at www.homeeconomics.ie. †
A committed approach is being adopted to long-term planning for home economics lessons. Some good work is evident in the schemes of work that have been developed for all year groups. Each scheme outlines a list of topics that are time bound in terms of the number of weeks that is spent on each area. Relevant coursework guidelines and some resource materials are systematically filed for ease of reference. This is good practice. It is also commendable that clear routines for the certificate practical examinations are also established. Good practice was noted in the revision plan that has been devised for the Leaving Certificate class. It is laudable that each scheme of work is monitored regularly. Subject planning by its nature is always work in progress and will therefore demonstrate room for continual development. It is recommended that on a phased basis each scheme is developed further to outline studentsí expected knowledge and understanding in terms of expected learning outcomes. The lesson content of all plans should be sequenced in a manner that reflects the integrated approach recommended in all home economics syllabuses and fosters the incremental progression of knowledge and skills. Information on suitable teaching and learning strategies, assessment activities and resources should also be included. This work should be completed on a phased basis, perhaps one junior and one senior cycle plan per year. The provision of dedicated formal planning time would greatly facilitate this process.
In planning for the Junior Certificate programme it is recommended that the implementation of the practical coursework section for the core textiles section of the Junior Certificate syllabus be reviewed. Students should be afforded an opportunity to make complete items that will facilitate the development of key practical textile skills in preparation for undertaking the optional study. Consideration should be given to the completion of a simple scrapbook or folder in tandem with the textile work in first or second year, which outlines key stages of the design brief process. This would enable students to develop essential knowledge and skills over time, in the areas of task investigation, problem solving, planning and evaluation. These are key skills underpinning some of the assessment objectives of the certificate examinations in Home Economics. This practice would also provide opportunities to integrate theory and practice.
A commendable range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are planned as part of the teaching and learning programme in Home Economics. These practices are commended as they broaden studentsí knowledge and skills, as well as enhancing their enjoyment of the subject. The LCA cross-curricular project in association with the art department that was observed during the course of the evaluation is particularly laudable.
A range of lessons was observed during the course of the evaluation and it is evident that a committed approach is being adopted to teaching and learning in Home Economics. A very positive learning environment permeated all of the lessons observed. Classroom management was very good in all instances and there was a commendable emphasis placed on encouraging and affirming positive classroom interactions among the students.
Short-term planning for the lessons observed was good. There was some good advance preparation of additional resources to support studentsí learning. All lessons had a clear focus and were generally paced and pitched at a level that was appropriate to studentsí needs. To enhance these good practices, it is recommended that when planning lessons, particular attention should be given to presenting information in a manner that integrates theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Such an approach assists students to establish links between topics and apply their theoretical knowledge to practical skills. This is very good preparation for the integrated nature of some of the examination questions in the certificate examinations.
In each lesson observed the home economics teacher displayed a very good level of subject knowledge and a commendable emphasis was placed on attention to detail in the explanations given. Explanations were clear and accurate. Good use was made of questioning strategies to assess studentsí recall and understanding of lesson content. At times when the students sought clarification in lessons, higher-order questioning techniques were used to good effect to encourage students to analyse and apply the information taught in the lesson. This very good practice encouraged students to think for themselves and solve problems in a manner that avoided an over-reliance on teacher-led answers. It is commendable that students recorded the key points of information into their notebooks. However, to accommodate a wider variety of student learning styles it is recommended that the practice of dictating information to students for inclusion in their notebooks should be avoided. To facilitate the development of studentsí literacy skills resources such as the classroom board should be used to record key points of information. The use of mind maps, which are a very useful tool to present summarised information in a visually attractive and easy to read format could be considered. Mind maps can also be used to highlight the interrelationships between topics.
In the practical lessons observed there was a laudable balance between whole-class teaching, spot demonstrations and individual student support. Very good routines for practical lessons were evident. The classroom board was used to good effect to assist students as they prepared their work units and ingredients for the lesson. Students demonstrated a good standard of culinary skills and clearly established safety and hygiene routines were evident. There was some good use of spot demonstrations to demonstrate key food preparation processes. The potential use of this teaching strategy should be considered further as a means of refining and emphasising key food preparation techniques for all of the students in the class. It was noted during the course of the evaluation that a number of students had brought in no ingredients for the practical lesson. This impacted negatively on their ability to participate fully in the lesson. This is a whole-school issue. As practical examinations in food studies carry a significant weighting in the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and LCA examinations, it is recommended that management, in consultation with the home economics department, address this issue. Strategies that provide a mechanism to subsidise the cost of the ingredients could be considered.
There was a very good rapport between the students and the teacher in all of the lessons observed. Students displayed a commendable willingness to participate in all class activities and very good use was made of praise to affirm studentsí efforts. The practice of the teacher moving around the room during lessons ensured that students had an additional opportunity to seek individual help and clarification in a supportive structure.
Observation of studentsí recent project work in the area of design and craftwork indicates a good level of creativity in the appropriate craft skills. Best practice was observed in instances where students demonstrated a good level of complexity in their chosen craft and textile skills. In the case of the LCA task, it is particularly laudable that students complete the task folder as they progress through each stage of the practical task. It is worth noting that the chief examinersí reports and the 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.
Observation of student notebooks indicated some good progression in their work. Good practice was evident in instances where students recorded notes on theory and practical food studies in a systematic way. This practice should be encouraged with all students. A well-kept notebook that includes key points of information covered in theoretical and practical lessons and allows for the systematic storage of any handouts and worksheets distributed in class overtime would be a very useful learning aid and revision tool for all students.
Studentsí progress in Home Economics is assessed and monitored on an on-going basis through oral questioning, the use of worksheets and revision questions, as well as the continuous monitoring of studentsí practical and project work. In addition class tests are administered at regular intervals. Records of studentsí attendance and punctuality, class tests and participation in practical lessons are recorded systematically in the teacherís journal. This good practice helps to build a profile of studentsí progress and achievement in the subject over time and is a useful evidence base when providing advice to students on examination levels for the state examinations. To enhance the profile, progress in homework assignments should also be recorded.
The type and range of homework activities assigned is a very important element of the formative assessment process. In order to explore the full potential of homework assignments in Home Economics, it is recommended that a subject-specific homework policy be developed. Particular attention should be given to the range of homework activities assigned to each year group and how best to balance the amount of homework assigned with the provision of constructive feedback to all students. The range of homework assigned should ensure that all students have regular opportunities to develop skills in the wide range of question styles typical of the certificate examinations in Home Economics. The policy should also address procedures regarding the completion of homework. In this context the practice of not allowing some students to take home the text book that is part of the book rental scheme needs to be considered carefully. It is essential that students have adequate information to empower them to complete homework exercises. In instances where there are serious non-compliance issues consideration could be given to developing further in-class opportunities for students to complete work which can then be taken up and monitored.
There was some good practice evident in the assigning and monitoring of homework, particularly at senior-cycle. Useful teacher comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. These good practices are encouraged further to enhance learning by informing students about their own progress and highlighting areas for improvement. This ultimately challenges and assists students to reach their full potential. Further information on Assessment for Learning (AfL) is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website at www.ncca.ie.
Formal in-house examinations are held at Christmas and in the summer. Students preparing for the certificate examination take mock examinations in the second term. Student progress is communicated to parents through written reports and at parent-teacher meetings. The student journal and the telephone are also used as additional modes of communication. At present the result for Home Economics that is issued on the school reports is based primarily on a written paper. As the certificate examinations in Home Economics consist of a written examination and an assessment of relevant coursework components, it is recommended that the range of assessment modes used in Home Economics be extended to include, were feasible, an assessment of the relevant practical coursework components. This would mean that grades issued to students at key times during the school year would provide an aggregate mark that reflects achievement in practical and written elements of the syllabus. This would be a more accurate indicator of the studentís ability in the subject. The relevant marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission should inform the assessment criteria used. This revised strategy may encourage other students to take the higher level option for the Junior Certificate Examination in Home Economics as during the course of the evaluation it was reported that it is difficult to encourage students to take higher-level Home Economics. Other strategies that, in the medium term, would judiciously increase student aspirations and result in a larger cohort of students opting to take the higher-level option for the Junior Certificate Examination in Home Economics should be considered, while at the same time keeping in mind student abilities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Home Economics is an integral part of all curricular programmes in the school. Junior-cycle uptake is particularly good.
∑ Hotel, Catering and Tourism is a vibrant vocational specialism in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.
∑ The school adopts a student-centred approach to subject choice.
∑ There is a very good spread of classes throughout the week, thus facilitating effective continuity in teaching and learning.
∑ A range of additional resources is available to support the teaching and learning of Home Economics. Management is commended for the budgetary system introduced to update resources.
∑ Observation of studentsí coursework indicated some effective use of ICT in the completion of LCA coursework tasks.††
∑ A committed approach is being adopted to teaching and learning in Home Economics.
∑ A very positive learning environment permeated all lessons observed. There was a commendable emphasis placed on encouraging and affirming positive classroom interactions.†
∑ In the practical lessons observed there was a laudable balance between whole-class teaching, spot demonstrations and individual student support.
∑ Good records are kept of studentsí progress in Home Economics.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ A health and safety policy should be developed for Home Economics.
∑ Subject planning for Home Economics needs to be developed further. Management should facilitate this process through the provision of formal planning time as part of the calendar of staff meetings.
∑ Planning for the core textiles section of the Junior Certificate syllabus needs to be reviewed.
∑ Planning for lessons should focus on presenting information in an integrated manner as recommended in the home economics syllabuses. The range of teaching strategies deployed should accommodate the various student learning styles.
∑ Strategies that assess studentsí learning in Home Economics need to be reviewed and extended.
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.
Published September 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1†† Observations on the content of the inspection report†† ††
The Board agrees that the report is a fair assessment and welcomes the strengths identified in the evaluation
Area 2†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
†††††††††††††† activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection. †††
A Health and Safety Policy for Home Economics is currently being developed.† The upgrading of the Home Economics Area is considered a priority.† Major refurbishment will be dependent on sanctioned grant aid.