An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Indreabhán, Co na Gaillimhe
Roll number: 71250A
Date of inspection: 16 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in gColáiste Cholmcille, Indreabhán, Co. na Gaillimhe, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics 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 teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
Home Economics has traditionally been an optional subject selected mainly by girls, although a small number of boys also take the subject. Class groups at both junior cycle and senior cycle are of mixed ability, which results in higher level and ordinary level students being taught together. The teacher sets high expectations and thus the majority of students aspire to the Higher Level course, particularly at junior cycle. School management and staff are to be commended for proactively encouraging and motivating students to this level.
In first year, students choose either Home Economics or Metal Work. Home Economics is selected by an average of 43% of junior cycle students, which generally results in the formation of one class group. This uptake is notably high. At senior cycle Home Economics is an optional subject within a structure where students are offered a choice between Home Economics or Engineering or Building Construction. Home Economics is selected by an average of 42% of students at this level which generally results in the formation of one class group. This uptake is commendably high. As part of ongoing curricular planning management should review the current arrangements with regard to subject choice at junior and senior cycle with a view to offering students a more open unrestricted choice of the optional subjects in the context of available resources. Such an open style of subject choice would be more student centred and may help address the issue of gender imbalance currently evident in take-up of Home Economics.
The inclusion of a Home Economics module in the curriculum for all Transition Year (TY) students is to be commended as it provides students who have not studied the subject for junior cycle with the opportunity to experience the subject and therefore help them in making a more informed choice with regard to subjects for the Leaving Certificate. This module is allocated one double class period per week. The module is based on contemporary food and culinary practical skills and aims to provide students with a variety of skills in relation to the planning, preparation cooking and serving of food. It is hoped that this might increase interest and uptake in Home Economics for Leaving Certificate.
There is evidence of significant gender imbalance from first year onwards in take-up of Home Economics. The Home Economics department in conjunction with management endeavours to promote Home Economics as a popular subject option by such activities as: promotion of the subject to prospective students and parents on open day; showcasing student work at open day; hosting of awareness campaigns and the use of local media to publicise subject events. In addition the ongoing provision of interesting and contemporary cookery classes in TY Home Economics should help address the issue of gender imbalance currently evident. Such initiatives are praiseworthy.
Guidance, advice and support are provided to students and their parents to assist them in choosing subjects and levels within subjects. The Home Economics department is to be commended on its active role in providing advice for prospective students. The school allows a degree of flexibility if students wish to change their choices thus student mobility between optional subjects is accommodated and supported on educational grounds in certain circumstances.
There is very good provision and whole-school support for the subject. Formal time is allocated for the purpose of subject planning. The teacher has participated in a variety of in-service training sessions, for example those provided by the Leaving Certificate Home Economics Support Service. The teaching time allocated to classes is favourable and in line with syllabus recommendations. The facilitation of double class periods for each year group is to be commended, as they are essential for the development of design and processing skills through project work. Students generally provide materials for practical work, supplemented by school provision where required. There is no specific budget allocated to the subject area, however, management endeavours to provide for the purchase of additional resources and equipment on the basis of teacher requisition.
There is one specialist home economics room which functions as a kitchen and a textiles room. It is very well maintained and resourced with an appropriate range of equipment necessary for the teaching of the subject. Management should continue to support the subject teacher with regard to ongoing investment in the upgrading, replacement and maintenance of specialist equipment as necessary in the Home Economics rooms. The Home Economics room has one computer and is equipped for broadband. Students are encouraged to utilise information and communication technologies (ICT) for investigations and project work in Home Economics during their computer classes and their own study time. The school plans continued improvement of ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of Home Economics.
A risk assessment was carried our in the Home Economics room as part of the drafting of the school’s health and safety statement. In order to ensure the efficient and effective running of practical classes the Home Economics department has a commendable practice where students and their parent/guardian sign a safety contract with regard to adhering to safe work practices in class. This could be further developed into a contract to be signed by both students and parents/guardians with regard to fulfilling the requirements of the practical and project/coursework component of the examinations at both junior and senior cycle. There is evidence of very good health and safety practices in Home Economics classes and management promotes the highest standards in Health and Safety throughout the school.
School structures, systems and strategies support the home economics teacher well when providing for students’ needs including those with special educational needs (SEN). Careful planning is undertaken to provide for students with special educational needs in Home Economics classes. The Home Economics teacher liaises with learning support, resource teacher and the special needs assistant in the school on an ongoing basis and materials are adapted to suit the needs and abilities of students as appropriate.
Management provides dedicated formal meeting time once per term for subject departments as part of its ongoing commitment to progressing SDP. The level of planning and preparation observed in Home Economics was very good and reflective of the professionalism and commitment of the subject teacher to the ongoing development of Home Economics as a popular subject option.
Subject department planning for Home Economics is ongoing and a long-term policy document has been developed which includes details on the organisation, planning, teaching and learning, and assessment of the subject. This subject plan is grounded in the school’s mission statement and includes a list of methodologies and information on teaching resources, home work, assessment, record keeping, reporting mechanisms, health and safety, the use of ICT and addressing students needs. In addition long-term outline schemes of work have been drawn up for each year group. These plans are syllabus based, time bound and provide a clear outline of the content to be completed each term. The teacher concerned is complimented on the work in this area.
In the context of ongoing subject planning it is recommended that this good work be further developed to include more detailed short-term schemes of work which should be seen as working documents, which are used to review subject matter covered and aid planning for the future. This planning should incorporate additional and more specific information relating to delivery of the programmes. Suggested additions include: reference to expected learning outcomes; the specific sequence and timeframes for the completion of relevant practical/project/coursework work; choice of teaching methodologies; choice and use of resources; links between theory and the related practical work; integration of subject matter as recommended in the syllabuses; the specific timeframes and opportunities for homework and assessment and where required details on revision and examination preparation. This process could be implemented on a phased basis. The teacher reviews and records progress in a diary as appropriate to meet students’ needs. Records of student achievement in State examinations are analysed by the teacher this informs future planning of teaching strategies and learning activities. The home economics teacher should continue to make good use of the home economics syllabuses, teacher guidelines and other relevant documentation to facilitate programme planning at all levels.
With regard to cross-curricular planning the home economics teacher engages collaboratively with teachers of Civic Social Political Education (CSPE), Business, Science and French. Consequently teachers endeavour to avoid unnecessary overlap in their programmes. This aids the sequencing of material, the sharing of teaching methodologies and promotes continuity. Home Economics also assists in puppet making and hosting awareness campaigns with TY. Teachers also share teaching resources, ideas for practical tasks and alternative forms of assessment. The teachers concerned are complimented for the work in this area. The range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities planned and developed for students is commendable. These aim to enhance the students’ experience and enjoyment of the subject and extend learning beyond the classroom. This is currently achieved through provision of guest speakers, cookery demonstrations, participation in competitions, and catering for various school events. The commitment to providing such worthy activities should continue to be explored as it makes learning more real and enjoyable for students.
Classroom notice boards are used to great effect to display articles, evidence of students’ work and competitions. This is to be commended as it contributes to a feeling of pride and achievement in students. A good variety of teaching resources relevant to Home Economics has been developed and gathered. These include, for example, reference books, relevant publications, posters, DVDs, videos and commercially prepared resource packs. The Home Economics department makes good use of the overhead projector and classes have access to a television and VCR/DVD when required. It is evident that these resources are used effectively in lessons. On-going investment in the development and expansion of resources to support teaching and learning in Home Economics is suggested.
The quality of advance planning, individual lesson preparation and teaching and learning was exceptionally high in both the practical and theory lessons observed. Lessons were clearly focused, structured, sequenced and presented at a pace that accommodated the individual abilities of the students. Learning outcomes for the lesson were clear and shared with students at the outset and there was evidence of good continuity with previous learning and appropriate integration of theory with practical skills. The teacher showed an awareness of the students’ learning styles and adapted the teaching and learning to suit the students’ needs. These approaches reflect many of the principles of best practice.
The use of appropriate active learning methodologies such as brainstorming, problem solving, pair work, group work and peer learning demonstrated the teacher’s student-centred style. Other teaching methodologies observed included whole class teaching, teacher demonstration, individualised learning, the use of worksheets and the whiteboard. Particularly impressive questioning and explaining strategies were used in the classes observed to engage students in the learning activity, to check understanding, to support students in the development of higher order thinking skills and to link new information with prior learning. Where it existed the observed use of visual material in the delivery of concepts was very worthwhile as it facilitated understanding and enhanced students' learning environment. Much emphasis was placed on students’ understanding of content and processes and there were very good examples of linking the lesson content to students’ every day experiences. Such elements of best practice should continue to be incorporated regularly into lessons.
During practical work observed, there was an appropriate balance between teacher instruction, demonstration and time to allow students to work independently. As part of preparation for practical food studies classes the teacher has prepared recipe booklets detailing equipment, ingredients, method, work-plan and evaluation to assist junior students in meeting the assigned brief in practical classes. The use of demonstration during lessons is to be highly commended as it ensured all students were on task and allowed the teacher to model best practice. Good emphasis on explaining of key concepts and development of skills was observed. It is praiseworthy that the design brief process is introduced early in the junior cycle and adhered to for both food studies and the practical textiles work as appropriate. This approach enables students to develop crucial knowledge and skills over time, in the areas of analysis, investigation, problem solving, action planning and evaluation. This will also assist students to integrate relevant theory with practical skills. Students worked collaboratively and participated actively in tasks. Hygiene and safety notices were displayed in the classroom and safe practices emphasised at all times. Careful monitoring and appraisal of student work were carried out by the teacher throughout the duration of the practical classes. Students are encouraged to undertake evaluations of tasks completed. In general, students were able to demonstrate their ability to undertake various practical tasks to a high standard. Throughout each lesson observed the teacher moved constantly around the room assessing student progress, monitoring difficulties and demonstrating best practice. Instruction provided throughout lessons was at all times clear and precise and from classroom observation and discussions with students they clearly understood the directions given by the teacher.
Considerable experience and expertise has been gained by the teacher in the marking of practicals, project work and the written components of the subject in the State examinations. This has a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics at the school. With regard to senior cycle food-studies coursework journals an appropriate level of teacher guidance and individual student input is evident. Observation of students’ project work, in the area of Textiles indicated a very high level of competence in terms of organisation and presentation. It is praiseworthy that good use is made of ICT for both research and presentation of coursework. Overall, the level of teacher guidance and the evidence of students’ skills, creativity and originality in the area of project work are to be commended.
Teaching resources used effectively to support learning included the whiteboard, student handouts, samples and textbooks. As with any school where teaching and learning takes place through the medium of Irish the teachers must address challenges related to the provision of Irish-language student resource material. The home economics teacher endeavours to provide almost all classroom instruction through the medium of Irish, this is highly commendable. At the same time the teacher is mindful of those students whose first language is English. Most text resources for Home Economics are published in English, however, the teacher has developed a range of useful Irish medium resources to support teaching and learning in Home Economics. This commitment to the promotion of the Irish language is in line with school policy and the teacher’s effort to meet these challenges are commendable. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) is currently developing teaching resources for Junior Certificate Home Economics. These resources will be welcome as an addition to the existing repertoire of useful teaching resources produced by the teacher.
Student behaviour was exemplary in all lessons observed, and there was evidence of students being attentive, purposeful, positively motivated and encouraged to participate actively in the learning process. Classroom discipline was sensitively maintained through teacher movement around the room and engagement with students. Student-teacher rapport was excellent and students’ efforts were encouraged and affirmed. This contributed to a positive classroom atmosphere that was conducive to effective learning. There was evidence of mutual respect between students and teacher in all lessons observed.
Students were fully engaged in the learning activities and demonstrated very good understanding of subject knowledge and various skills in practical work appropriate to their class group and level. Student work examined included some very good examples of well-organised folders containing a variety of materials relevant to all aspects of the syllabus. The great enthusiasm and dedication displayed by the home economics teacher to the students in her care is evident.
Student progress and competence in Home Economics is monitored and assessed effectively by a comprehensive range of assessment modes that reflect the assessment objectives of the syllabuses. These include oral questioning, monthly class assessments, homework assignments, examination questions and continuous monitoring of students’ practical and project work. This practice of continual assessment assists parents and teachers in evaluating individual student progress and is central to promoting the highest levels of student achievement.
The Home Economics department has developed a homework and assessment policy in line with the whole-school policy for homework. Student learning is enhanced and progress is assessed by homework which is assigned regularly. Homework is either marked by the teacher or reviewed as a class activity. Good practice was observed with regard to regular monitoring of student copybooks, folders and class tests. With regard to formative assessment useful teacher comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done.
House examinations are held for students at Christmas and end-of-year tests are scheduled for the non-exam classes. In addition those preparing to take the State examinations sit pre-certificate examinations in the spring. Assessment outcomes are recorded systematically and students are advised regularly on their progress in the subject. School reports are used to communicate these results and student progress to parents/guardians. Furthermore, student progress is reported to parents at the annual parent-teacher meetings that are held for each year group. Students’ progress is reviewed and their examination levels are decided in consultation with the subject teachers and parents. The student diary is an additional valuable means of communicating with parents as the need arises.
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 teacher of Home Economics and the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.