An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE)
Coláiste Eamann Rís
Callan, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 61510R
Date of inspection: 28-29 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Civic Social And Political Education (CSPE)
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Eamann Rís, Callan. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE) 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector 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 and subject teachers. 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.
Coláiste Eamann Rís is a voluntary secondary school with 202 male students. CSPE is a compulsory subject for all students at junior cycle. Information about CSPE is communicated to parents at the school’s annual open night and also at the induction meeting held in August for parents of incoming first-year students. This is good practice as it makes parents aware of the demands and expectations of a subject that may be less familiar than others. Students are taught CSPE in mixed-ability groupings, which is good practice, given the common syllabus and examination for Junior Certificate.
There is good whole school support and provision for CSPE in relation to the allocation of time and timetabling. Classes have one period per week for the subject and teachers are normally assigned to CSPE on the basis of preference or willingness to teach the subject. All teachers of CSPE have their classes for another subject, and every effort is made to ensure that the students retain the same teacher throughout the three years of junior cycle. School management is commended for this provision as it allows teachers flexibility in swapping lessons when students are working on their action projects, and also ensures continuity for students over the three years.
There are currently four teachers involved in the teaching of CSPE in the school, all of whom are either arts or business graduates. School management has commendably facilitated professional development for CSPE in recent years, including one inservice course which was held in the school for all teachers of the subject. Some have also benefited from the inservice training provided for co-ordinators of CSPE, and from courses on action projects and the completion of the Course-Work Assessment Book (CWAB) and the Report on an Action Project (RAP). Teachers who are new to the subject meet with the CSPE coordinator or the principal and are made aware of all the resources available to them. They are also advised of any inservice training available to them and are facilitated to attend. This commitment to continued professional development for CSPE by both school management and teachers is commended.
Most teachers of CSPE have a base classroom, while the others are afforded the opportunity to work in a CSPE-based classroom. This is good practice. Most classrooms visited had a print-rich environment with posters and samples of students’ work on the walls. This is commended as it facilitates the assimilation of learning over time in addition to supporting more visually oriented learners. Furthermore, the posting up of students’ projects is an effective means of affirming their work and progress. It is recommended that in classrooms where it doesn’t currently exist, teachers organise a photo gallery of public figures to familiarise students with them in preparation for their Junior Certificate examination. Students themselves should be encouraged to source these pictures and photographs.
There is good provision of resources, which are provided on request to school management. The resources are well organised and kept in a press in the staff room affording easy access to all. Secure storage is also provided for students’ examination work. Some information and communication technology (ICT) facilities are available in the school including access to the computer room on a booking system, internet access in all classrooms, and availability of a data projector. Students are given the names of useful websites for research purposes and are, on occasions, allowed use ICT in the classroom when researching work. However, apart from this, there is limited use of ICT as a tool for whole-class teaching and learning in CSPE. It is recommended that teachers extend their use of ICT with simple concept-related PowerPoint presentations and current affairs items downloaded from the internet.
Active citizenship, which is central to the aims of the CSPE programme, is fostered in the school through raising students’ awareness of community, national, third-world and environmental issues. The school and students of CSPE have been involved in a tree-planting ceremony during tree week. Classes have also collaborated to organise mock elections. Students’ involvement in fundraising for Bóthar arose from the visit of a guest speaker from the organisation. The school makes an annual visit to a prison as part of the students’ action projects. The school has forged strong links with the local Camphill community for persons with intellectual disabilities. Not all of these activities are directly part of the CSPE programme. However, students’ involvement in all fundraising activities indicates the scope for cross-curricular influence in promoting active citizenship. The commitment of school management, staff and students to active citizenship is highly commended. Students’ projects are displayed at the school’s annual open night, thus informing parents and incoming students of the work involved in the subject.
Coláiste Eamann Rís is currently involved in whole school development planning and teachers have engaged in subject planning as part of this process. There is a CSPE coordinator, a position which is currently not rotated as the coordinator has received training for the coordination of the subject. The principal, who is also a teacher of CSPE, is presently coordinating the subject, to ensure the smooth running of the department while the coordinator is on leave. Given the onerous duties of a school principal it is recommended that the work of coordination be passed on to another member of the CSPE department. Consideration should also be given, in time, to training up other CSPE teachers for the purposes of rotating the position of coordinator. School management facilitates meetings at the beginning of the school year and a planning day later in the first term. Teachers also meet informally throughout the year. There is a planning folder which contains exemplars of standards and minutes of meetings held by the teachers of CSPE. This is good practice.
A review of planning documentation compiled over the years indicates a strong commitment to collaborative planning for best practice. The members of the CSPE department have used the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) template, and have developed it further in order to reflect their work in establishing desired learning outcomes for the students in relation to the concepts being studied. This emphasis on learning outcomes is highly commended. There were also some very well-organised schemes of work relating to the teaching and learning of some of the concepts contained in the syllabus. These plans highlighted the issues to be raised, noted useful websites and included the tasks and worksheets to support both teachers and students in their work. This is highly commended. It is recommended that similar work schemes be developed for the other concepts.
There was evidence of careful planning and preparation for the lessons observed with the advance readiness of relevant materials.
Inspection activities included the observation of four lessons, one in first year, one in second year and two in third year. There was also the opportunity to interact with the students at the end of each lesson and to review their copies.
Lessons were well structured and paced and the content was appropriate to the interests and abilities of the students. In all instances, the lesson plan was shared with the students at the beginning. This is good practice as it engages the students from the outset. It is recommended that this good practice be reframed in terms of the proposed learning outcome for the lesson, thereby making students aware of their role in the learning process. Teachers in some lessons also reminded students of the concept being studied. This is good practice and should be extended to all lessons.
Question and answer sessions were effectively used throughout and teachers made sure that all students were given the opportunity to answer. There were some very good examples of higher-order questions which encouraged students to think for themselves. In some lessons, however, the use of higher-order questions should have been extended to initiate more class discussion of issues related to the concepts being studied. Teachers should also elicit from students what they already know in advance of introducing a new topic or concept, as this can advance the pace of the lesson.
There was very good use of the board to support teaching and learning. Work was clearly tabulated and, in some instances, a brainstorming format was very resourcefully used to engage the students in a review of all the work completed to date on the concept being studied. In other instances a colourful poster was used to fill in answers arising from individual work. This was later posted up on the wall of the classroom, thereby supporting the ongoing assimilation of new material over time, in addition to responding to the needs of more visually-oriented learners.
A good balance between teacher direction and student activity was observed in some lessons. The use of student-based tasks is very good practice as they promote active and independent learning and are particularly appropriate to the aims and objectives of the CSPE programme. However, when planning for student-based activities, teachers need to remain mindful of the purpose of the activity, as some tasks may be more fulfilling if completed individually. In these instances, an individual activity could be followed by a group discussion and the subsequent sharing of ideas and opinions. In other lessons greater use of a variety of student-based tasks is recommended as a means of furthering student engagement.
In some of the lessons observed students were engaged in writing up their RAPs as partial fulfilment of their examination requirements. These were due to be submitted for their examination two days later. It is recommended that, where possible, this work be completed in the week or two before the final date to cater for students who may be unavoidably absent in the week prior to submission.
There was good classroom management throughout. Students applied themselves to the tasks assigned and their participation in the lessons indicated good levels of engagement and understanding of the work in hand. This was also evident in their interactions with the inspector. In addition, the work completed in one lesson revealed the extent of the learning accrued from the visit of a guest speaker, one of the activities engaged in as part of an action project. A member of the Garda Siochána pays an annual visit to the school to speak to the CSPE students about the law and law enforcement. There was evidence in the follow-up lesson observed that this visit had proved to be a very beneficial and enjoyable learning experience.
Student progress is assessed in a variety of ways including question and answer sessions, homework and research assignments, and examinations. There was evidence that homework was given and corrected with dates and comments included in many instances. This commendable practice of including a comment should be extended to all, as it is an effective means of affirming students and informing them of their progress. A review of some copies however, indicated a variation in the number of assignments completed or recorded by students. Given the action-based nature of homework assignments for CSPE, it is important that students include a record or note in their copies of all work assigned, including research and that it is monitored by the teacher on a regular basis. Students should also be encouraged to build up a photo gallery of relevant individuals in their copies which can support them in the final stage of revision. The time allocation for CSPE does not facilitate regular class tests. However, students sit formal tests at Christmas and in the summer. Certificate examination students sit mock examinations. Teachers also reported that students engage in a range of small projects, in addition to one major action project, each year. The choice between the completion of the CWAB or the RAP remains with the individual teacher. Students in the current year have completed a RAP for their Junior Certificate examination. Results for CSPE are included in school reports which are sent out to parents twice yearly.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is good whole school support and provision for CSPE in the allocation of time, timetabling and access to continued professional development.
· The members of the CSPE department are at an advanced stage in the subject planning process.
· A variety of methodologies was observed and these were employed to good effect.
· A range of commendable co-curricular initiatives is in place to support the aims and objectives of the CSPE programme
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Teachers should extend the use of ICT in the classroom with simple concept-related PowerPoint presentations and current affairs items downloaded from the internet.
· Teachers should extend their repertoire of well-organised schemes of work to cover all the concepts to be studied.
· Greater use should be made of higher-order questions in some lessons to initiate more class discussion of issues related to the concepts being studied.
· The timing for the completion of the RAPs should ensure that all students have the opportunity to complete them before the due date for submission
· Students should include in their copies a record or note of all homework assignments including research.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of CSPE and with the principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published December 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The deadline for the completion of the RAPs will be set in light of the comments in the report.
Students have been and will be reminded to include in their copies a record of all homework assignments including research.
The use of ICT in the classroom will be flagged to the Board of Management to consider in terms of the school budget.