An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
St Mogue’s College
Roll number: 70360C
Date of inspection: 19 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Mogue’s College. 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 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 teacher.
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.
St Mogue’s College is a small co-educational school with a current enrolment of 136 students. Home Economics is a popular subject on the school’s curriculum, where it is an optional subject in both junior cycle and senior cycle. In junior cycle, first years choose between Home Economics and Materials Technology (Wood), while the choice in senior cycle is between Home Economics and Construction Studies. It is notable that uptake of Home Economics at all levels in the school is well above the national average. However, the number of boys choosing the subject is low. Whilst acknowledging the constraints regarding options and subject choice in a small school, it is recommended that strategies be explored to examine and ensure equality of access to Home Economics for all students. This might be pursued as part of the school development planning process. The fact that Home Economics is offered against what might be perceived as traditionally male subjects should be considered as part of this exercise. The impending introduction of the Transition Year programme (TY) in the school year 2008/09 should also provide an opportunity to open access to the subject for all students.
Teaching time allocated to all home economics classes is adequate and in line with syllabus recommendations. Class periods are evenly dispersed throughout the week thus ensuring that students gain maximum benefit from class-contact time in terms of continuity in teaching and learning. Currently, the subject department comprises one teacher who also acts as co-ordinator. It is evident that there is a very committed approach to the organisation, planning and delivery of the subject in the school.
A multi-purpose home economics classroom functions as both a kitchen and a textiles room. At the back of the classroom are two storage rooms which are well used for the storage of ingredients, textile and laundry equipment as well as a range of teaching resources. The classroom is well maintained and organised. During the evaluation, it was noted that students had access to only three of the seven cookers in the classroom. Management assured that this issue would be sorted immediately. The subject department reported that management is very supportive of requests made for the ongoing replacement and updating of equipment and resources. Consideration should be given to the setting up of a maintenance schedule to include an annual audit of equipment and appliances. This would facilitate the regular maintenance, upgrading and replacement of equipment.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is currently available to all students through the provision of timetabled classes for ICT. All classrooms are networked and have internet access. The school’s plan to provide computers in all classrooms and to increase the number of interactive whiteboards will provide further opportunities for home economics students to access ICT. Discussion with the home economics teacher during the evaluation indicated an enthusiasm to integrate ICT into teaching and learning and this is encouraged.
Subject planning for Home Economics is well advanced and there is evidence of a well-organised and reflective approach to this process. A very comprehensive subject department plan has been developed that includes details of the organisation, planning, teaching, learning and assessment of Home Economics in the school. While the plan is based on the template provided by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), it is commendable that it has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of St Mogue’s College.
Commendably, schemes of work which are based on the syllabuses have been developed for each year group. The schemes detail the topics and the relevant practical coursework to be covered from each area of the syllabuses for all year groups. Each topic is sub-divided into headings and is allocated a specific number of lessons, relative to the syllabus weightings. The schemes are enhanced by references to resources and teaching methods as well as attention to the planning of homework and revision. In order to further develop the very good progress in planning, it is recommended that the content of the schemes of work should be organised in a sequence that facilitates a developmental approach to the acquisition of knowledge and skills over the course of the junior cycle and the senior cycle. The development of the schemes should also reflect the integrated approach recommended in the syllabuses. This task could be carried out on a phased basis, beginning perhaps with first year and fourth year. The ongoing records of work completed to date with each class group and maintained by the teacher should also prove useful in advancing this process. In time, it may be helpful to tabulate the schemes to make them user-friendly and easy to modify as part of the ongoing planning and review process. The schemes of work should be used as a working document.
An analysis of the schemes indicated that part of the core textiles area of the Junior Certificate syllabus is not currently planned. It is recommended that this issue be addressed in order to ensure that all students experience all core areas of the Junior Certificate home economics syllabus.
The development of resources, including handouts, worksheets and overhead transparencies, to support the teaching and learning of Home Economics is given high priority. The resources have been effectively tailored for specific class groups and they are systematically filed according to the relevant syllabus topics. Past examination papers and marking schemes are also carefully filed. All of these materials are stored on specific shelves for easy access in one of the storerooms at the back of the home economics classroom. This good practice is commended.
Short-term planning for all of the lessons observed was very thorough. This good planning and the preparation of materials resulted in lessons that were well structured with a clear focus on the development of knowledge and skills. Lessons were presented at a pace that was appropriate and sufficiently challenging for the range of abilities within class groups. Commendably, continuity was maintained with previous lessons by linking learning to prior knowledge and by the use of questioning to check understanding. Opportunities were also well used to summarise learning, to revise new concepts and processes and to reinforce learning through the incorporation of practical and real-life examples.
In all of the lessons, teacher instruction was very clear and the teacher worked very hard to ensure that students understood the key concepts and processes of the lessons. The very good focus on both the key terminology of the subject and on language in general is commended. A range of resources and activities was used to stimulate and maintain student interest. In some cases, there was scope for transferring more of the responsibility for lesson activities from the teacher to the students. As an example, greater use of individual or pair work could be substituted for teacher input in theory lessons, from time to time. This approach would also promote independent learning.
A senior cycle lesson provided very good evidence of supporting students in the integration of the practical and theoretical aspects of the syllabus. Part of the lesson involved a series of sensory analysis tests in which each student was a participant. In working through the paired-preference test and the triangle test, it was very clear that students understood the testing process, the purpose of each test and its application to the food industry. This lesson was very well organised and provided a very good example of learning by doing.
The junior cycle practical lesson observed was well managed with an appropriate focus on both teaching and learning. It was evident that students have been well trained in the correct procedures for the organisation and operation of a practical lesson. The development of skills was facilitated by a staged approach where clear instructions and the explanation and demonstration of key processes occurred at appropriate points in the lesson. The teacher named and emphasised each new skill for the students and linked it to skills previously acquired. This approach is highly commended. The correct use of equipment and the maintenance of high standards in safety and hygiene were also features of the good practice observed. Students were challenged and encouraged to reach a high standard in the practical work and the teacher provided tips for success along the way. Students had attained a very good standard in practical food and culinary skills even though they were at a very early stage in junior cycle. Where class numbers are small, it is recommended, to have students cook individually when possible, as opposed to in pairs. This would provide them with further opportunities to develop proficiency and confidence in food and culinary skills. It would also help the students prepare for the Junior Certificate practical examination.
The use of a simple worksheet to introduce first-year students to part of the design brief process in practical cookery classes is commended. In another lesson, the teacher led third-year students through a coursework task using the design brief process. In order to further enhance this good work, it is recommended that the use of the design brief be further developed in first and second year, so that by third year students are very familiar with the process in preparation for the Junior Certificate practical examination. A developmental approach to the use of the design process could be applied to all of the practical components of the syllabuses.
During the evaluation a variety of students’ project work in the area of design and craftwork was observed. The projects presented indicate that students have attained a good level of competence and skill in the crafts chosen. Creativity and originality are fostered in the project work. In completing the design and craftwork for the Junior Certificate and the food studies practical coursework journal for Leaving Certificate, students should be aware of and adhere to the marking criteria for all components of the examinations. The chief examiners’ reports and the associated marking schemes for past examinations issued by the State Examinations Commission should prove a useful source of information in this regard. These can be downloaded at www.examinations.ie
The atmosphere in all classes was excellent and thus very conducive to learning. Students responded positively to the firm and challenging, but very encouraging and affirming, manner of the teacher. There was a nice rapport between students and their teacher and a sense of ease and security among students in asking questions and in seeking clarification. This was facilitated by teacher movement throughout the classroom and by the great efforts made to involve all students in the learning process. Interaction with students and observation of classroom activities indicated a positive attitude towards Home Economics.
Observation of students’ copybooks indicated good progress in both theory and practical work. In the main, students’ support materials, including, handouts, worksheets, recipes and tests are well organised and systematically filed in folders. It was clear that homework is well planned to complement the work carried out in lessons. The good practice of having fifth-year students work on past examination questions was noted. In particular, the attention given to helping students answer long-style questions is commended. This helps them prepare for the examination by developing proficiency in essential skills such as the analysis, interpretation and application of knowledge. The practice of assigning questions from past examination papers should be further extended to students in the junior cycle.
The marking of students’ work provided evidence of some good examples of assessment for learning practices. Useful teacher-comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress, affirmed work well done and indicated areas for development. This good practice is commended. There was good evidence of the systematic recording of the results of both formal and informal assessments. This is useful in profiling students’ progress in the subject. Results are communicated to parents on a regular basis.
In the in-house examinations at Christmas and summer, first and second year students’ progress in Home Economics is examined on a written paper only. Third-year students undertake a mock-practical examination in advance of the food and culinary skills examination for Junior Certificate. In order to reflect the assessment objectives of the Junior Certificate syllabus, it is recommended that the range of assessment modes in all years of junior cycle be extended to include an assessment of the practical components of the syllabus in addition to the theory.
Students in St Mogue’s College attain very good outcomes in Home Economics in the certificate examinations and participation rates at higher level are very healthy.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Uptake of Home Economics at all levels is well above the national average. There is a very committed approach to the organisation, planning and delivery of the subject in the school.
· Subject planning is well advanced and there is evidence of a well-organised and reflective approach to this process. Schemes of work, which are based on the syllabuses, have been developed for each year group.
· The thorough short-term planning resulted in lessons that were well structured with a clear focus on the development of knowledge and skills.
· Teacher instruction was very clear and the teacher worked very hard to ensure that students understood the key concepts and processes of the lessons. A range of resources and activities was used to stimulate and maintain student interest.
· A learning-by-doing lesson on sensory analysis provided very good evidence of supporting students in the integration of the practical and theoretical aspects of the syllabus.
· A staged approach, with clear instructions and the explanation and demonstration of key processes, was used effectively to facilitate the development of students’ skills in a practical lesson.
· Students have attained a good level of competence and skill in design and craftwork. Creativity and originality are fostered in the project work.
· The atmosphere in all classes was excellent and thus very conducive to learning. Students responded positively to the firm and challenging, but very encouraging and affirming, manner of the teacher.
· Observation of students’ copybooks indicated good progress in both theory and practical work. Homework is well planned to complement the work carried out in lessons.
· The marking of students’ work provided evidence of some good examples of assessment for learning practices.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Whilst acknowledging the constraints regarding options and subject choice, strategies should be explored to examine and ensure equality of access to Home Economics for all students.
· The schemes of work should facilitate a developmental approach to the acquisition of knowledge and skills and reflect the integrated approach recommended in the syllabuses. The total core textiles area of the Junior Certificate syllabus should be planned and implemented.
· The use of the design brief process should be further developed in first and second year.
· In order to reflect the assessment objectives of the Junior Certificate syllabus, the range of assessment modes in all years of junior cycle should be extended.
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.