An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Business
Deanstown Avenue, Finglas West, Dublin 11
Roll number: 60571J
Date of inspection:† 20 March 2007
Date of issue of report:† 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Business
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Patrician College conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Business 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
Business is only provided on the senior cycle curriculum in Patrician College.† It is a core subject for all students taking the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).† As part of the service grouping, students also take either Construction Studies or Art as the second subject of their Vocational Subject Grouping (VSG).† The school is to be commended for this decision as it demonstrates a commitment to both the programme and to the subject which is otherwise not provided on the schoolís curriculum.†
The subject is timetabled for 4 periods in fifth year and 5 periods in sixth year.† This is unusual, as most schools offer 5 periods to each year.† However, it is clear that there is sufficient time, including time for revision, to ensure that the syllabus outcomes are completed within the timeframe. The subject teacher expressed satisfaction with the time allocation.
Timetabled provision for the Links Modules of the LCVP is 3 periods in fifth year and 2 in sixth year in line with best practice.† Of particular merit in the schoolís organisation of the programme is the allocation of a guidance specialist for the Preparation for Work module and a business/IT specialist for the Enterprise module.†
Standard textbooks are not used by students and a set of materials, including a summary text, question bank and solution set, has been prepared for students.† All costs associated with photocopying and binding of these resources are covered by the school.† The customisation of these materials is one mechanism used to provide appropriate resources for students in the lower ability range.†
In the current school year a second class group has been established in the second year of senior cycle.† This smaller group specifically caters for students taking ordinary level.† While this is inconsistent with the normal mixed ability approach recommended in the teaching of the subject, the successful targeting of resources and teaching time have been achieved in the case of the present group.†† The net outcomes have been positive for both students and teacher and should scope arise in the coming school year consideration should be given to retaining this approach.†† Alternatively the approach could be adopted for the better able students within the group.
The teaching of the subject is enhanced by the teacherís knowledge of business theory and of current developments in the business environment.† This is mirrored by studentsí responses in class which in most instances demonstrated a good degree of business literacy despite their not having taken the subject in the junior cycle.† Students in the school have very good access to ICT and it is an integral part of the structure of the LCVP within the senior cycle.†
Planning is very teacher centred as the subject is only available in the senior cycle of the schoolís curriculum.† It was reported that informal collaborative planning is engaged in with the teachers of enterprise for the Links Modules of the LCVP.† The involvement of qualified business teachers with the Links Modules element of the LCVP is very good and reflects a whole school commitment to the programme.† It also demonstrates consistency with the overall curricular provision whereby Business is a core subject for all LCVP students.† Should this allocation change, planning for the development of cross-curricular links should be formalised.
Lessons are planned daily and appropriate materials and resources sourced and prepared in advance by the teacher.† This approach is designed to link into the overall yearly plan and ensures that the curriculum objectives are met for the subject.† The customisation of materials for classes is to be commended.† Summary texts, exemplars of past examination papers and question banks with solutions are used to great effect in ensuring that students are encouraged to perform well in the subject.† Students are not required to use standard textbooks.† It was reported that a set of textbooks is used for reference by higher level students, but this was not evident during the inspection visit.
Materials and teaching styles are adapted to suit the different needs and abilities of students to their benefit.† The materials used in the teaching of the subject were clear and well presented.† They are prepared electronically which allows for updating to reflect the changing business environment. The language used is simple and largely reflects the literacy levels of the majority of students using them.† However, there is scope to introduce a wider range of materials to support the better able students.†
Particular attention is paid by teachers to being well prepared for class and this has a positive impact on the studentsí behaviour.† There is significant evidence of background notes having been developed to assist in the teaching of the subject.† This high level of preparedness and hard work of the teacher can result in a lack of challenge for better able students in their learning.† It is important when planning for the subject that a degree of challenge is included.† Continuing to raise student expectations and setting challenging outcomes for students in their learning will develop their competencies, ensure that they have greater confidence in their abilities and are motivated to succeed to the highest level possible.
A range of teaching aids including OHP and AV were used in the teaching of the subjects.† These were integrated into the lesson in a timely and appropriate manner.† A great level of awareness is shown as to the need to use a range of teaching aids to match the different learning styles within each class group.
The overall standard of teaching in the subject was good.†† The lessons observed were sequential and well paced and students were clear about the expected learning outcomes from each class.† New material was integrated with studentsí existing knowledge of the subject.† Very good practice was evident in incorporating current and topical examples in the teaching of business theory.† This helps engage students with the material and develop their applied business skills.††† A particular strength in the teaching of the subject is the referencing of developments in the wider business environment.
Classroom management is sensitively maintained and the basic principles are adhered to in order to create a positive learning environment.† On one occasion the students were chatty but this behaviour was not directed towards disrupting the class.† Students responded positively to the instruction to focus on the task at hand.†† Seating plans were set and adhered to by students with some grouping of students by ability level within class groups.† Questions are frequently asked and designed, firstly to test knowledge and secondly to affirm student achievement.† A good mix of global and targeted questions was used.† In addition, emphasis was placed on tailoring language to the ability levels of the class groups.†
Studentsí responses to questions were generally good as was their use of business terminology.† This reflected the practice in teaching of emphasising the use of appropriate business terms.† Examples were used to demonstrate application of business theory and these were current and tailored to studentsí own lives and experience.
Review is built into the teaching strategy and questions requiring short answers are used to check student progress and knowledge.† There is scope to introduce more activity-based learning that would encourage the development of applied skills which are necessary for students taking higher level in the subject.†
The principle of mixed-ability teaching applies, with the emphasis on ensuring that all students experience the full curriculum in the subject.† It is commendable that the completion of the units of the syllabus is planned in such a way that students are exposed to all the learning outcomes and that time is built in for revision. Preparation for examinations and revision is also included as an additional objective.
The physical classroom environment is good.† Materials are up to date and reflective of the teacherís main specialism.† The seating is arranged in single rows and on occasion students were grouped within the room by ability level to allow for differentiation in the teaching.†† The creation of a positive, disciplined learning environment is achieved through the excellent level of preparation for lessons.
Frequent in-class assessment is a feature of the teaching of the subject.† These assessments form the basis of profiling student progress in the subject.† Good records are maintained of student attainment in the assessments and results are communicated to parents/guardians through issued reports, and through parent teacher meetings held during the year.
These in-class assessments serve the dual purpose of assessing student progress in the subject and providing a basis by which learning outcomes can be reviewed with the class groups.† The work is well corrected and annotated including suggestions as to how the answers could be improved.† When class tests are returned to students the teacher provides sample solutions in order to reinforce learning and this is integrated into the lesson plan. This is very good practice and is to be commended.† The teacher goes to considerable trouble to use assessment to support learning.† Therefore, the students could be encouraged to demonstrate some responsibility for their own learning including retaining these resources in copybooks or folders, for example.†
The final six weeks of the senior cycle is dedicated to practising exam techniques.† Students complete sample and past examination questions in class.† This also facilitates revision of the syllabus outcomes and questions are differentiated for the different ability groupings within the classes.†
The modes of assessment are clearly structured to support students in attaining positive outcomes in the certificate examinations.† In particular, the techniques used are very supportive in ensuring that students in lower ability ranges achieve positive examination outcomes. Results in the state examinations are generally good given the ability levels of students and the fact that the subject is introduced for the first time at senior cycle.††† Additional consideration should be given to how best to support students in the higher ability range so that they can achieve their potential in state examinations.† Among the strategies that could be considered is setting more challenging work for more able students within class groups and encouraging these students to take more responsibility for their own learning.
A review of a sample of student journals indicated that where homework was recorded for Business, it focussed on revision of class topics with follow-up review of learning outcomes through the in-class assessments.† In the context of whole-school planning, a review of appropriate strategies that would match specific student learning outcomes with appropriate assessment modes should be considered.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Business is a core subject for each student of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.
∑ Teachers with expertise in business are involved in teaching the Links Modules of the LCVP
∑ Teacher preparation and customisation of materials for lessons is very good.
∑ Significant work has been undertaken to prepare customised materials for use in class that suit the ability and literacy levels of students, particularly at ordinary level.†
∑ Teacher knowledge of the subject is good.† In developing studentsí understanding of the wider business environment, examples used are current and they are used appropriately in the teaching of the subject.
∑ Classroom management is very good and is strengthened by the level of preparedness for lessons.
∑ Student outcomes in examinations are good given that the subject is studied for the first time in senior cycle.
∑ Considerable work and effort goes into ensuring that assessment methodologies support student learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ Further exploration of appropriate techniques to raise expectations of students in the higher ability range should be explored.† Setting challenging outcomes for these students in their learning will develop their competencies and ensure that they have greater confidence in their abilities.† Among the options to consider is the concurrent timetabling of some of the sixth year business class groups to allow for movement between classes if appropriate.†
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Business and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.