An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design & Communication Graphics/Technical Drawing
Abbey Community College
Roll number: 76082H
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics/Technical Drawing
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Abbey Community College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics/Technical Drawing and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects 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, deputy 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.
Students in Abbey Community College are given the opportunity to choose the appropriate graphics subject in the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. The time allocated to these subjects is appropriate in all programmes of study.
Currently, no graphics module is offered to students who choose Transition Year (TY). It is recommended that all efforts be made to ensure that TY students receive the benefits of sampling the subject during this year. In doing so, it may also be possible to promote Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and thereby increase the number of students who choose to study the subject at senior cycle.
Prior to entering first year, students choose their preferred optional subjects from a list of available subjects. Optional subject bands are then devised based on students’ preferences. To support first-year students in making their optional subject choices, an open night is held for parents of prospective first-year students where a pamphlet detailing information in relation to optional subjects is distributed. In addition to this, local primary schools are visited to further explain the optional subject choices. While it was reported that students are facilitated to change their options during their first month in the school, it is recommended that school management should review its support structures for first-year students in relation to optional subject choice. A possible improvement to the current system could be the introduction of a short programme where students would get the opportunity to sample a variety of optional subjects. This would help students to make more informed optional subject choices.
Prior to making their optional subject choices for Leaving Certificate, students are supported through their participation in a themed ‘choices week’ held in March for third-year and TY students. During this week, the guidance counsellor and subject teachers are available to offer help and assistance to students. This is formalised by a panel discussion in relation to careers and subject requirements. In addition to this, fifth-year students visit third and TY classes to give the students’ perspective of the various subjects offered. Once students have chosen their preferred optional subjects, subject bands are then devised based on these preferences, as is best practice.
Uptake of TG among both boys and girls is appropriate. At senior cycle, especially in fifth year, a large proportion of girls have chosen DCG. The subject department is commended for its continued promotion of the graphics subjects among all students.
There is one room designated to the teaching of both the junior and senior cycle graphics subjects. This room is bright, spacious and well equipped with a large number of teaching aids and models available for demonstration purposes. It is suggested that these models be given a more prominent position in the classroom to allow students to view and to access them. The school has received Department of Education and Science grant-aided information and communication technology (ICT) resources for the new senior cycle DCG syllabus. This funding has been used on the on upgrading of an existing computer room. While it is recognised that the current DCG class group is timetabled for the designated TG/DCG room and the refurbished computer room, there may be considerable timetabling difficulties next year when there are possibly three year groups requiring access to these resources. School management and the subject department should review this arrangement with a view to ensuring that all senior cycle students receive appropriate exposure to the parametric modelling software.
The school is currently developing a mentoring programme among its teachers. This programme, currently in its second year, was devised in order to help teachers to reflect on their teaching strategies and methodologies through peer observation. It is suggested that the members of the subject department consider availing of this opportunity within the school to further develop their teaching and learning strategies.
Members of the subject department have attended all of the professional development courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) is commended.
The teachers of the practical subjects form a subject department group in Abbey Community College. A convenor, a role that is rotated among members of the subject department, records the minutes of subject department meetings. The minutes of subject department meetings show minimal discussion in relation to TG and DCG/TD. It is recommended that time be dedicated to the graphics subjects during subject department meetings or that separate subject department meetings be held for TG and DCG/TD in order to plan appropriately for the further development of the subjects.
A subject department plan is currently in the early stages of development. It is recommended that this subject plan be further progressed through the identification of long-term goals for the subject. One of these goals should be to continue to increase the number of students following the higher-level course at both junior and senior cycle. This long-term goal should include the identification of strategies for its achievement, clearly defined responsibilities for duties and unambiguous measures of success.
The subject department plan also contains agreed curricular plans for each year group. These curricular plans are largely based on subject matter. To further develop these curricular plans, learning outcomes should be identified for all year groups within defined timeframes. These learning outcomes could then be achieved through the implementation of planned methodologies and assessment techniques combined with appropriate resources.
The subject plan also contains a brief section on planning for students with additional educational needs. It is suggested that the subject department, in collaboration with the educational support team, identify the specific needs of students studying TG and DCG/TD. Once these needs have been identified it will be possible to incorporate suitable methodologies into lessons in order to facilitate their learning.
The level of planning and preparation for lessons observed was very good and a number of resources was prepared in advance. Examples of these resources included prepared drawing sheets and a number of ICT resources.
By sharing the learning intention with students at the beginning of some lessons, teachers ensured that students were made fully aware of what was expected of them. This helped students to focus on the required learning and also allowed teachers to assess student learning at the end of lessons and to evaluate and modify their teaching strategies based on this learning. This good practice should be extended to all lessons.
In most lessons, teachers structured students’ learning experiences in order to maintain their engagement in the lesson and to maximise their understanding of the subject matter. This was particularly evident in a senior cycle lesson where students’ progress through a conic sections question was punctuated with a number of clear and unambiguous teacher explanations using sketches, ICT resources and geometrical models. In a junior cycle lesson observed all instructions were given to students at the beginning of the lesson and students then worked through the prescribed questions supported by individual guidance at their desk when required. This had the effect of creating a passive learning environment. All efforts should be made to make the learning of the subjects as participative as possible. This could be achieved by utilising appropriate teaching aids and by increasing the level of difficulty of questions incrementally during lessons.
In most lessons observed, students were encouraged to apply their learning through the use of questions designed to test their problem-solving abilities. This was further developed in a senior cycle lesson where students were encouraged to investigate possible solutions to a problem and to learn experientially. The use of these techniques is encouraged.
In all DCG and TD lessons observed, ICT was incorporated into the teaching and learning process. Its use was effective in all instances and beneficial to the development of students’ competencies in the construction and understanding of key principles.
Classroom management was effective throughout the evaluation. Students were courteous and well behaved and a positive learning atmosphere was evident in all lessons. This atmosphere was achieved through very good teacher-student interactions, teacher circulation and appropriate pacing of lessons. Junior cycle students received deserved affirmation throughout the lessons observed and responded to this by taking pride in the quality of their drafting and presentation of drawings.
A number of student drawings were displayed around the room. This student work was supplemented by a variety of graphics posters, student models and computer aided design (CAD) drawings. An opportunity now presents itself to further improve the visual impact of the room by encouraging DCG students to prepare graphical representations of various household objects using a variety of media such as sketching, physical modeling and the generation of parametric solid models.
Students generally demonstrated a good level of understanding of the syllabus through their application of knowledge and skills and by their responses to questions. This learning was particularly evident in a senior cycle lesson where some students have undertaken considerable independent learning. This enthusiasm for the subject should be fostered among students, as it will help them to produce good quality coursework thereby improving their overall achievement.
The majority of students in Abbey Community College attempt the higher-level examinations at junior cycle. At senior cycle, the majority choose ordinary level. It was reported that this trend is gradually decreasing and more students are attempting higher level at both junior and senior cycle. This positive development is to be encouraged.
Formal assessments are held at mid-term, Christmas and summer, with ‘mock’ examinations held for examination year groups in the spring. In addition to these formal assessments, a number of class tests are used to monitor and profile students. This system allows all results to be tabulated and circulated among year heads, class tutors, the guidance counsellor, the learning support coordinator, the deputy principal and the principal. This allows for monitoring of student performance and taking appropriate action, be it constructive or affirmative, to continue to improve this performance. This monitoring of student progress is commended.
Some students store their drawing folders in school while others bring them home in order to revise them. It is recommended that the subject department explore the possibility of introducing a common policy in relation to student folders. To do so, the subject department should examine the current storage facilities in the classroom, and identify a suitable folder type for junior and senior cycle students. Once this has been achieved, and in order to build upon curricular planning, the subject department could identify a list of required drawings for each year group. This would allow for a more formalised approach to awarding students marks for their coursework and would also prepare senior cycle students for the coursework elements of the syllabus.
Teachers’ records confirmed regular monitoring of students’ attendance and achievements in class tests. The maintenance of such records allows for accurate information to be communicated to parents regularly and effectively.
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:
Published October 2008