An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Design and Communication Graphics,
Technical Graphics and Materials Technology (Wood)
Meánscoil na mBráithre
Inis Díomáin, County Clare
Roll number: 61940T
Date of inspection: 16 September 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Design and Communication Graphics, Technical Graphics and Materials Technology (Wood)
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Meánscoil na mBráithre, Inis Díomáin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Design and Communication Graphics (DCG), Technical Graphics (TG) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects 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 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 the subject teachers. The board of management 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.
Meánscoil na mBráithre
offers a broad education to boys from Ennistymon and
its surrounding rural hinterland. A Catholic voluntary secondary school
under the trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST), the school
represents a tradition of Christian Brothers’ education in the town which began
in 1824. Students are provided with a good choice of technology
subjects largely through the commendable collaboration of the three
post-primary schools in the town. Meánscoil
offers TG and MTW in junior cycle and DCG in senior cycle. Those students who
wish to continue from MTW to study Construction Studies (CS) in senior cycle
can attend CS lessons at
TG is studied by all students in junior cycle in the school. Close collaboration between the sole specialist teacher of the technologies, who also co-ordinates the subjects, and another teacher who teaches TG to first-year students facilitates delivery of the subject to all students. This collaboration and provision is commended. The technologies are represented in the optional Transition Year (TY) programme by a half-year module of DCG. This is good practice and it is urged, to further enrich the students’ educational experience, that the school also include a module of CS in TY as soon as this becomes viable.
The information and communications technology (ICT) facilities provided for teaching the technologies include an interactive whiteboard and data projector in the drawing room and a dedicated computer room. These rooms accommodate TG, DCG and MTW drawing and theory lessons. This represents good provision for ICT which is well deployed in the teaching of the subjects.
In addition to the drawing and computer rooms there is a well-appointed woodwork room. The facilities have been developed in very recent years by converting the accommodation in a former primary school building. The management and staff concerned are commended for the success achieved in this work. The funding provided by the Department of Education and Science for upgrading provision for health and safety in MTW has been suitably deployed as part of the development of the teaching facilities for the subject. The funding for the introduction of the DCG syllabus has been similarly suitably deployed. The rooms, together with the tools and equipment they contain, are well maintained and cared for.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged by management and the teacher of the technologies actively engages with all opportunities for further professional development. In recent years subject-specific CPD provided through T4, the Technology Subjects Support Service, has been fully availed of together with further CPD provided by the National Centre for Technology in Education. Extensive CPD in the areas of educational management and teaching and learning have been undertaken in both a whole-school and an individual context. This is very good practice.
The timetabling of each of the subjects is in line with very good practice. In junior cycle MTW and TG are both allocated four periods per week. In senior cycle, DCG is allocated three periods per week in TY and five periods per week in fifth year and in sixth year. In most cases, and always in examination years, the time allocated includes a double period lesson each week to facilitate sustained practical work. This is good practice.
There is an appropriate awareness of, and action is taken regarding issues of health and safety. The school has a current health and safety statement. This statement includes a section dealing with the woodwork room on which a health and safety risk assessment has been carried out. Management and staff are commended for their commitment to maintaining high standards of health and safety practice and are urged to continue regular reviews as detailed in the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), available on the internet at http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/review_oh_safety_tech.pdf. To further improve students’ awareness of issues of health and safety, it is urged that the number of safety signboards displayed adjacent to machines in the woodwork room be increased. In addition to the mandatory standard safety signs it is urged that the additional signage include instructional signboards displaying the practices and precautions to be adopted to ensure the safe use of the particular machine. It is recommended that an instructional signboard be displayed to give the rationale for the demarcated safe operational areas around the machines and the resulting implications for movement in the woodwork room.
The arrangements for students’ access to MTW in junior cycle follow very good practice given the constraints of staffing in a school of its size. Students are provided with a six-week module in each of the optional subjects. This informs students’ choices. Students are then presented with the option of studying either MTW or Business Studies to Junior Certificate. Arrangements are made for subjects in senior cycle in response to the preferences expressed by the students. The three post-primary schools in Ennistymon collaborate to an admirable extent in the design of subject-option bands and timetables that provide students with greater freedom in choice of subjects. This is very good practice. Students initially express their preferences without reference to set subject-option bands and on the basis of these preferences the subject-option bands and timetables are devised. Students are very well supported when making subject choices in first year and for fifth year. The supports include inputs by the guidance counsellor, the advice and encouragement of subject teachers and information directed to third-year students in a booklet and in presentations. In addition, experience of each of the optional subjects is provided in modules studied respectively in first year and in TY. Each of the subjects is taught in a mixed-ability setting. Students are given freedom and are supported in choosing the individually appropriate level at which to sit certificate examinations. Practice is to teach the subjects to higher level until the examination year while providing appropriate support for each student. This good practice facilitates each student in reaching his or her full potential.
Support for subject-department planning at whole-school level follows very good practice. Time is provided once each term for meetings of the subject department of the technologies, which includes MTW, TG and DCG. There is a subject co-ordinator of the technologies who is the sole teacher of MTW and DCG.
Well-developed subject plans have been prepared in each of the subjects. These plans follow an appropriate and coherent format that addresses a full range of aspects of the subjects’ provision. The plans include programmes of work that are in line with the requirements of the respective syllabuses. As a next step in the development of this part of the subject plans, it is recommended that the content be stated in terms of the expected learning outcomes for students as each section of a course is completed. This development will increase the relevance of the programme of work and facilitate review of the students’ progress. It is also recommended in the MTW plan that student design be introduced in first year and be appropriately integrated with the development of the students’ woodwork, sketching and computer-aided design (CAD) skills.
It is commended that teachers of allied subjects already collaborate in subject-department planning in the school. It is urged that this approach be further developed in expanding particular areas of the subject plans in MTW, TG and DCG. One such area, which deals with teaching methodologies, should be expanded to identify teaching and learning strategies and approaches that can be deployed to teach specific content. A very good start has been made by identifying the predominant teaching methodologies already being used and outlining where further development is taking place. Teaching and learning strategies, with particular emphasis on the use of ICT, are identified within the subject documentation for action in the next stage of subject development planning. This is commended. The individual professional experience of the teachers involved is a very valuable resource when undertaking such planning. The experience of teachers in different but related subjects should be used to enrich the planning process.
The steps planned to ensure that the educational needs of all students are met in the mixed-ability setting in which the subjects are taught are clearly outlined in the subject plans. It is clear that the approaches adopted are integrated into teaching and learning in the subjects. This is very good practice. To further develop this aspect of planning it is urged that the planned differentiation of content and teaching methodologies be more clearly described in the programmes of work for each subject. The teacher of the technologies works in collaboration with the learning support teacher to meet students’ educational needs and the plans point to this collaboration as a means of developing the use of appropriately pitched instructional language. This is very good planning. It is recommended that this aspect of teaching and learning be enhanced by including definite strategies in the subject plans for supporting students’ literacy and numeracy development in lessons. Very good practice in support of numeracy was seen in one first-year lesson where simple calculations carried out by individual students in the course of laying out their work were reinforced by being put on the white board for the benefit of all students. It is urged that such strategies be reflected in the subject plans. The plans include analysis of students’ achievement in certificate examinations and this is used to inform subject planning in line with the overall policies of the school. This is good practice.
A high level of individual planning for lessons was observed in the course of the inspection. Teaching materials were well prepared and included CAD material produced in SolidWorks, transparencies and photocopied sheets all of which were relevant and effective. Prints of cartoon characters, suitably differentiated to suit the varied abilities of students, were very effectively used to support students in developing their sketching skills in a TG lesson. Good practice is followed regarding the selection of appropriate teaching resources. A good range of such resources is being built up and is shared between the teachers as the opportunity arises.
It is clear that lessons in MTW, TG and DCG are well structured. They are coherent and the transitions from one stage of a lesson to the next are smooth and efficient. The aims of lessons are clear and are communicated to students at the outset. Lessons follow the programme of work described in the respective subject plan. Continuity between lessons is well maintained, often by means of lively revision of related work at the beginning of lessons and by the setting of homework based on the lesson content.
The content and pace of lessons is appropriate and responds to the needs, abilities and understanding of the students. The teachers demonstrate a high level of interest, understanding and skill within the subjects and these are expressed in their enthusiasm, which they communicate very effectively to their students. The quality of teaching is very high.
Occasionally students undertake different tasks while working on the same topic. Students produce different sketches while developing their sketching techniques, for example. This approach has many benefits including developing students’ independence and it can also increase the degree to which students learn from each other. It is suggested that opportunities for increasing such differentiation of the students’ work be sought and developed. The possibilities for encouraging students to work in groups should also be explored. For example, students could work in groups to produce orthographic views of different solids, particularly when they have previously followed the teacher’s lead to complete drawings of the same solid.
Students are given clear instructions in lessons and their work is carefully monitored by the teacher. The monitoring is often facilitated by good practice regarding the teacher’s active movement among the students as they complete work in class. Students are affirmed and their progress is positively reinforced as part of the monitoring of their work. This is very good practice. Individual help and support is provided in an integrated manner within lessons. Questioning by the teacher is also skilfully used to monitor students’ understanding. Questions are most effective when they are differentiated in terms of higher or lower order and are skilfully directed to the appropriate student. The asking of general questions of the whole class is best done sparingly. Students are suitably challenged by the work presented to them in each of the subjects and this is consistent with the policy of the subject department that students should study at higher level by default.
Management of the MTW, TG and DCG classrooms is effective and discipline is sensitively maintained. Well-practised routines are followed for repetitive procedures such as the giving-out and collection of students’ folders and this helps to maintain the overall sense of order and calm. Clear expectations are set for students’ behaviour and these expectations are met to a very great extent. Students respond positively to teachers’ instructions. The layout and arrangement of the classrooms and the woodwork room provide a suitable and well-ordered learning environment.
On a very few occasions in the afternoon, students’ talking, unrelated to the work of the lesson, threatened to become a distraction to the work being completed in a drawing lesson. It is urged that appropriate sensitive means to control such talking be explored. This might involve varying the type of work being done by students at times when this distraction is likely to occur. More frequent transitions coupled with short periods of focused group activity should be considered.
The interaction between students and teachers shows a high level of shared respect and this helps maintain a very positive atmosphere which is conducive to learning. The students of MTW, TG and DCG show a commendable interest and enthusiasm for their respective subjects and this is shared with their teachers. The subject rooms are high-ceilinged, well-decorated, bright and welcoming. The display of a wide range of subject-related posters adds greatly to the stimulating learning environment which can be further enhanced in the future by displaying exemplars of students’ own work, both in graphics and in woodwork.
Students engage very well in classroom activities related to each of the subjects. It is clear from the records of students’ achievements that they learn very effectively. The work produced by the students and their responses to questions regarding their work in class confirms that their understanding and knowledge of TG, MTW and DCG is in line with high expectations for students of their age and experience of the subjects.
There is a clear and coherent subject department policy regarding homework and assessment in MTW, TG and DCG. In senior cycle DCG homework is regarded as an integral part of the students’ course of study. Students have been facilitated in collecting assignments from the network server allowing them a greater degree of self-direction in completing work at home. This supports the development of students’ independence and personal responsibility and is applauded. The written policy regarding homework in MTW is focused on the theory content of the syllabus. It is recommended that this focus should be extended to student design. The creative aspect of design can flourish when taken out of the more formal classroom context to be undertaken at home. The setting of homework design tasks related to project work being undertaken in class from first year should be investigated. The tasks should be at an appropriate level to successfully engage the students concerned and should prepare them for more challenging design work as they move towards the coursework design project in third year.
Formal assessment tests are set in MTW, TG and DCG according to the whole-school assessment schedule at Christmas and in summer in non-certificate-examination years. In addition to these examinations, continuous assessment marks are recorded for each of the subjects. In MTW average continuous assessment marks are aggregated with the examination results to arrive at the Christmas and summer term results. The inclusion of continuous assessment marks for design, project realisation and theory in this way is consistent with the modes of assessment in the subject syllabus and is good practice. It is recommended that the loading given to continuous assessment and examination marks be included in the procedures detailed in the MTW subject plan. These procedures should then be explained and clarified for the students of the subject to provide them with information regarding the impact of continuous assessment marks on their overall achievement. Assessment should be used in this way to provide further encouragement and motivation for students. It is recommended that similar steps be taken in relation to assessment in DCG and TG.
Less formal assessment is integrated with teaching and learning in all MTW, TG and DCG lessons and formative assessment is consistently used to encourage students to reflect on and evaluate their own work. This good practice encourages students towards further improvement.
Good practice is followed with regard to the recording of students’ attendance and progress in the subjects. These records are available to the school and are communicated to parents on a six-weekly basis when a report is sent home. Annual parent-teacher meetings are held for each year at which the students’ progress is discussed. Report sheets are used to inform parents if a student is consistently failing to bring the necessary equipment to class.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Commendable collaboration between the three post-primary schools in Ennistymon provides students with a good choice of technology subjects.
· Noted success has been achieved in providing very good facilities for teaching the technologies by refurbishment of older school buildings.
· Engagement with CPD in the whole-school, subject-specific and individual contexts is impressive.
· Well-developed subject plans that follow an appropriate and coherent format have been prepared for MTW, TG and DCG.
· It is commended that subject documentation identifies the development of teaching and learning strategies, with particular emphasis on the use of ICT, as a priority in the next stage of subject development.
· The quality of teaching is very high.
· Students’ are learning very well.
· There is a clear and coherent subject department policy regarding homework and assessment
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The focus on theory in the written policy on homework included in the MTW plan should be extended to include student design, which should be introduced in first year.
· Definite strategies should be included in the subject plans for supporting students’ literacy and numeracy development in lessons.
· The continuous assessment procedures, including the aggregation and loading of continuous assessment marks and term test marks, should be included in the subject plans and also explained and clarified for students to provide them with further encouragement and motivation.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers Technical Graphics, the teacher of Design and Communication Graphics, and Materials Technology (Wood) and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board thanks the inspector for his professional inspection and thorough detailed report
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 DCG and MTW department intends to engage with the recommendations of the inspection report.