An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Presentation Secondary School
Cannon Street, Waterford
Roll number: 64970U
Date of inspection: 11 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 January 2008
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Presentation Secondary School, Waterford. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German 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 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 relevant staff. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Presentation Secondary School, Waterford is an all girls’ school. It offers the following curricular programmes: the Junior Certificate, Transition Year Programme (TYP), Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate established (LCE). German is offered in all curricular programmes with the exception of the LCA.
German and French are the two modern languages on offer in the school. Incoming first-year students are offered a choice between these two languages prior to entry. An open night is held while students are in sixth class and information is given to parents and prospective students about subject options. In general students opt for French with the minority choosing German. It is suggested that the manner in which German is offered in the school be reviewed and the possibility of introducing a short ‘taster’ programme in languages be considered. It is very beneficial if students have the opportunity of trying out a subject before choosing to study it for junior cycle as it enables them to make a more informed decision.
The current situation is that German is provided for in all years with the exception of second year in the junior cycle. No German was provided as there was no demand for the language in this year. It is essential that this situation be kept under review and that strategies to increase the profile of the subject be discussed. It would be useful to carry out a survey among students to establish reasons surrounding choice of modern languages. This could provide the German department with valuable information which would inform future planning for the provision of the subject.
The German department holds membership of the Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (German Teachers’ Association) and this is supported financially by the Board of Management. This is good practice as membership of the subject association has many benefits. Teachers are committed to professional development and have attended German language courses and teacher association conferences.
The majority of German lessons were held in base classrooms. These were well decorated with a mixture of posters and maps from German-speaking countries. Student work was also visible in the classrooms. The practice of creating a colourful and stimulating environment containing work done by the students is praiseworthy.
Co-curricular activities are also organised to support the teaching and learning of German. Students have the experience of a typical German breakfast. Around the time of feasts or festivals German cultural activities are organised. The school has a partner school near Cologne and materials are exchanged between the two schools. School tours to Germany have been organised. A German week is held in the school and students are brought to see German films when there are opportunities to do so. Such co-curricular activities enhance the learning process. They provide evidence of the high degree of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the German department and are most laudable.
The school is engaged in school development planning. Subject departments have been established. The German team works very well together. Regular informal meetings take place and there is a lot of useful collaboration. Formal meetings also take place. It was reported that this year official time in the course of staff days was not allocated to meetings of the German team. It is recommended that, resources permitting, the German team would always get official time in the course of staff days to meet. Very good minutes are kept of meetings and issues of importance to the teaching and learning of German are discussed. It was noted from the minutes that a review of existing resources had taken place. This is very effective as reviewing and updating resources enhances the quality of teaching and learning.
Yearly plans for the teaching and learning of German were presented in the course of the evaluation. These included information on the development of different competencies in the learners. Information on the German week held in the school and on cross-curricular links was also included. This is good practice. As the yearly plans are only in the initial stages of development it is recommended that they be extended to include specific information on the themes that will be covered in each year and on the intended learning outcomes for each theme.
Individual lessons were well planned and in some instances planning documentation was made available. The plans took into account differentiated teaching and learning strategies to match the varying needs of the learners. This is effective practice.
In the lessons visited learning activities were well paced. The content of the lessons was appropriate to the level of the students and devised in accordance with syllabus requirements. In some lessons good effort was made to make sure that the content of the lesson was linked to students’ own lives. This is in line with the communicative approach to modern language teaching and is particularly effective. It is recommended that the learner-centred approach to the use of texts be extended to all lessons. In the lessons observed learning was well supported through the use of the white board, textbooks, and handouts. For example in junior cycle handouts with useful explanations of vocabulary had been prepared to accompany reading texts.
A variety of effective teaching methodologies were observed in the course of the inspection. In some lessons students were given tasks to complete in pairs or in small groups. For example in senior cycle students were asked to carry out a role play in pairs. Students engaged readily with this task. During pair work activities teachers circulated and assisted students as required. In junior cycle students were asked to work independently on reading comprehensions. Encouraging student autonomy in this manner is praiseworthy.
In some lessons there was very good integration of the skills of speaking, reading and writing. For example in a lesson on the theme of part time work students were firstly asked in German for their opinion on the issue. This was followed by reading and writing activities. Integrating the skills of language acquisition in this manner is particularly effective as it ensures that vocabulary and grammatical structures are reinforced. It is recommended that this methodology be extended to all lessons. It is also very important to include the development of the skill of listening in teaching methodologies. It is recommended that formal listening comprehensions be used more frequently in lessons in particular in the junior cycle. The skill of listening is best developed by using pre- and post-listening activities.
The use of the target language was generally very good. German was used in the majority of lessons to manage classroom activities and to communicate with the learners. In a minority of instances more English than German was used. This is less effective. In some lessons students were encouraged to interact with one another in German. This maximises the opportunities students have to speak in the target language and is to be commended. When students made errors in pronunciation these were corrected with sensitivity. It is recommended that dedicated pronunciation exercises take place and that students always be given opportunities to repeat the correct versions of the words. This will assist greatly in the development of the learners’ communicative competence.
The development of cultural awareness was noted in a lesson observed. In senior cycle students were asked to talk about a German film that they had seen. The students spoke enthusiastically about the film and it was clear they had derived enjoyment from it. A poster relating to the film was on display in the classroom and this was used to initiate the oral work. This is good practice. Ensuring that the learners are aware of cultural aspects relating to the countries of the target language is important and a requirement of the syllabus.
The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was good and conducive to effective learning. Students were encouraged to ask questions and these were answered with sensitivity. The nature of student –teacher interactions was positive. Discipline was maintained to a high standard in the classes observed. This was due to the skilful management of learning activities, which ensured that students were kept on task at all times. Staff and students are to be commended on the positive classroom atmosphere which prevailed.
Students are assessed on a regular basis. Formal assessments occur at Christmas and in summer. Learners of German are usually assessed on all the skills of language acquisition. This is effective practice as it ensures that the students’ progress in reading, writing, speaking and listening is monitored. Students in TYP are assessed by means of a project. It is recommended that these students would also have an oral assessment. Reports are issued to parents/guardians after all formal assessments. There is a parent-teacher meeting for all years except the TYP. It is recommended that due consideration be given to holding a parent-teacher meeting for the parents/guardians of students in this year group to ensure a good flow of communication between the school and the parents.
Homework was assigned in all lessons and this was appropriate to the lesson content. A sample of copybooks was seen in the course of the evaluation. Written assignments had been corrected and feedback had been given to the students. It is recommended that consideration be given to developing common strategies for the correction of written work. These might include practices such as limiting the amount of errors to be corrected and the type of follow up activities that is required of the learners. It was noted that sometimes aural comprehension exercises are given as homework. This is exemplary practice.
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:
· It is recommended that due consideration be given to holding a parent-teacher meeting for the parents/guardians of students in this year group to ensure a good flow of communication between the school and the parents.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of German and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.