An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technology
Christian Brothersí Secondary School
Dungarvan, County Waterford
Roll number: 64880T
Date of inspection: 21 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technology
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Christian Brothersí Secondary School, Dungarvan. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technology 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 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 subject teachers. 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.
Christian Brothersí Secondary School (CSB), Dungarvan provides a broad second-level education for boys from the town and the surrounding areas of west Waterford. The school is housed in a modern building erected in 1982 adjacent to the nineteenth-century school building which has been more recently refurbished to cater for an increasing enrolment. The technologies are well represented on the curriculum of the school by Technology and Technical Graphics (TG) in junior cycle and Engineering and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) in senior cycle. While Technology is available in the junior cycle only, progression from Technology in junior cycle to Engineering in senior cycle is an option for all students. Engineering is also included in the Transition Year (TY) programme. This is good curricular provision. It is urged that the school keeps the possible introduction of Technology in senior cycle under active review.
Practice in relation to continuing professional development (CPD) in the school is good. Whole-staff CPD is ongoing. Recently the focus has been on areas including subject planning, the additional educational needs of students and the motivation of students. The teachers of the technologies have been facilitated in taking part in CPD courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service, T4. These courses provide for the introduction of the new DCG and the Leaving Certificate technology syllabuses. These are also of great benefit to the teaching of Technology in junior cycle, particularly relating to the drawing and design aspects of the syllabus.
Timetabling of Technology is good and facilitates the effective teaching of the syllabus over the three years of junior cycle. Classes are allocated four periods per week in each of the three years. In each year these periods are organised, depending on the other subjects in the subject-option group, as four single periods or as one double period and two single periods. Generally the lessons are distributed well across the teaching week. Single periods should be scheduled on separate days wherever possible. The teachers of Technology are deployed to teach the subject in each of the three years of junior cycle and also teach a range of technology subjects appropriate to their qualifications, skills, knowledge and interests. Teachers are assigned to classes in rotation in line with good practice.
There is a good range of information and communication technology (ICT) resources available for teaching and learning. The use of laptop computers with a data projector by teachers is actively promoted. The equipment provided to support the introduction of the DCG syllabus has been very effectively deployed in a dedicated room in the refurbished old school building. This DCG room is finished to a very high standard for which the subject department is commended and it is used for lessons in all the technologies. This is good practice.
The technology room is well equipped with tools and equipment. Resources are ample to allow for studentsí full involvement in the realisation of tasks and projects. The subject co-ordinator takes responsibility for ensuring that the room is maintained and equipped and that appropriate and sufficient materials are sourced. The school provides an annual budget for Technology and this is supplemented by a small contribution from students. The school aims to ensure that the payment of this contribution does not become a disincentive for students availing of the subject and indicates that discretion is exercised in its collection. Such discretion is commended.
Provision regarding health and safety in Technology is good. The schoolís safety statement includes a section relating to the technology facilities. This statement is reviewed as the need arises and this has been done within three months prior to the inspection. The technology room has recently been surveyed regarding provision for health and safety and the teachers are consulted in the preparation of the health and safety statement. To further improve the arrangements regarding health and safety, it is suggested that annual reviews of the statement be scheduled. The Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005), available at http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/review_oh_safety_tech.pdf, should be consulted in detail when reviewing health and safety.
Teachers draw studentsí attention to issues of health and safety by appropriate notice boards in the technology room including sign boards for the use of mandatory personal protection equipment. While the focus on health and safety in lessons is generally of a high standard and due care and attention is given to their active management, it is recommended that students be required to observe safe operational areas (SOAs) around machines in all circumstances. Informational sign boards outlining the reasons for observing SOAs and the related implications for studentsí movement and use of machines should be displayed. In the eventuality that a student is too small of stature to use a pedestal drill alone it is recommended that another arrangement be considered rather than getting a peer to help. Control of the machine should always be with the student using it.
The arrangements for studentsí access to Technology are good. In first year all students are provided with the opportunity to experience each of the optional subjects. Three groups of students study each subject in a four week rotation. Following this engagement with each of the six optional subjects, students formally choose the two subjects which they will study for Junior Certificate. Students base their choice of subjects in first year mainly on their experience of the subjects and the provision of this support for informed choice is very good. Parents are involved in the process of subject choice by means of the subject-choice form which they must sign.
The subject-option groups in junior cycle are fixed. Technology occurs in both subject-option groups thus allowing students to study the subject in combination with any other optional subject of their choice. A second technology class has been provided in response to the studentsí preferences and this provision is commended. In general, it is preferable to devise subject-option groups for each year cohort based on the preferences of that particular cohort both in junior cycle and in senior cycle. It is suggested that the school should look at the feasibility of adopting this approach.
Procedures for identifying and providing support for students with additional educational needs are good. The teachers of Technology maintain continuous links with and meet the learning-support co-ordinator regularly. Through this contact, the teachers familiarise themselves with the individual educational needs of their students. Studentsí needs are met in a variety of ways in the mixed-ability setting of technology lessons. The pace at which students complete their work is varied to suit ability. Teachers encourage cooperative learning by pairing students and encouraging peer teaching. Important principles are repeated and reinforced in lessons. The incremental approach adopted to teaching theory and practical work supports learning and teachers direct individual attention towards meeting studentsí needs within lessons.
The choice of level in Junior Certificate is not made until students are in third year. This is good. Students choose the level in consultation with their teacher. Students remain in the same class as they continue to study for higher or ordinary level in a mixed-ability setting. There is open access to levels and students are encouraged to study at the level appropriate to their individual ability in line with good practice.
Meetings at the beginning and end of the school year provide opportunities for all staff to engage in subject-department planning in their respective departments. One teacher is recognised as co-ordinator of Technology. The co-ordinator provides a focus for the subject department ensuring that the subject plan is kept up to date. Subject department meetings are held very regularly, at a time each week that suits the teachers concerned. Short notes on the outcomes of these meetings are written into a space provided in the subject plan. This record-keeping practice is good and should be continued. It is suggested, as a further development of the subject-department structure, that a department for the technologies be established. This department should include Engineering, TG and DCG as well as Technology. The role of co-ordinator of the technologies should rotate between the teachers of the subjects, perhaps annually.
Practice is good regarding the development of common programmes of work which are included in the subject plan and are in place for each of the three years of junior cycle. These programmes of work reflect the content of the syllabus. The theory content in third-year is largely dominated by work from sample examination papers. The effect of this approach can result in the teaching of the subject becoming examination led to the detriment of the studentsí educational experience. It is recommended that the amount of time devoted to working from sample examination papers in third year be reviewed.
The effective teaching methods described in the subject department plan include uses of ICT for teaching and learning. This is good. As a next step in the development of this aspect of the plan it is suggested that the methods described be linked to specific content within the programme of work.
It is commended that clear procedures for meeting the additional educational needs of students are included in the subject plan. These procedures are based on continuous links being maintained with the learning support co-ordinator. This is good practice. The points recorded in this section of the plan encompass a very good approach to meeting studentsí needs. It is suggested that specific strategies aimed at supporting and enhancing studentsí literacy and numeracy be added to the subject plan as a step in its further improvement. The subject department monitors the achievement and performance of students in relation to the national norms and this informs planning.
The rooms available for teaching Technology, the Engineering room and the DCG room, are appropriate to the teaching and learning of the subject and have benefited from the careful planning of the subject department. These rooms are well organised and well maintained. On occasion theory lessons are held in ordinary classrooms when access to the specialist rooms is not available. The facilities in these ordinary classrooms do not facilitate a full range of teaching and learning activities in Technology. It is urged that the teaching of the subject in these rooms be kept to a minimum.
Observation in the course of the inspection showed that lessons were coherent, well structured and focussed. Clear objectives to be achieved in the course of a lesson are imparted to the students at the outset. Continuity with previous lessons is maintained, often by means of effective questioning of students in the early stages of lessons. Lessons are consistent with the programme of work contained in the subject plan. Planned lesson content responds to the developing levels of understanding and knowledge of the students and is taught at an appropriate pace to suit these factors.
Teachers encourage the students to develop their independent learning skills in practical lessons and the use of cooperative learning is increased by this. The use of peer tutoring, seen in one lesson where a student worked with a peer helping him to catch up with missed work, was effective, and benefited both the tutor and the tutored student. This is good practice. Teacher demonstration forms a central part of the teaching of Technology and is clear, well prepared and very effective. ICT is used for teaching various elements of the course including the use of the Solidworks computer-aided design package. In a practical electronics lesson students displayed a good knowledge and understanding in line with their experience and abilities. It is urged that electronics simulation software be used to further enhance the studentsí experience in this area.
Studentsí activity in lessons is carefully monitored by teachers. When students are engaged in practical work, teachers move among them supporting their learning very effectively by affirming their progress and providing them with encouragement or help as needed. The atmosphere in the classrooms is respectful and well ordered. There is mutual respect between teachers and students. The teachersí enthusiasm for the subject is communicated to the students. In the specialist classrooms there are examples of studentsí work and subject-related materials that add to the learning environment.
Students are fully engaged in classroom activities as seen in practical lessons involving work with electronics and plastics in the course of the inspection. Students display good knowledge and understanding of the work being done. Studentsí skills are well developed and they work with confidence.
Procedures and methods applied to assessment and homework are well planned and effectively implemented. The subject department plan includes a detailed homework policy, implemented by the teachers, which is in line with the schoolís assessment policy. The policy lays emphasis on the discussion of homework with the students and the giving of feedback including written feedback which may also on occasion be inserted in the studentís journal.
First-year and second-year students sit formal examinations in Technology at Christmas and at the end of the school year. In third year students sit an examination at Christmas and a mock Junior Certificate examination in March. Homework is corrected, annotated by the teacher and graded. Appropriate end-of-topic tests are set. Each project is graded on completion. Homework grades, test marks and project grades are combined to arrive at a continuous assessment mark which is aggregated with Christmas and summer examination marks to arrive at Christmas and summer results. Practice regarding continuous assessment is very good. The assessment procedures take account of practical, drawn and written work and are consistent with the assessment procedures of the technology syllabus. Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning in Technology.
The standard of recording and reporting of studentsí progress is high. Teachers make very good use of diaries and recording sheets to store attendance and achievement data. Students are kept aware of their progress on an ongoing basis. Parents are informed of studentsí progress and achievement by means of notes in the studentsí journals, in school reports and at annual parent-teacher meetings.†
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technology and the acting principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, November 2009