An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
The High School,
Zion Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6
Roll number: 60670L
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN TECHNICAL GRAPHICS AND DESIGN AND COMMUNICATION GRAPHICS
This report has been written following a subject inspection in The High School, Rathgar. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects in the school. The evaluation was conducted over two days, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and the teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the 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.
The High School provides the Junior Certificate, Transition Year and Leaving Certificate programmes to its student cohort. Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) are offered to students in all three programmes. This commitment to providing the opportunity for all students to study graphics is commended. These subjects receive appropriate time allocations, generally in a combination of both double and single periods and the timetabling of these class periods is well dispersed throughout the week, as is best practice. There is one designated specialist TG and DCG room. This facility provides teachers and students with a very good quality teaching and learning environment. Information and communication technology resources (ICT) are well integrated into the design and layout of the room allowing them to be accessed and integrated into lessons easily.
Generally, teachers are designated to specific class groups for the duration of the relevant programme. However, an anomaly occurred this year resulting in both subject specialist teachers sharing the teaching responsibilities for the first-year TG group. This situation should be avoided in the future in order to ensure continuity for students. Currently, one teacher has sole responsibility for teaching junior cycle graphics and the other teacher is responsible for teaching senior cycle graphics. Senior management should make maximum use of its resources by deploying both teachers to senior cycle DCG on a rotational basis. This long-term planning would allow both teachers to further develop their skill sets, create an inherent flexibility in the resources available for timetabling and support teachers at this time of significant syllabus change at senior cycle.
At the beginning of each programme of study, students in the High School are given the option to choose a graphics subject. At junior cycle, students choose their two optional subjects from two predefined optional subject bands. These bands include modern European languages, Business Studies, Art Craft and Design, Classical Studies, Home Economics, Music, Materials Technology (Wood) and TG. As the vast majority of students choose a modern European language, only one additional subject may be chosen. This means that all optional subjects are in a very competitive situation and this is a contributory factor in the uptake of TG among both boys and girls being low. In order to provide students with as much flexibility in subject choice as possible, senior management should review the optional subject choice procedures currently in place. To further address this issue the subject department should make a concerted effort to continue to promote the subjects among students and parents. Possible initiatives could include the development of a subject specific brochure that would highlight the significant advances in content and learning methods particularly during the senior cycle DCG course.
TY students are given the option of choosing DCG as a full-year optional module. This provides students with an invaluable experience of the subject prior to making their optional subject choices for their Leaving Certificate programme. After the compulsory TY, students may choose one subject from each of the four optional subject bands. These bands may vary slightly according to the popularity of particular subjects from year to year.
The subject department has availed of the recent continuing professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4) and has been active in sourcing additional support from the local Teachers Professional Network (TPN). This is commended.
Subject department planning occurs during formal planning meetings facilitated by school management and through regular informal meetings of the subject department. Records of these meeting are maintained, as is best practice. This two-teacher subject department works collaboratively on all planning issues. However, in order to further progress subject department planning, a technology subjects’ coordinator, who has overall responsibility for the planning and organisation of TG, DCG, MTW and Construction Studies, has been appointed and these duties are attached to a post of responsibility.
Having identified student uptake as an area for future development, the subject department should identify key strategies that would inform and promote the subjects among students and parents. The success of these strategies should be monitored and evaluated regularly. This form of strategic planning would allow required resources to be identified and specific roles and responsibilities to be designated to members of the subject department. This model could also be developed to progress medium and short-term planning goals.
Curricular plans have been identified for each year group and these plans are further refined through the creation of teachers’ individual programmes of work. This collaborative planning is effective and particularly necessary when teachers share the teaching responsibilities for a class group. Curricular planning is content based and could be further developed by identifying learning outcomes for each area of the curriculum. The DCG syllabus document should be used to help develop these plans.
The programmes of work used for both junior and senior cycle also include a reflective section. In these sections records of completed work are maintained and issues that arise throughout the year are noted in order to address them with future year groups. This reflective planning is commended.
The TY module for DCG is based on a balanced and well-structured plan. There are a number of key strands of the syllabus identified and explored in this plan including: design, sketching, parametric modelling and graphical construction techniques. This quality planning for TY and the development of an appropriate and interesting module are commended.
Teachers’ individual planning for lessons was very good. This planning included the preparation of a wide variety of resources and teaching aids for all areas of the syllabuses. These resources are centrally stored and available to both members of the subject department. The practice of preparing a short and meaningful written plan for all lessons is highly commended. These plans helped teachers to assess the success of their lessons and to plan for the future delivery of topics.
Learning outcomes were shared with students at the beginning of all lessons observed. In doing so, students and teachers were fully aware of the criteria for success in each lesson. In all lessons observed, topics were introduced, developed and recapped at the end, providing teachers with the opportunity to gauge the success of their teaching methods from the students’ knowledge, understanding and construction skills. This approach is commended.
All lessons were consistent with the planned programmes of work for each year group and were suitably framed in cognisance of the appropriate syllabuses. Teachers endeavoured to ensure that where students’ knowledge and abilities varied, questions were set at appropriate levels. This allowed all students to complete the assigned tasks and gave more able students the opportunity to increase the level of difficulty of their tasks by allowing them to progress through differentiated learning methods. The use of differentiated teaching methods is commended.
The teaching methods employed throughout the evaluation were very good and, in some cases, quite innovative. An example of this innovative teaching was observed in a junior cycle lesson where the topic of design was being explored using a variety of teaching strategies. These strategies included freehand sketching, model making using developments, brainstorming and conventional construction techniques such as orthographic projection. This thematic approach to an overarching topic and the utilisation of similar inventive teaching strategies is commended.
There was a good blend of teacher instruction and student activity during lessons and the demonstration media used during these demonstrations were of a high quality in all instances. The use of ICT as an integral part of the teaching and learning experience for students at senior cycle is commended and this was particularly apparent in a lesson based on assigning mates to parametrically modelled parts for the purpose of assembly.
Teacher-prepared resources were used effectively to assist students in their learning. These resources included parametric models, overhead transparencies, student handouts, geometric models and relevant subject specific posters. Experimental and explorative techniques were also incorporated into some lessons where appropriate. This had the effect of allowing students the opportunity to use their imagination in the realisation of possible solutions. The use of this type of methodology is commended.
Due to the small class sizes and teachers’ circulation of the classroom, all students received very good individual assistance during lessons. This guidance was usually administered at students’ desks during activities and resulted in open and participative lessons where dialogue between teacher and student was encouraged as part of the learning experience.
Students were very well behaved during all lessons observed. Teachers insisted on a high work-rate and encouraged and praised students where appropriate. This work ethic was further promoted by the teachers’ modelling of best practice and enhanced through the creation of a technology-education, print rich, learning environment.
Students were active participants in their lessons and contributed with good questions and well thought out answers. Students’ graphical construction skills were good and their overall learning was evident from their portfolio work and in their achievement in the state examinations. One such achievement was the placing of a student of High School Rathgar in first position nationally in the ordinary-level Technical Drawing examination in 2008.
Formal examinations are held at Christmas and summer with an additional assessment for examination year groups in the springtime. These examinations consist of a terminal examination and, on occasion, portfolio assessment. The practice of allocating marks for coursework should be extended to all senior cycle DCG groups in preparation for the examination model currently employed for the subject.
Student work was assessed and useful affirmative and constructive feedback was given in relation to their work. Test scores are recorded and provide teachers with invaluable records of students’ progress. Two systems are currently being employed to help students to organise and store their portfolio work. Both of these systems are effective and suitable to the quantity and size of drawing sheets required in the relevant programme.
Both senior management and the subject coordinator monitor students’ attainment in state examinations. This analysis helps to identify areas for development and also helps to ensure that standards of achievement are commensurate with the students’ abilities. This form of reflective analysis is commended.
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 Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published April 2010