An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Castlecomer Community School,
Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny
Roll number: 91360T
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Castlecomer Community School, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 the teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís 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 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.
Metalwork and Engineering form part of the schoolís curriculum at Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate respectively. In addition to this, an Engineering module forms part of the Transition Year (TY) programme. Currently, no Engineering module is offered in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. It was reported by school management that with an increase in the number of students partaking in the LCA programme in the school Engineering could be offered in the future.
The time allocation for Metalwork is appropriate. This allocation consists of four class periods per week. During TY, students receive two class periods per week while they are taking part in the half-year Engineering module. At Leaving Certificate, the allocation of time to Engineering is very good with five periods allocated in fifth year and a total of six periods allocated in sixth year.† At both junior and senior cycle this allocation is divided between single and double class periods. This is best practice as it allows for practical and theoretical components of the syllabus to be covered in the most suitable class periods.
Students entering first year and fifth year are given an open choice of available subjects. Option bands are then devised based on studentsí preferences. This practice is commended.
Senior cycle students are supported in their subject choice through their participation in the optional TY, by support from the guidance counsellor and by the third-year parentsí night where information in relation to the various optional subjects is circulated. It is recommended that this system of informing student choice be further extended to prospective first-year students by providing them with a taster programme of the optional subjects offered. This would allow students to make their initial subject choices based on their own experience rather than on any preconceived subject stereotypes.
A good proportion of boys choose to study Metalwork and Engineering. Very few girls choose Engineering and currently none study Metalwork. In a school where the majority of students are girls this is a matter of concern.
The Metalwork/Engineering room is well resourced and very well maintained. The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005, and has updated the machinery and facilities. The items of equipment purchased are generally in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list of the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. The work carried out by the subject department in refurbishing the room is commended. In addition to this, there is a commitment to health and safety in the subject department and a wide variety of safety posters are displayed around the room in conjunction with standard safety signs.† Almost all machines are appropriately safeguarded and safety zones are clearly marked around them. Health and safety procedures are listed in the subject plan and were clearly evident throughout the evaluation.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend continuous professional development (CPD) courses and actively promotes subject association involvement through funding and through student participation in regional and national competitions.
The teachers of the technical and practical subjects form a subject department in Castlecomer Community School. This allows common issues to be discussed and common policies to be formulated. Formal meetings are held regularly and the role of convener is rotated, as is best practice.
A subject plan has been developed that includes a number of policies relating to class organisation, homework, assessment, supports for students with additional educational needs and health and safety in the Metalwork room. Curriculum planning for both the practical and theoretical aspects of the subjects in Junior Certificate, TY and Leaving Certificate is also included. These plans are broken down into manageable timeframes, giving students a varied and interesting programme of study. It is recommended, in order to further develop the subject plan, that a clear long-term plan be devised by the subject department. This long-term plan should detail the priorities and strategies identified to further improve the provision of Metalwork and Engineering in the school. These priorities should include increasing the number of girls choosing to study the subjects and the further development of teaching strategies through the incorporation of information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering.
The TY plan has been developed to cater for students of very mixed abilities. Due to this, the TY module for Engineering is focused mainly on junior cycle material to allow for students new to the subject to develop the fundamental skills necessary for senior cycle. It is recommended that the TY plan for Engineering be reviewed to reflect the programmeís objectives, by incorporating significantly different methodologies in the delivery and assessment of the module and by the introduction of more age appropriate content.
The subject department has devised a number of subject specific literacy resources for use by the learning-support team. This planning allows for students receiving additional help to improve their literacy while also improving their awareness of terms associated with the subject. This practice is commended.
A number of resources have been identified and developed by the subject department including working drawings, process sheets, student handouts and large posters of the current State Examinations Commission (SEC) projects and practical exams. The preparation of such resources complements the learning experience for students and improves their overall learning environment. †
All lessons observed during the evaluation were meticulously planned. Material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student and each demonstration was well thought out and executed. This level of lesson planning is commended.
At the beginning of each lesson observed, the desired learning intention was shared with the class group. This allowed for a structured format to lessons where the learning outcomes could be revisited at the end to recap and ensure student understanding. In all lessons observed, the content and pace was appropriate resulting in clear and well-organised lessons.
Throughout the evaluation, effective teaching methodologies were observed. All practical lessons contained a significant portion of theoretical content allowing students to apply their knowledge in a practical setting. This approach is commended.
Demonstrations to both the class group and to individuals were used regularly throughout the lessons observed. Group demonstrations were carried out at the demonstration area or at the teacherís desk. This allowed for the appropriate tools, equipment and resources to be prepared prior to the lesson. All demonstrations were clear and effective and contained significant student interaction. In some cases, prepared process sheets outlining the correct sequence of work for specific tasks supported the demonstrations. All opportunities to incorporate the use of subject specific terminology were availed of and studentsí knowledge and understanding of these terms were checked frequently by constantly reinforcing keywords.
All students were included in discussions, especially during demonstrations when a good mix of higher and recall type questions allowed for all students to participate at their particular level.
In all lessons observed, the teacher circulated among the students to provide individual guidance and support. By doing this it was also possible to assess student understanding and skills and set varying targets and learning outcomes for students.
Effective classroom management was supported by teacher-student interactions that were engaging and mutually respectful and by positive affirmation to students. Students stored their tools neatly and had specified responsibilities for the upkeep and cleanliness of the classroom.
Where ICT was incorporated into lessons its use was effective. This was evident in a senior cycle lesson where a small number of students used modeling software to create a parametric model of a past SEC project. This allowed the students to assemble the various parts using the software prior to manufacture. This practical use of ICT is commended and every opportunity to extend its use should be explored.
Studentsí participation was very good and their commitment, enthusiasm and enjoyment of the subject reflected this. Studentsí practical work was of a very good quality and indicated a good level of learning consistent with the skills necessary to complete the syllabus. The subject department and school management should consider the introduction of an annual award for Metalwork and Engineering students. Such an award could raise the status of the subject within the school and also further improve the standard of studentsí project work.
The majority of students follow the higher-level course at junior cycle, and almost all students follow the higher-level course at senior cycle. The subject departmentís commitment to high standards of achievement is commended.
Student assessment occurs through both formal end-of-term examinations, and through informal assessment techniques employed during the year. These include in-class questioning, monitoring of student practical work, homework, worksheets and end-of-term class tests. Records of student progress are maintained and were available throughout the evaluation.†
The end-of-term examinations for all non-examination year groups are made up of written examinations combined with a practical element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subjectsí syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. The practical elements of assessment are generally based on past SEC practical examinations. It is suggested that an alternative form of practical assessment be identified to allow for assessment of studentsí design skills as well as their abilities to accurately manufacture mechanism type projects.
Homework is assigned to all year groups and is corrected regularly. All project and practical work is corrected and feedback is given to students orally. This feedback is both summative and formative. It is suggested that this level of feedback be further extended to studentsí written work.
The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents after each formal examination. The communication of student progress is also carried out through parent-teacher meetings and through the student journal. Parents are also kept informed of school matters through the regular publication of the school newsletter. This practice is commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Metalwork and Engineering form part of the curriculum of the school at both junior and senior cycle respectively.
∑ There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and Engineering.
∑ Engineering is offered to TY students as part of a half-year module.
∑ Subject option bands are based on student preferences at both junior and senior cycle.
∑ The Metalwork and Engineering room is very well resourced and maintained in terms of equipment, materials and resources.
∑ There is a commitment to professional development in the school.
∑ There are supports in place for students and parents in relation to subject choice at both junior and senior cycle.
∑ The subject department has developed a subject plan that focuses on a number of policies and yearly curricular plans.
∑ Individual teacher preparation for lessons was very good.
∑ A number of subject specific resources have been developed and shared with the learning-support team.
∑ Classroom management was effective and students took ownership and responsibility for the classroom.
∑ Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful.
∑ The assessment modes used are congruent with the aims and objectives of the syllabuses.
∑ All students are encouraged to follow the higher-level course and they achieve very well at their chosen level.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ School management should consider the implementation of a taster period of optional subjects for first-year students in order to help them make informed subject choices.
∑ Key long-term strategies should be identified and incorporated into the subject plan with particular regard to addressing the gender imbalance in the subject and the need to further incorporate ICT into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering.
∑ The Transition Year plan for Engineering should be reviewed. This review should focus on incorporating significantly different methodologies in the delivery and assessment of the module and by the introduction of more age appropriate content.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Metalwork and Engineering and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.