An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
Cappagh Road, Finglas, Dublin 11
Roll number: 70180A
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology Wood and Construction Studies
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Eoin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s 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; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Coláiste Eoin offers Materials Technology Wood (MTW) as an optional subject in the junior cycle programme. In the interest of informing student choice in selecting their optional subjects, the school provides first-year students with an introduction to the subject over the first four weeks of the school year. During this time the students sample MTW and another practical subject. Choices are made by the students at the end of September, with support from the guidance counsellor and the subject teacher. Students who wish to change their chosen subject after this time are accommodated up to the October mid-term break. Parents are informed of these arrangements, during the previous May, by means of an information evening and they are also encouraged to attend the school with their son or daughter on the first day of term, as part of the induction programme. These arrangements are satisfactory.
At senior cycle, Construction Studies (CS) is offered in the Leaving Certificate (LC) programme and Graphics and Construction Studies is offered in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. Support for students in third year, in the form of information and advice on subject and programme choice, is currently provided by subject teachers and the guidance counsellor. As a further support, an information evening is held for parents of third-year students near the end of the academic year. Overall, the school makes good efforts to ensure senior cycle students make informed choices.
Time allocation for both Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies is good across all the year groups. The provision of double and single periods and their distribution across the week further facilitates the teaching and learning of the subjects.
The subject department has access to a bright, spacious and well-equipped room. This room has ample storage facilities, appropriate information and communications technology (ICT) resources and an abundance of student work on display. The limited wall space available has been well used for the display of posters and safety signage. The visually rich and stimulating environment provided creates an appropriate working space for the students.
All woodworking machines are located in a separate room across the corridor. This room is not accessed by the students and is a wood-preparation area for the teacher. There is appropriate provision for dust extraction in this room. Arrangements were being made at the time of the inspection for the replacement of older woodworking machines which do not carry the European Conformity (CE) mark with new safety-compliant models. It is recommended that this process be completed as a matter of priority.
The arrangements for the purchase of class materials for MTW and CS are effective. Resources including wood and small items of equipment are supplied following application to the principal. Consideration should be given to the allocation of a set yearly budget for the department. The management of this budget could be the responsibility of the subject department, an arrangement which would allow more and better long-term planning for resources.
Senior management encourages and supports continuing professional development (CPD) by teachers. Over the last two years the MTW teacher has commendably attended all in-service provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4). While the major thrust of these in-service activities was geared towards the delivery of the new Design and Communications Graphics (DCG) syllabus many of the presentation skills promoted could easily be adapted to the teaching of MTW and CS.
A subject department plan has been developed and this plan includes brief outlines of programmes of work, for each class group being taught. The proposed work is in line with syllabus requirements. As a next step in the development of these plans, it is suggested that alongside each topic the proposed learning outcomes should be listed as well as methodologies and resources to be used and the means of assessment. This would greatly improve the plan as a working document. A very extensive and comprehensive system is used to track the progress being made, on a lesson-by-lesson basis, by each class group through the year’s work. This is good practice.
Coláiste Eoin participates in the School Support Programme of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the Department’s action plan for educational inclusion. As part of DEIS planning aimed at improving literacy levels amongst students, the MTW teacher liaises with the learning support team. As a result a student booklet containing key words in the subject has been developed in collaboration with the learning support teacher. Many assignments have been built up around these key words, ranging from sentence making, to word searches, to crosswords. A strong sense of fun pervades this booklet and it is a very good support to students. At present this resource deals with first-year material only and it is recommended that this very good resource be further developed to cover the material studied by more senior year groups.
A detailed MTW department safety statement has been prepared which lists risks and hazards within the MTW room and the wood preparation room. This document is reviewed annually. The replacing of the old machinery with the new CE marked machines will necessitate a re-draft of this statement particularly since all the machines are to be positioned in the classroom area. Furthermore the demarcation of safe operational areas (SOAs) around machines and the use of standard warning signage will need to be introduced in tandem with the new fit-out of the room. This review should be guided by reference to the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools (State Claims Agency, DES, 2005). This document is available for downloading from the Department of Education and Science website at (http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/review_oh_safety-tech.pdf).
Planning for lessons was very good with appropriate resources prepared in advance to ensure a steady, purposeful, pace throughout all lessons observed.
All lessons observed had clear learning outcomes and these were shared with the students at the beginning. This strategy provides both the teacher and the students with a focus on the specific objective of the lesson and enables the success of the lesson to be easily evaluated. To further build on this good practice, the proposed learning outcomes for the lesson could be written on the board and ticked off as each is achieved.
The lessons observed during the course of the inspection showed good structure and they successfully established links with previous learning. This continuity was assured by means of well-paced introductions and good use of questioning to elicit information from students’ prior learning. By varying between global and individual questions the teacher quickly re-capped, while steering the students towards the current lessons material. In one senior cycle lesson observed, during this introductory period, a question arose from the students on the benefits of using thermal insulation in wall construction. The teacher proceeded to set up an experiment using boiling water and two beakers, one heavily insulated and the other not insulated. The experiment was carried out in the background while the students were kept on task on the main focus of the lesson. The experiment was concluded by the end of the lesson and the students’ attention was drawn to the results. This was good practice in many respects mainly as it answered the original question conclusively. However, it also satisfied students’ curiosity in an interesting and practical way while not distracting from the stated lesson objectives. This was a good introduction for the students to the several experiments of this type that must be completed as part of the assessment requirements for the Leaving Certificate.
The main teaching methodology employed in a junior cycle lesson observed was teacher demonstration followed by student work, supported by the teacher circulating around the classroom to offer guidance to individual students at their benches. This strategy was successful. Best health and safety practices were modelled by the teacher and great effort was expended to ensure that the students observed good safety habits also.
The school has a cross-departmental approach to the improvement of students’ literacy levels. Such an approach is good practice. As a support for students in Materials Technology Wood classes it is suggested that key words that arise while covering a topic should be written on the whiteboard, chalkboard, or on a large sheet of paper and left on display for a number of lessons. These words could also be transcribed by the students into their copies.
Team-teaching was observed during a lesson with Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students. The second teacher in the team was a teacher of Metalwork and therefore had ample experience in the running of a practical class. This was of great benefit to the students who were working on projects and required considerable guidance.
Students’ learning was effectively scaffolded by using a data-projector to present work alongside the use of the chalkboard. The skills of freehand sketching and concise note-taking were modelled by the teacher in all lessons.
Textbooks are prescribed for the subjects but are not overly relied on which is good practice. Texts are used as a resource for students and are referenced occasionally during lessons but are predominantly used for the completion of homework tasks and for revision.
Teacher enthusiasm for the subject was apparent in all lessons observed and this was conveyed to students through the energetic delivery of lessons. Students also reflected an enthusiasm for the subject through their interest in, and presentation of, their project work. An excellent teacher-student rapport was evident during the evaluation; this clearly assisted in creating an atmosphere conducive to learning and resulted in a high level of student participation.
Examinations are held at Christmas and at the end of the school year for first, second and fifth year students. Students sitting certificate examinations have a progress report at the end of October with a parent-teacher meeting held shortly afterwards. They also sit Christmas tests and have “mock” examinations during March. A parent-teacher meeting is held for all class groups after Christmas. In addition to these formal examinations there is continuous assessment of class work and students’ projects in MTW and CS, as is good practice. Outcomes of continuous assessment are combined with formal test results to maintain ongoing feedback to students and parents in the form of cumulative marks. Consideration should be given to informing students exactly how these marks are calculated and the weighting given to the different constituent components. This greater detail for students on their performance should lead to improved effort as it would enable them to have a fuller understanding of where their strengths lie and to identify more clearly their areas for improvement.
In all of the lessons observed the teacher monitored the students’ work with care and attention and affirmed their progress. Questioning was used to good effect throughout the lessons as a means of assessment and of reinforcing learning.
Homework is regularly set and is corrected using informative comments to help the students identify areas for development in their work. Some thought should be given to allocating some marks towards Christmas and summer grades, for set pieces of homework. This would have the effect of raising the importance of presenting good homework. Records of student attendance, progress and attainment were meticulously kept in the teacher’s diary.
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 Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2010