An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of History
Curragh Post-Primary School,
Roll number: 70660O
Date of inspection: 11 December 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in History
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Curragh Post-Primary School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in History 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 subject coordinator.
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.
History is well supported by school management in Curragh Post-Primary School. The school is unusual in that History is a core subject both at junior cycle and senior cycle. This is a testament to the high profile History has in the school.
The allocation of class periods to History is very good. First and third year classes have four periods per week. Second year classes have three periods per week. Leaving Certificate classes have five class periods per week. Timetabling is good with an appropriate spread of lessons across the week and between morning and afternoon lessons.
There are currently two teachers of History in the school. Teachers are deployed in line with their qualifications and have been facilitated in their attendance at history in-service. One teacher takes the majority of the class groups. It is commendable that management is willing to pay subject association fees for teachers and to make arrangements for teachersí attendance at national conferences. A member of the department is a member of the History Teachersí Association of Ireland and has attended a range of training events. This shows a commendable level of commitment to the subject. †
The history department is very well resourced. Every teacher has been provided with a laptop. Classrooms are well-appointed. A data-projector, television and DVD player were in evidence in every classroom visited during the course of the inspection. A number of interactive whiteboards are also available for teachersí use. The use of information and communications technology (ICT) was integrated into many of the lessons observed. To ensure maximum use is made of the very good ICT facilities in the school, it is recommended that management investigate how best to further support teachersí use of ICT in the classroom.
While there is no fixed budget for History, management is open to all requests for resources. An excellent bank of history resources, some of which are teacher produced, has been built up by the department over the years. Class sets of history textbooks are available to support teaching and learning in History. The history department is to be highly commended for making such a wide and varied set of resources available. To facilitate the display of history related material, it is recommended that a history notice-board is made available in a prominent position in the school.
Collaborative planning is ongoing in the history department. A subject co-ordinator is in place and a subject plan has been developed. A very comprehensive and reflective set of aims and objectives for History are included in the planning documents. These inform the teaching and learning of History in the school. Meetings take place regularly. Good informal contact and collaboration among the teaching team complement the formal planning process. An example of this informal collaboration is the manner in which the history department supports students doing teaching practice for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education.
Very good levels of individual planning for lessons were observed in the course of the inspection. Planning for resources was excellent in some cases. Teachers, in all instances, made their planning documentation available to the inspector. Some individual planning documentation indicated work to be undertaken on a termly basis. This is good practice and should be adopted by all members of the department. Very effective planning for ICT was in evidence. It is recommended that the wide range of ICT resources built up by the history department, including planning documentation, be made available centrally in a folder on the schoolís intranet.
Effective planning for students with additional educational needs was also in evidence. Teachers routinely produce differentiated work sheets to support studentsí learning.
It is recommended that the very good practice observed in relation to methodologies, use of resources and assessment practices in the department, be discussed during department meetings and be more fully documented in the department plan as a good resource for new members of the department.
Very good planning for extracurricular, co-curricular and cross-curricular activities was in evidence in the school. The department is to be highly commended for the development of studentsí interest in local history. Good links have been made with the local history museum and with local historians. There is very good support in the school for field trips to areas of local and national interest. Good cross-curricular links have also been forged with the English department in the school, especially in the areas of historical novels and films.
The quality of teaching and learning observed ranged from very good to excellent. From the outset, students settled down well to work in all lessons. In some lessons observed, teachers introduced the lesson objective in writing to their students at the start of class. It is recommended that this good practice is extended to all lessons. Very good teacher-pupil relations were in evidence in all classrooms visited. Teachers are to be commended for the sensitive, supportive and understanding way they deal with their pupils.
Teaching methodologies observed were appropriate to the mixed-ability class groups. Lessons in which a range of resources and activities were used were particularly enjoyable for students as evidenced by the high levels of student participation and engagement with the topics being taught. For example, in one senior cycle lesson, the teacher showed a film clip to introduce the topic of the Eucharistic Congress in 1932, used questioning to elicit information from the film clip and then students worked in pairs on a quiz related to the lesson topic. This strategy transferred responsibility for learning to the students for a short period of time and allowed the teacher to focus on the needs of some individuals.
The effective use of ICT was integrated into many of the lessons observed. For example, in one lesson observed, a PowerPoint presentation with some excellent visuals, including maps, cartoons and photographs, was used in juxtaposition with a number of other resources, to introduce the main points of the Cuban Missile crisis. ICT can be a good support to teaching and learning in History. It is recommended that all members of the history department investigate strategies to extend the use of ICT in the classroom.
Very good use was made of text-based sources in the course of the inspection. Excellent use of documents was evident in teaching material in relation to the Leaving Certificate case studies. Students were invited to infer the main events and issues from the documents. This self-directed learning strategy puts the emphasis on the development of historical skills and is commended. Good use was also made of the textbook in classrooms visited to focus on visuals or historical information.
Very good differentiation strategies were observed in some lessons. Differentiated work sheets and the use of mnemonics and rhymes were a good aid to student retention in some cases. Emphasis was placed on the acquisition of key words in all classrooms visited. In one lesson observed, a word sleuth was used to develop subject-specific vocabulary. This commendable strategy could have been further advanced by reading over the key words with the students beforehand. It is recommended that greater use is made of the board to note down key words and that students are encouraged to take down these key words as the lesson progresses.
Classrooms were appropriately decorated with posters, maps and project-work. Good use was made of these in the course of some lessons. In one junior cycle lesson observed, posters of ancient Rome and a world map were used to illustrate some of the history of the Roman Empire. This is good practice. Teachers were affirming of studentsí efforts in all classrooms visited. Students were knowledgeable about their courses and co-operative with their teachers.
Good modes of assessment were seen in the course of the inspection. Very good use was made of questioning in all classrooms to revise prior learning and to progress the lesson. Copybooks contained appropriate work, with very good preparation for examinations in evidence in some cases. The use of Assessment for Learning strategies in the correction of student copybooks was noted and is commended. It is recommended that the department investigate further Assessment for Learning strategies with a view to incorporating them into classroom practice.
Homework is given and monitored regularly at senior cycle and in examination classes but not as frequently for first and second-year students. It is recommended that written homework, including the use of extended writing, be used frequently as an assessment and developmental strategy for all students in line with the schoolís homework policy. An emphasis on the acquisition of key words and their incorporation into sentence or paragraph construction is suggested as a way to approach written work with students experiencing difficulty accessing the subject.
Teachers keep good records of student work, building a profile of student progress. There is good communication with studentsí homes. Reports are sent home twice each year and parent-teacher meetings are held twice each year for examinations classes and once for other year groups.
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 principal and subject coordinator at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, June 2010