An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE)
East Glendalough School
Roll number: 81016V
Date of inspection: 4 March 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Civic, Social and Personal Education (CSPE)
This report has been written following a subject inspection in East Glendalough School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in CSPE 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 board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
East Glendalough School is a co-educational comprehensive school with 356 students. The study of CSPE is compulsory for all students at junior cycle. The CSPE course is outlined to parents at the introductory meeting for incoming first-year students. This is good practice as it informs parents of the demands of CSPE and the rationale underpinning the study of this subject which may be less familiar to them. Students are taught in mixed-ability groupings. This is commended.
There is good whole school provision for CSPE in relation to the allocation of time. Classes have one period per week and lessons are of forty minutes duration. Teachers are allocated to CSPE on the basis of interest or experience in teaching the subject and the demands of the timetable. Senior management makes every effort to ensure that teachers carry through with the same class group from first to third year. However, recent changes in those teaching the subject have not allowed for this with the current student cohort. Efforts are also made to ensure that the teacher of CSPE has the same class for another subject, although some class groups in the current year do not have this overlap. It is recommended that ways be explored which will facilitate greater contact with the class group for the teacher of CSPE in order to provide more opportunities to swap classes around when completing the action projects.
There are currently two teachers of CSPE with varied experience of teaching the subject, and both are Arts graduates. The school has benefited from the in-service training provided by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) for teachers of CSPE in recent years and the principal reported that the teachers who attended the inservice are available to support those current members of the CSPE department who have not as yet received inservice training. The school has also engaged in inservice on formative assessment and differentiated teaching in order to enhance teaching and learning in all subject areas. As a means of further benefiting from subject-specific professional development it is recommended that the teachers of CSPE renew contact with the Citizenship Education Support Team. Senior management indicated the school’s willingness to support continued professional development in whatever way possible.
Some teachers of CSPE have a designated classroom while others work in student-based rooms. It is recommended that teachers try to create a print-rich environment displaying photographs of public figures, posters relevant to the different concepts being studied and samples of students work in order to affirm student effort and to enable them to assimilate learning over time. Where teachers do not have a base classroom, consideration should be given to developing a CSPE corner or wall in the student-based rooms or on a corridor. Students themselves could also be encouraged to put up relevant materials which they have sourced. All classrooms visited had traditional seating arrangements. Given the importance of active learning in CSPE, consideration should be given to rearranging the desks to better suit a group work dynamic.
There is access to a wide range of materials provided by the CSPE second level support services, the Department of Education and Science and a number of agencies promoting development education. Additional resources are provided on request to management. General resources for CSPE are stored by individual teachers, while secure storage for students’ examination work is made available in the principal’s office. This is good practice.
Teachers reported that they rarely use information and communication technology (ICT) in the CSPE lesson to support teaching and learning, although some have brought students to the ICT room to research projects. Teachers cited a lack of expertise in using data projectors as a reason for not embracing ICT in the classroom. Given the wealth of resources on line it is recommended that the necessary supports be made available to the members of the CSPE department to enable them to reap the benefits of ICT as a tool for the teaching and learning of the subject.
Co-curricular activities have included visits to the county’s animal sanctuary and involvement in local environment projects. Students are commended on winning a prize for their work cleaning up the Black Castle area of Wicklow Town, a project organised by Wicklow County Council. Teachers also reported engaging in cross-curricular activities with English. Students are involved in an annual fundraising event for their school’s world challenge which funds students’ visits to work in developing countries. The end-of-year open day involves setting up a CSPE display celebrating the students’ work during the year. This is commended. Where possible, teachers should extend the practice of acknowledging or celebrating key dates or events as a means of heightening students’ awareness of the importance of active citizenship in today’s world.
The members of the CSPE department in East Glendalough School are currently engaged in subject development planning as part of the whole school development planning initiative. The two teachers currently involved in teaching CSPE have adopted a team approach to subject planning as they are both new to the department this year. It is envisaged however that as the department develops a subject coordinator will be appointed. It is general school policy that the position of subject coordinator is rotated. This is good practice. Teachers usually meet at the beginning of each term for subject planning. To date, minutes have not been recorded of planning meetings. It is recommended that a record of key decisions be kept as a means of supporting the good organisation of the CSPE department.
Subject plans submitted on the day of the inspection included a copy of the syllabus, the guidelines for the teaching of CSPE and exemplars of standard. This is good practice as it is important to work to the syllabus rather than the textbook. Schemes of work for the year were also submitted. These were formulated in terms of the concepts to be covered, the broad time frame and the proposed methodologies. The teachers of CSPE are commended for embracing subject development planning. As part of their ongoing planning, teachers should build on the good work completed to date by grounding their plans within the context of the school and its mission statement. They should also establish aims and objectives for the teaching of CSPE and formulate them in terms of desired learning outcomes: what the students in each year group will be able to do as a result of their learning. When discussing methodologies, teachers should plan for differentiation to meet the varied needs of the student cohort and for the inclusion of ICT into their work. They should also establish protocols for classroom management, action projects and outings.
There was evidence of good preparation for the lessons observed, with individual lessons plans submitted and advance preparation of supplementary materials where used.
Inspection activities included the observation of three lessons, one in first year, one in second year and one in third year. There was also the opportunity to interact with the students at the end of each lesson.
The topics studied included the issues of violence, discrimination and active citizenship. The plan of work was outlined at the beginning of each lesson. This is commended as it engages students from the outset. However, it was not always clear which concept was being taught. Students need to be reminded at the beginning of each lesson of the concept being studied. It is also suggested that the lesson plan be reframed in terms of a proposed learning outcome, making students aware of teaching and learning as a shared role.
Question and answer sessions were effectively used to reinforce previous learning and to elicit student knowledge and opinions in relation to the topic being studied. Question and answer sessions also facilitated the integration of current news items into the body of the lesson, thereby enabling students to link the reality of their everyday lives to what they are learning in CSPE. In addition the use of higher order questions encouraged students to reflect at a deeper level and to respond accordingly. This is commended.
Students were assigned group work tasks in all of the lessons observed. The appropriate use of group work is commended as it promotes collaboration in addition to active and independent learning. This is important for the successful completion of action projects as well as contributing to active citizenship in practice. Some lessons were well structured with a very good balance between teacher input and student activity. In other instances however, students were engaged in activities without sufficient teacher-led instruction to ensure that the activities were meaningful and productive. While the use of group work is commendable practice it requires clear direction to students in relation to the purpose of the task and the expected outcomes. Some quiet time should also be built into lessons to enable students to reflect on the topic being studied.
In some instances students were assigned to groups, whereas in other lessons, they joined with the students sitting beside them. In classes where the students do not have assigned seats consideration should be given to assigning them to specific working groups in order to ensure optimum participation and learning outcomes for each group.
There were some examples of very good management of active learning. This occurred where a specific time frame was established and adhered to, where students were grouped to optimum benefit and reminded of the rules for group work and where all groups engaged successfully in the activity in a focused and productive manner. There were other lessons where a more structured approach would have facilitated greater student engagement. Ground rules need to be established in some classes concerning student participation. A short timeframe should be allocated and adhered to for each task with the expectation of specific outcomes being achieved. The teacher should circulate to ensure that all students are applying themselves to the task given.
There was evidence of very effective classroom management in some lessons and a positive rapport between teachers and students. All teachers were affirming of students’ efforts. Students displayed a good understanding of the topics being studied and most of them applied themselves well to the tasks given. There were some however, who remained disengaged for a significant part of the lesson and did not complete the assigned work. Some of the above-mentioned recommendations should assist in addressing this issue.
Student progress is monitored in a variety of ways including attention to student engagement in the lesson, question and answer sessions, homework, end-of-topic tests and formal examinations.
Students keep their homework assignments in folders which are kept at home. Furthermore many of the students did not have a classwork copy with them. A review of student copies was therefore impossible. This practice needs to be reviewed and all students should keep the work completed in class in a designated classwork copy or folder which should be brought to all CSPE lessons. Students should also keep some record of evidence to indicate that all homework assignments have been completed. Teachers also need to monitor copies or folders to ensure that work completed at home is kept for revision and reference purposes later.
Teachers reported giving end-of-topic tests in addition to the formal Christmas and summer examinations. Certificate examination students sit mock examinations early in the second term. Students carry out two action projects and complete the “Report on an Action Project” (RAP) for their Junior Certificate examination.
Parents are kept informed of students’ progress through the annual parent-teacher meetings and school reports. A review of certificate examination results for CSPE indicates outcomes appropriate to the student cohort.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is good whole school support for CSPE
· The CSPE department has embraced and is currently progressing subject development planning.
· A variety of methodologies was observed
· Students showed a good understanding of the work being covered.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Planning should be progressed to include the establishment of desired learning outcomes for each year group
· A better balance between teacher-led instruction and student activity is needed in some lessons to optimise student learning.
· Teachers need to ensure that all students have a designated CSPE copy or folder which is brought to all lessons. Students should also keep a record or copy of all homework assignments.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of CSPE and with the principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published December 2008