An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
St Mary’s CBS
Enniscorthy, County Wexford
Roll number: 63560T
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Mary’s CBS, Enniscorthy. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics 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 the 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 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.
In St Mary’s CBS, Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) form part of the school’s curriculum at junior and senior cycle respectively. In addition to this, a module of DCG is provided to students who choose Transition Year (TY) and the Graphics and Construction module is offered to students following the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. The school also offers Engineering, Construction Studies and Technology to Leaving Certificate level. The school’s ongoing commitment to the four technology subjects is highly commended.
There are currently six teachers timetabled to teach TG and DCG in the school. Four of these teachers hold qualifications recognised by the Department of Education and Science (DES) to teach the subjects to the highest level. While it is acknowledged that school management has sourced people to teach the subjects with suitable expertise and interest in the subject areas, it is recommended that school management make every effort to deploy suitably qualified teachers to this subject department. In order to achieve this, school management should ensure that all teachers qualified to teach the subjects are fully utilised within their subject area.
Students in the graphics subjects in all programmes receive appropriate allocations of class time. These allocations consist of a combination of double and single periods, which is good practice.
First-year students are given the opportunity to sample a total of eight optional subjects. This sampling programme helps students to make more informed optional subject choices based on their experiences and aptitude for the subjects sampled. At the beginning of second year, students choose their two preferred subjects and optional subject bands are devised based on these preferences, as is best practice.
Due to the fact that students may only choose two optional subjects from a possible eight, there is a demand for an additional TG class. This class, provided after school and at a cost to the students, has been in operation for a number of years and allows students who wish to continue studying TG the opportunity to do so. While it is acknowledged that management has provided this extra class to address an obvious need and that the high number of students studying TG at junior cycle has a positive effect on the numbers choosing DCG at senior cycle, it is recommended that school management explore all possibilities to provide students with the opportunity to study TG at junior cycle within the recognised school day.
Senior cycle students choose their optional subjects from a list of available subjects. Subject option bands are then designed based on their preferences. Senior cycle students who choose TY get the opportunity to sample various subjects including DCG and all students receive support from the guidance counsellor and through a subject information evening held for parents and students. This level of support for students is commended.
Student uptake of the graphics subjects in St Mary’s CBS is good. During the course of the evaluation, members of the subject department expressed their satisfaction with this, citing a number of benefits including increased student understanding and awareness of the graphical representation techniques used in the three other technology subjects.
The subject department has access to two rooms, one of which has been specifically designed to accommodate the new DCG syllabus. This room is bright and spacious and is suitably resourced with information and communication technology equipment (ICT). The second room, also fitted with data projection equipment, is used primarily for first-year classes and is appropriate for this purpose. The main graphics room has a variety of large colourful posters and some good quality student work on display.
Some members of the subject department have attended a number of professional development courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). It is suggested that all members of the subject department endeavour to attend at least some elements of this training in order to ensure that they feel confident to teach the various elements of the new syllabus if and when the opportunity arises.
The teachers of the four technology subjects form a subject department group. A convenor, a role that is rotated among members of the subject department, records the minutes of subject department meetings. The minutes of the subject department meetings show genuine discussion in relation to issues of importance to the subject department.
The subject department has formulated a clear and comprehensive subject plan. This plan includes information pertaining to the time allocation for subjects, option structures, timetabling and student access to the subjects at both junior and senior cycle. The subject plan also contains sections detailing the subject department’s policies in relation to students with special educational needs (SEN) and English as an Additional Language (EAL) students. The SEN section of the subject department plan lists interventions particularly for students who may have physical disabilities. While many methodologies were observed in lessons aimed specifically at assisting students with learning difficulties, it is suggested that the subject department details these methodologies in the subject department plan, in order to ensure consistency in the teaching and learning of students with learning difficulties. Specific guidelines for teachers of students with mild learning disabilities in a technology setting can be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/PP_Tech.pdf.
The subject department plan also contains agreed curricular plans for each year group. These curricular plans have been devised based on student learning outcomes, as is best practice. The TY plan is focussed on introducing students to computer-aided design (CAD). This is a worthwhile goal as it helps to prepare students for the CAD elements of the DCG syllabus. It is recommended, in order to further improve this plan, that the subject department revisits the TY DCG programme and reviews its content, possibly with a view to introducing students to parametric modelling software at an earlier stage in the year. Another possible improvement could be the further development of the modes of assessment used in TY, by reducing the importance of the terminal examination in favour of a more innovative assessment technique.
Teachers’ individual planning for lessons was very good and a number of resources were prepared in advance and used appropriately. Examples of these resources included prepared worksheets, CAD drawings and wooden models. The subject department has developed a library of additional ICT resources readily accessible through the school’s intranet. This type of collaboration among members of the subject department is commended.
In all lessons observed, students were informed of the key learning outcomes from the beginning. Lessons were most successful when these key outcomes were revisited throughout and at the end of lessons to assess and to reinforce the learning. This strategy was evident in a junior cycle lesson on basic drafting and lettering. It is suggested that this practice should be further developed throughout the subject department.
All lessons were clearly structured and teachers followed a sequential and incremental approach. Students in these lessons benefited from this approach as it allowed them to build upon previously covered material and to apply their learning.
In most cases, teachers modelled best practice through individual demonstrations or through demonstrations using the data projector. To further improve demonstration techniques for students, blackboard sketching or drawing could be used to help students to develop their visualisation skills and their proficiency in graphic communication.
Lessons were well paced and, in one case, differentiated accordingly with more able students receiving less support and being encouraged to work independently on additional tasks. This had the effect of maintaining student focus and engagement in the subject matter while also providing students who were finding the topic more difficult with extra individual assistance and guidance. This is commended.
In some cases, students were encouraged to learn experientially through independent tasks and through the use of models. This was particularly evident in a senior cycle lesson where some students were encouraged to model a desired three-dimensional object using prepared wooden blocks. This method allowed students to develop their spatial awareness and to help them internalise orthographic conventions. This was further developed through students’ use of colour on their drawings to represent various views. These strategies added to the students’ learning experiences while also contributing to the lesson’s educational value.
Questioning was used to determine students’ knowledge and understanding of topics. Generally teachers asked questions of the entire class and students responded individually. It is suggested that teachers use individual questions targeted at particular students in order to ascertain students’ understanding. Individual differentiated questions could also be used to include all students in lessons and ensure full participation.
ICT was integrated into all lessons observed primarily to display questions and, in one case, to demonstrate CAD commands. There will be further opportunity to utilize the ICT resources available to the subject department when further CPD has been availed of.
Classroom management was effective throughout the evaluation. This was achieved by providing the necessary equipment for students through the book rental scheme at junior cycle, constant teacher circulation of classes to monitor and assist students, appropriately paced lessons and teachers insisting on full attention when demonstrating key points. In all cases, teacher-student interactions were pleasant but professional and students were positively affirmed at all opportunities.
There was a good work ethic among students in all lessons observed and students were purposeful and diligent at all times. Students demonstrated a good level of learning and this was evident from their responses to questions, portfolio work, class work and, in some cases, their application of skills when problem solving.
The majority of students in St Mary’s CBS attempt the higher-level examinations at junior cycle and especially at senior cycle. Students’ results in state examinations are good and reflect the quality of graphics provision in the school.
Formal assessments are held at mid-term, Christmas and summer with ‘mock’ examinations held for examination year groups in the spring. In addition to these formal assessments, a number of methods were used to assess student progress in class, such as teachers’ regular questioning of students and the monitoring of homework and portfolio work.
Currently, a proportion of the marks awarded to students at the end of term are based on their portfolio work. This gives students credit for the work carried out during the term and provides them with an incentive to maintain their portfolios. There is an opportunity to further improve student portfolio work by teachers providing written formative and constructive feedback on student’s work periodically. This, combined with the oral feedback currently given to students in class, should help to encourage students to maintain good quality portfolios.
The subject department currently operates a system of common assessment for class groups of similar ability. This is aided by the yearly curricular planning in place and is particularly beneficial for the first-year group as it ensures that students entering second year have achieved the same learning outcomes allowing class groups to be assigned easily.
Teachers’ records confirmed regular monitoring of student attendance and achievement. These records allow for accurate information pertaining to student progress to be communicated to parents via the student journal, parent-teacher meetings and through regular reports sent home.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school is committed to technology education, which is demonstrated by its provision of four technology subjects to Leaving Certificate level.
· All students study Technical Graphics prior to making their optional subject choices for junior cycle.
· The main Design and Communication Graphics room provides a very good environment conducive to the teaching and learning of the subjects.
· There is a good level of collaboration within the subject department.
· The subject department has begun to incorporate ICT in the teaching and learning of TG and DCG.
· All lessons observed were thoroughly planned and well executed.
· Classroom management was effective in all lessons observed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Technical Graphics should be provided for as many students as possible within the regular school day.
· School management should ensure that suitably qualified Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics teachers are deployed to deliver the subjects.
· The subject department should review the content and assessment techniques employed in Design and Communication Graphics during TY.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published February 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of St Mary’s C.B.S welcomes the positive findings of the inspection report. The board is pleased that the inspection recognises and commends the school’s commitment to technology education and recognises the dedication and professionalism of the teachers in providing the best possible learning experience of technical graphics & DCG in their lessons
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 board notes the recommendations for development and will endeavour to address them within the level of resources available.