An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Bóthar Nangor, Cluain Dolcáin, Baile Átha Cliath 22
Roll number: 70100W
Date of inspection: 26 March 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Chilliain, conducted as part of a whole-school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German 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 acting principal, deputy principal and subject teachers.
There is good whole-school support for modern languages in Coláiste Chilliain. Modern languages are core in the curriculum and all students in first year study either German or French. Generally incoming first-year students are assigned to study one or other language. In the event that a parent or student specifically makes a request to study one of the languages, this is generally granted. However students do not have an open choice regarding which modern language they study. Other optional subjects in Coláiste Chilliain are offered as part of a taster programme in first year. It is recommended that the manner in which German is offered, through assigning students to the subject, be kept under review. If resources permit, it is suggested that consideration be given to including modern languages in the taster programme in first year along with other optional subjects. There are currently two first-year class groups taking German and one taking French.
The time allocated to German is good. In junior cycle and in Transition Year (TY) students have four class periods per week. In senior cycle students are allocated five class periods per week. The distribution of lessons is mainly good with the exception of first year. Both first year classes have German twice on some days. This is not optimal and it is recommended that, in so far as is possible, one lesson period for German be held on four separate days.
There are very good resources available for German. Although there is not an official budget allocated to the subject, requests for new resources are met by management. Resources include CD/DVD players, films, books, CDs, DVDs and magazines. It is laudable that the CD players in use in the classrooms all have remote control facilities. There is good access to information and communications technology (ICT). All students of German go to the computer room regularly and learn German with the assistance of ICT. This is highly commendable. German is taught in base classrooms which are very well decorated. Maps, posters and displays of students’ work were all on display. In one classroom the key vocabulary of the themes currently being studied by the students was on display. This created an excellent and meaningful learning environment and is exemplary practice. A notice board displaying information on German language courses and other materials related to German was placed strategically outside one of the classrooms.
There are good activities to support the teaching and learning of German. Activities related to celebrating festive times such as Christmas and Easter are organised. Students are brought to see German films. This year a school trip to Germany has been organised. The commitment on the part of the teachers to the organisation of such activities is highly commended. The German department holds membership of the Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (German Teachers’ Association). Teachers attend meetings organised by the association, have attended courses in German speaking countries, and are committed to professional development. This is praiseworthy.
The school is engaged in school development planning and subject department planning is seen as an integral part of the whole-school planning process. There is very good informal collaboration between members of the German department. However, there is no co-ordinator for German and it is suggested that the school review this. The role of subject co-ordinator is such that it gives teachers a great opportunity for professional development. The position of co-ordinator can rotate so that each member of staff gets this valuable experience. It is also suggested that all staff involved in the teaching of modern languages could work together in order to share best practice.
Subject department meetings are held to discuss issues relating to the provision of German in the school. Most meetings are held on an informal basis. It is recommended that formal meetings take place and that minutes of such meetings, including records of decisions made and actions to be taken, be documented. Given that some excellent teaching methodologies were observed in the course of the inspection, it is recommended that exchanges of ideas on successful teaching methodologies take place at subject department meetings. It would be useful if more detailed information regarding these methodologies were documented in the plans.
A long-term plan for German was presented prior to the evaluation. The plan for the delivery of German contains the themes to be covered in each class group. It is recommended that the plans be developed to include the specific intended learning outcomes for each year group. The plan for German contains information on the support that will be given to students with special educational needs. This is highly commendable. In order to build on this good practice, it is recommended that further information on differentiated learning outcomes, methodologies and assessment be included in the plans.
The plan for German in TY appropriately outlines the aims of the programme and the methodologies, themes, resources and assessment methods in use in the programme. It is recommended that this section of the German plan be developed with particular emphasis on stated learning outcomes and skills to be acquired. It would be useful to consult section 2.3 of the brochure Writing the Transition Year Programme when undertaking this work. This brochure can be downloaded from the website of the Second Level Support Service at www.slss.ie. It is also recommended that consideration be given to planning themes alongside the TY calendar. For example, the theme of ‘the world of work’ could be studied in German when students are taking part in work experience as part of the overall TY programme. Developing areas of interdisciplinary study are part of the core philosophy of the TY programme and therefore merit attention. It is recommended that the area of cross-curricular links be explored in the TY plan for German.
Excellent examples of individual planning were evident in the course of the inspection. Best practice was observed in the written lesson plans which were made available. These plans clearly indicated the active teaching methodologies which would be used. In these plans the careful strategies for the reinforcement of learning objectives were exemplary. The advance preparation of high quality hand outs and other materials was very good. This level of short-term planning is highly commendable.
The quality of teaching and learning in most lessons observed was excellent. Some highly effective methodologies were used to ensure that learning took place. There was very good integration of the skills of language acquisition in most of the lessons observed. Students were asked to carry out a variety of tasks related to one theme which involved speaking, reading, writing and listening. This provided students with many opportunities to revisit vocabulary in different ways and thus served to reinforce learning objectives.
The use of the target language was excellent in most lessons observed. It was particularly impressive to witness the level of understanding of German, without any recourse to translation, among classes in junior cycle, including students who are only in their first year of learning the language. Virtually all classroom interaction and instruction was understood by all students. This provides clear evidence that the target language is used on an ongoing basis in these classes and is to be very highly commended. However, in a senior cycle lesson observed, some translation of questions was used to facilitate students’ understanding. It is preferable that less translation be used and that the students be required to understand the target language. In interaction with the inspector, the level of students’ comprehension and ability to respond was in some cases excellent. In other instances, students were not so readily able to understand questions asked in the target language. To enhance students’ ability to speak the language, it is recommended that the practice of beginning classes with general familiar questions in German be extended to lessons where it is not already taking place.
Lesson content in all cases was theme based. This very good practice is commended. In one lesson observed, a film formed the basis for lesson content. This is good as it provides students with the opportunity to access language and culture through an interesting medium. When using film in lessons, it is recommended that students always be seated in an appropriate manner and that materials be prepared in advance to keep students focussed on specific learning outcomes. Tasks, which will require the students to write and read vocabulary and expressions related to the film, should be given to ensure that consolidation of learning takes place.
The use of project work in a junior cycle lesson observed was excellent. Students worked in groups on designing their own menu for their own café. This allowed students to work together in a creative fashion. In the course of this activity students used dictionaries which enabled them to engage in autonomous learning. This is very good practice. At the end of the activity students put the menus they had created into their scrap books along with other materials which they had created at the end of previous themes. This provided a wonderful record of the students’ work. This form of project work enhanced the learning process and is most commendable.
There was very good continuity from one lesson to the next. This approach is vital in order to consolidate learning. Many lessons began with a recapitulation of what had been learned in the previous lesson. In one case a teddy bear was brought into class to revise the names of the parts of the body in German. This appealed to the students very much. Such techniques are innovative and to be commended.
The atmosphere in the majority of lessons observed was very good. In many lessons it was clear that the students were enjoying learning German. Student-teacher rapport was very good. Interactions within the classroom were very positive.
Formal assessment takes place every six weeks in all subjects across the school. In German, students are regularly assessed in all skills. This is good practice and to be commended. In TY, students are assigned credits and students’ project work also forms part of the assessment. There is regular contact with parents to inform them of students’ progress. Reports are sent to parents and a parent-teacher meeting is held for all year groups.
A range of assessment modes was used in the course of lesson observation. Good use of questioning was noted in all lessons. This served to keep students on task and informed teachers of students’ progress. Homework was assigned in the majority of lessons. The homework was appropriate to the needs of the learners and served to reinforce classroom learning. This is praiseworthy. Homework was also sought in the majority of classes visited. Best practice was observed where teachers circulated and monitored the homework. In order to ensure that learning took place, this was then followed by explanations of common errors on the whiteboard. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all lessons. In TY, no homework was sought at the beginning of the lesson nor assigned at the end. Students in TY do not record homework. It is recommended that this be reviewed. It is strongly recommended that homework is regularly assigned to students of German, in the TY programme.
A sample of students’ copybooks was viewed in the course of the evaluation. In some cases, but not in all, students receive detailed feedback regarding errors made. Positive annotations and comments were also noted. This is effective practice. In senior cycle, the work in some of the copybooks was very disorganised. It is recommended that students be helped in acquiring skills of organisation of their work. This will pay great dividends in the long term and help students learn more effectively.
In TY, a workbook for use throughout the year has been given to the students. This is effective in helping students to maintain their work in good order. However, it was noted that students had been given little or no meaningful written tasks in the course of the year. It is recommended, in order to develop the skill of writing, that students be given short paragraphs to write in German based on the themes that are being covered in class. This work should be monitored and feedback should be given to the students regarding how they can improve. In all year groups, students should be required to follow up on errors they have made. This will ensure that learning takes place.
It is recommended that principles of Assessment for Learning (AfL) be adopted in line with the recommendations above. Further information on this can be obtained from the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment at www.ncca.ie
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 German and with the acting principal and the deputy principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, March 2010