An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Mathematics
Coláiste Cois Siúire,
Mooncoin, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 70620C
Date of inspection: 6 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Mathematics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Cois Siúire, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics 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 subject teachers.
The Mathematics department comprises four Mathematics teachers. Teachers generally retain the same class grouping within each cycle. The practice of rotating the teaching of levels among Mathematics teachers at junior cycle has been established. However, at senior cycle one teacher has the responsibility for the teaching of higher-level Mathematics. This issue was highlighted in a previous Mathematics inspection report and management reported that consideration is currently being given to including another member of the Mathematics department in the teaching of higher level at senior cycle. This would ensure that subject expertise would be developed among the Mathematics teachers.
On entry to the school in first year students are arranged into one mixed-ability class grouping. From second year onwards, students are streamed into two class groupings for Mathematics. One class grouping generally contains higher and ordinary-level students and the second class contains ordinary and foundation level students. At senior cycle, due to the assignment of an extra Mathematics teacher, three class groups are formed and therefore students have the opportunity to study a level appropriate to their abilities. There is one class grouping of higher-level students and a second class grouping of ordinary and foundation level students which is further subdivided due to the allocation of the third teacher. This is good practice.
Classes are concurrently timetabled from second year onwards, which permits movement of students and so allows them to choose an appropriate level in Mathematics. Time allocated to Mathematics is good and in line with syllabus requirements. Each class grouping is allocated five class periods per week.
With the exception of first year, students have a double class period of Mathematics timetabled during the week with no Mathematics class on another day of the week. Ideally, students should have access to Mathematics on each day of the week. Furthermore, one Mathematics class in each year has two teachers who share the teaching of the class group. Teachers who share the teaching of classes have developed a system of recording the daily progress of each class. Nevertheless the arrangement of dividing a class between two teachers is not good practice as it disrupts the continuity of the learning experience for students. In future planning, when allocating teachers to class groupings continued efforts should be made to review the practice of dividing classes among teachers.
Mathematics teachers have been facilitated to attend inservice pertaining to Mathematics and teachers are involved in inservice organised by County Kilkenny Vocational Education Committee (VEC). This initiative includes collaboration between Mathematics teachers in each of the County Kilkenny VEC schools and focuses on promoting Mathematics among students and facilitating teachers to discuss and share best practice.
Reasonable requests for Mathematics resources are met by management and include the procurement of Geostrips and the software package Geometry Sketchpad. Even though teachers have access to the school’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities it was reported that teachers do not use ICT in the teaching of Mathematics on a regular basis but that it is usually used for revision purposes. It is therefore recommended that teachers continue to explore ways of integrating ICT into their teaching of Mathematics.
In order to develop a positive attitude towards Mathematics among students, competitions are arranged for first and second-year students in the school. Such support for Mathematics is commendable. Furthermore some teachers reported providing extra support to students in Mathematics, which is also commendable.
Management provides Mathematics teachers with two formal meetings per year, one at the beginning and one at the end of the school year. In addition, teachers have many informal meetings. Teachers who share class groupings have regular meeting to discuss progress made with each class during the week. Minutes of formal meetings are not retained. It is recommended that minutes of formal meetings be retained, as this should provide teachers with a clear record of decisions taken and agreed procedures for the department.
There is a coordinator of Mathematics who oversees the development of the long-term plan for Mathematics. The plan includes the aims and objectives for the subject, an outline of a range of methodologies and assessment procedures. In addition an agreed programme of study for each year grouping is included. Such planning has allowed for steady progress to be made with each year grouping. To further enhance the long-term plan it is recommended that the programme of study for fifth-year higher-level and ordinary-level students be reviewed to ensure that common topics are followed. This will ensure continuity in learning for students should they change a level. Furthermore, it is recommended that the Mathematics team collaborate for the planned integration of ICT into Mathematics. Consideration should also be given to including worksheets developed by individual teachers with the long-term plan thus allowing for the sharing of best practice while reducing duplication of work.
Individual planning for lessons was very good and, in general, teachers used the long-term plan to guide their daily planning for lessons. For example, some plans outlined a detailed programme of work for each week and term and a yearly scheme of work for each year grouping. Such planning is commendable.
Lessons observed were presented at a pace appropriate to student abilities. The setting of clear objectives at the outset of the lesson allowed students to become active participants in their own learning while maintaining student focus. Furthermore, teachers frequently made linkages between sections of the syllabus. This is good practice as it allows students to understand that Mathematics is an integrated programme rather than topics taught in isolation.
Terminology used by teachers was generally appropriate to the topics being studied during lessons. However, on occasion, care should be taken to ensure that all students have the correct understanding of mathematical terms.
In general, the main methodology used by teachers in lessons observed was traditional whole-class teaching. This method included teachers presenting work on the board and then setting work for students to practice. To ensure that the preferred learning styles of all students are catered for, it is recommended that a wider range of methodologies be used in the teaching of Mathematics. To expand on the range of teaching methodologies, consideration should also be given to accessing relevant active methodologies on the Mathematics website www.mathssupport.ie. Furthermore, teachers should benefit from their involvement with the County Kilkenny VEC initiative, which focuses on the teaching of Mathematics and affords teachers an opportunity to explore a range of teaching methodologies.
Questions used in lessons were initially offered to the entire class and questions were then directed to individual students. Recall type questions were asked to establish student understanding or to recall facts from previous lessons. Some good use was then made of higher order questions, which allowed students to become active participants in their learning while developing a genuine interest in the subject. It is recommended that a greater range of questions be used in all lessons.
Textbooks were the predominant resources used in lessons observed. On occasion the use of differentiated worksheets would have benefited students by providing them with an opportunity to practice key concepts engaged with during the lesson. The use of an overhead projector would also have been beneficial in other lessons. It is therefore recommended that teachers use a greater range of appropriate resources in lessons.
Teachers had good classroom management skills and frequently circulated the room to monitor the work of individual students and to provide feedback to students. There were very good mathematical displays in a classroom which greatly added to the learning experience for students.
It is therefore recommended that a greater range of mathematical displays should feature in all classrooms, which should enhance and promote the teaching of Mathematics.
Through observation of state examination results over the past years the uptake of levels varies from year to year. In junior cycle the uptake of foundation level has declined with an increase in the uptake of higher level. Teachers are encouraged to continue to monitor the uptake of levels and achievements of students in such examinations.
Students in Coláiste Cois Siúire are assessed throughout the year through end-of-topic examinations, Christmas and summer examinations for non-examination year groupings and Christmas and ‘mock’ examinations for examination year groupings. Where appropriate, teachers have collaborated and developed common assessments for year groupings, which is commendable practice.
There is a parent-teacher meeting for each year grouping. School reports are issued following formal examinations. Further contact is also made by phone when necessary. In addition teachers use student diaries as a means of communication with parents.
Homework assigned in lessons was appropriate to the topics being studied in the lesson and to the ability of students. Through observation of student copies there was evidence that teachers are monitoring students’ work. However it is recommended that students receive greater formative assessment within their copies. This should allow students to identify areas for further improvement. Furthermore, teachers should develop strategies among their students to share in the responsibility for the correction of their work. In addition to homework copies, folders, which are retained by teachers, are used to retain students’ previous work such as assessments.
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 Mathematics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.