An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Monaghan Collegiate School
Roll number: 64830E
Date of inspection: 9 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Monaghan Collegiate School. 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 one day during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Monaghan Collegiate School was established in 1570 by decree of Elizabeth 1 as the Church of Ireland Diocesan School for Clogher. It is a co-educational fee-paying school for day students. The current enrolment is 237 students, comprising 125 boys and 112 girls.
Home Economics is offered as an optional subject on the school’s curriculum for the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate. In junior cycle, first-year students choose between Home Economics and Materials Technology (Wood), while the choice for senior cycle students is between Home Economics and Construction Studies. It is noted that uptake of Home Economics at all levels in the school is above the national average. However, the number of boys choosing the subject for the certificate examinations is very low. This may be due to the fact that Home Economics is offered against what might be perceived as traditionally male subjects. Whilst recognising the limitations on subject choice in a small school it is recommended that the value of equality of access to all subjects for all students be kept under consideration as part of the school’s development planning process.
In the school’s compulsory Transition Year programme (TY), it is notable that three home economics modules are offered. All students in TY take two of these modules: Cookery for Life and Food Safety. In the current year, the third module Child Care is taken by the female students while the male students do Metalwork, for the full year. The school reports that this arrangement was necessary due to a greater than usual number of girls in transition year. It would not have been possible to accommodate the number of girls, who had not studied Metalwork for the Junior Certificate, in a practical metalwork class. The point made, in the previous paragraph of this report, on equality of access to all subjects for all students should also apply to the subjects and modules offered in TY.
A commendable feature of the child care module in TY is the availability of a reality baby with a computerised infant simulator. The purpose of this is to help students appreciate the responsibility and the demands of infant care. Students can volunteer to bring the “baby” home with parental permission.
An analysis of the timetable indicates that teaching time allocated to all home economics classes is adequate. In almost all cases, lesson periods are well dispersed throughout the week thus ensuring that students gain maximum benefit from class-contact time in terms of continuity in teaching and learning. However, in the case of one junior cycle class the total time allocation is timetabled on two consecutive days each week. This results in a very long gap between the last class of one week and the first class of the next week. It is recommended that this situation should be avoided in future timetabling of the subject. In dealing with this, consideration should be given to splitting one of the double class periods allocated to classes in junior cycle into two single periods, thus creating an additional opportunity for class contact time each week. This arrangement is already in existence for the majority of junior cycle home economics classes in the school.
The home economics department in Monaghan Collegiate School comprises one very experienced and expert teacher. The approach to the organisation of the department and to the planning and delivery of the subject is energetic, enthusiastic and progressive. Continuing professional development (CPD) is facilitated by the school and it is availed of by the teacher. A record of courses undertaken is included in the subject department folder.
A multi-purpose home economics classroom functions as both a kitchen and a textiles room. This room is well organised and maintained. It is also adequately equipped with information and communication technology (ICT) equipment to support teaching and learning. Internet access is available and in addition to two computers and a printer, there is access to a video camera, a digital camera and an editing package. In the current school year, a digital TV screen has been installed in the room and this screen is connected to a laptop. Another welcome addition is the opportunity to store all planning and support materials on the school’s server. Students also have access to the school’s ICT room through a booking system.
Good attention is paid to health and safety. Commendably, the health and safety policy for Home Economics includes a risk assessment as well as reference to the necessary routines required to maintain a high standard of safety during all of the practical activities. Health and safety notices are also on display at significant locations in the classroom.
Subject planning for Home Economics is at a very advanced stage and it provides many examples of excellent practice. It is clear that there is an incremental and reflective approach to planning for the subject. A comprehensive home economics plan has been developed which provides practical details about how the subject is organised and delivered in the school. It is most commendable that, as part of the subject development and review process for Home Economics, an action plan with clear objectives has been drawn up for the 2008/09 school year. Evidence collected during the evaluation indicates that very good progress is being made in the attainment of these objectives.
It is very good to note that planning for teaching and learning is a significant part of the subject plan. Schemes of work have been developed for each year group. The schemes detail the theory and the related practical work to be covered on a week-by-week basis for each year of the courses taught. The expected knowledge and skills, expressed in the form of learning outcomes, and the relevant methods and resources to be used are outlined for each topic and practical coursework activity. Opportunities for homework and revision are also planned. An analysis of the schemes provides clear evidence that the sequencing of topics and practical coursework at all levels is appropriate. This results in schemes of work that are coherent and that provide students with a developmental framework for the attainment of knowledge and skills. It is commendable that the schemes of work include all components of the syllabuses and that they reflect the integrated approach recommended for the teaching and learning of the subject. The planning documents observed indicate that there is an appropriate emphasis on the development of students’ practical skills from year to year.
An admirable feature of the schemes of work is that they are used as working documents on a daily basis. It was noted during the evaluation that progress in class work for all year groups is in line with what is detailed in the schemes. This is very good planning. The teacher also keeps a daily record of work completed. It was noted that very good progress has been made in relation to the amount of work completed by classes so far this year.
The home economics teacher has developed a very wide range of eye-catching and creative resources to support teaching and learning. The amount of planning and time involved in this work is commended. ICT has been used effectively in the development of the resources. All of the resources are systematically filed for class use. A library of well-chosen reference books, videos and DVDs is available in the classroom.
The high quality of the short-term planning for the lessons observed ensured that there was a very good focus on the development of knowledge and skills. All of the lessons progressed at an energetic and efficient pace thus ensuring that a realistic amount of work was completed while taking cognisance of the range of abilities of the students in each class group. Students were provided with opportunities to build on their previous knowledge, experience and skills.
There was evidence of excellent teaching and learning. A successful feature of the short-term planning for the lessons was the well-chosen methods, strategies and resources which were used effectively to stimulate students’ interest and to help them understand and learn. The sequencing of these methods and strategies within lessons was also successful. In addition to teacher instruction and demonstration, very good use was made of a PowerPoint presentation using the digital TV screen, information leaflets, the textbook, worksheets, individual and group work, food samples and food tasting. The promotion of interculturalism was evident in a lesson where students from a number of countries were given the opportunity to share some aspects of their culture with regard to food and diet. This inclusive approach is commended.
Learning was active and visual and there was a good balance between independent learning, group work and input from the teacher. In all of the lessons observed the explanation of new concepts and key terms was very clear. In line with the recommendations of the syllabus, there was very good evidence of the integration of related course areas as well as the integration of theory and practical work. Key points were summarised and understanding was checked as the lessons progressed. A very creative crossword was used in one lesson to check on learning. In the current school year, mind maps have been introduced in the home economics department as another strategy to assist students in the learning process.
The food and culinary skills lesson observed provided many examples of best practice. It was clear that students have been well trained in the procedures and routines for practical lessons. The lesson provided well-planned opportunities for teaching and learning and for the integration of the relevant theory with the practical processes. New skills were demonstrated and explained to the whole class at appropriate points in the lesson. Individuality and creativity were fostered and students were encouraged and challenged to raise their expectations and reach high standards in the practical work. The teacher provided tips for success throughout the lesson and good links were also made with the requirements of the Junior Certificate practical examination. Students worked efficiently and there was evidence that they have attained a good level of proficiency in the practical work. It is commendable that students are encouraged to evaluate the finished product at the end of the lesson.
It is noted that in subsequent food and culinary skills lessons, students will focus on assignments based on a theme as opposed to an individual dish. The design brief will be used as a framework for the assignments and this is good practice. In order to develop this approach, it is recommended that junior cycle students should be introduced to the design brief process in simple but developmental stages beginning in first year. By third year, students would then be very familiar with the process and be comfortable with the language of the design brief in preparation for the Junior Certificate practical examination.
Observation of a selection of practical work in textiles, and design and craftwork indicated that students have attained a good level of competence and skill in these areas.
Classroom management in all lessons was excellent. Roll calls were taken and all learning activities were managed skilfully. The display of a range of educational posters, teacher-generated posters, students’ project work and photographs of their work contributes to a print-rich and stimulating learning environment. Another interesting dimension is the display of a series of bar charts which provide an analysis of the outcomes in Home Economics in the certificate examinations versus the national norms.
The atmosphere was secure, positive and very conducive to learning. Students were encouraged to participate and contribute to lessons and their efforts were appropriately affirmed. There was an emphasis on building self-confidence. Interaction with students and observation of classroom activities indicated an enthusiasm and a sense of enjoyment for the subject. Students engaged readily with the activities and they were purposeful in their work. It is evident that the commitment and enthusiasm of the teacher play a key role in this process.
There is evidence of a well-planned approach to the assessment of students’ competence and progress in Home Economics in Monaghan Collegiate School. It is commendable that the assessment modes used reflect the assessment objectives of the syllabuses.
Questioning was well used throughout lessons to check on understanding, learning and students’ previous knowledge. Students’ responses to questions indicated a very good level of knowledge. The use of a range of higher-order questions provided them with opportunities to think, to form opinions and to apply their knowledge. In turn students also asked questions, some of which emerged from the curiosity aroused during the lessons.
Students’ copybooks, and the homework given during the lessons observed, provided good evidence that homework exercises provide students with opportunities to analyse and apply what they have learned in lessons. Students are given tests on a regular basis. The practice of assigning questions from past examination papers is very good and is encouraged. This helps students interpret questions and become familiar with the answering of various styles of examination questions.
Students’ work is carefully marked. There was evidence of the use of assessment for learning principles. Useful teacher-comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress, and indicated areas for development.
The results of students’ assessments and progress in homework are systematically recorded. Attendance is also recorded carefully. Students are encouraged to retain and file their tests in an orderly manner. All of this information is useful in profiling students’ progress in the subject. Results are communicated to parents on a regular basis.
The students in Monaghan Collegiate School achieve very good outcomes in Home Economics in the certificate examinations at all levels. It is noteworthy that participation rates at higher level in both the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate are also high. The ongoing analysis and tracking of student outcomes in the certificate examinations is commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Uptake of Home Economics at all levels in the school is above the national average.
· The approach to the organisation of the department and to the planning and delivery of the subject is energetic, enthusiastic and progressive. ICT is used effectively in all aspects of this work.
· Subject planning for Home Economics is at a very advanced stage and it provides many examples of excellent practice. Coherent schemes of work have been developed and they are used as working documents
on a daily basis. The schemes provide students with a developmental framework for the attainment of knowledge and skills.
· Short-term planning for the lessons observed was of a high quality. All of the lessons progressed at an energetic and efficient pace thus ensuring that a realistic amount of work was completed.
· There was evidence of excellent teaching and learning. The well-chosen methods, strategies and resources were used effectively to stimulate students’ interest and to help them understand and learn. Learning
was active and visual and there was a good balance between independent learning, group work and input from the teacher.
· The food and culinary skills lesson provided many examples of best practice. There were well-planned opportunities for teaching and learning and for the integration of the relevant theory with the practical
processes. Individuality and creativity were fostered and students were challenged to raise their expectations and reach high standards.
· There is a well-planned approach to the assessment of students’ competence and progress. The assessment modes used reflect the assessment objectives of the syllabuses.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Whilst recognising the limitations on subject choice in a school of this size, the value of equality of access to all subjects for all students should be kept under consideration as part of the school’s development
· Albeit in only one case this year, the distribution of the total time allocation for Home Economics classes over two consecutive days each week should be avoided in future timetabling.
· In order to develop the use of the design brief process in food and culinary skills, junior cycle students should be introduced to the design brief process in simple but developmental stages beginning in first year.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Home Economics 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