An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Enniscorthy Vocational College
Enniscorthy, County Wexford
Roll number: 71630K
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Enniscorthy Vocational College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
All students in Enniscorthy Vocational College are given the opportunity to choose to study Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. At junior cycle, two periods per week are allocated to Metalwork in the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and three periods per week are allocated to Metalwork in the Junior Certificate programme. This allocation is minimal. It is recommended that school management explore all possible solutions to increasing the number of periods allocated to Metalwork to a total of four. At senior cycle, students receive five class periods in fifth and sixth year and four class periods in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. This allocation, divided into both double and single lessons, is suitable for providing students and teachers with the appropriate time to complete all aspects of the syllabuses. The current Transition Year (TY) programme does not contain a distinct Engineering module. Engineering is included, however, in an enterprise module where students are required to design and make a product. While it is acknowledged that efforts are being made to include Engineering in the TY curriculum, it is suggested that the subject department and the TY coordinator examine the possibility of including a standalone Engineering module in TY which would help to assist students in making their subject choices for senior cycle.
Students entering first year avail of a one-month subject sampling programme where they get the opportunity to study all optional subjects. At the end of this sampling period students choose their optional subjects from two bands, both of which contain Metalwork and Home Economics. This system is conducive to a positive gender balance, the results of which are borne out in the relatively high uptake of Metalwork among girls especially at junior cycle.
In choosing optional subjects, senior cycle students are supported through regular interventions from the guidance counsellor, a parent information evening and through advice from subject teachers. As there is no TY module dedicated to Engineering it is imperative that the subject department continue to promote the subject and provide up-to-date and relevant information for prospective students.
The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005 and has updated the machinery and facilities. The planning and work carried out in this regard is commended. While most of the items of equipment are in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list of the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars, there are a number of machines that do not comply. School management should instigate a full risk assessment of these machines and reconsider their suitability in a classroom situation. In addition to this, any trip hazards should be identified and removed and the subject department should identify safe operational areas for machines and use standard floor demarcation tape to help students to identify machine exclusion zones. The Department of Education Science (DES) / State Claims Agency (SCA) publication “Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary Schools” should be referenced to assist the subject department carry out this task.
The Metalwork and Engineering room is also fitted with suitable information and communication technology (ICT) resources to assist in the teaching and learning of the subject. Although ICT was not used during the course of the inspection, school management is commended for providing the subject department with the opportunity to do so.
All members of the Metalwork and Engineering subject department have attended the Design and Communication Graphics continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This CPD will provide the subject department with the necessary skills to incorporate parametric modelling techniques into Metalwork and Engineering lessons thereby enhancing the learning experience for students.
In Enniscorthy Vocational College the teachers of Metalwork and Engineering form a subject department group. This group meets regularly, both formally and informally, and has compiled a subject department plan. Detailed in this plan are a number of organisational policies, for example those relating to student options and access to the subjects and levels. In addition to these policies the subject department has begun to plan for students with special educational needs (SEN) and for English as an Additional Language (EAL) students. It is suggested that these parts of the subject department plan be further developed by listing common teaching and learning strategies for SEN and EAL students.
The subject plan includes curricular planning for both theoretical and practical work for all year groups. The planning for practical skills is project focussed rather than skills focussed. While many of these projects build on key skills and techniques, it is recommended that the subject department update some of the more traditional projects in order to make the subject as exciting and interesting as possible for all students while maintaining the educational value of prescribed project work and the key skills required in producing them. Theoretical planning is based on the textbooks used at the various levels. The subject department should, as with all curricular planning, identify the desired key learning outcomes for students and plan the delivery of lessons and topics with these learning outcomes in mind.
Currently the subject department has not identified any short, medium or long-term goals. It is recommended that, as part of subject department planning, appropriate goals be developed. Examples of possible areas for development within the subject department include: improved material storage provision in the Metalwork room and the possible development of more innovative project work for students. In addition to this, the subject department should plan for the spending of the remaining funds made available to the school for health and safety purposes. A list of priorities should be formalised as soon as possible and this procurement process should be completed in a timely manner.
In the practical lessons observed teachers had prepared ample material for students prior to the lessons. In a theoretical lesson observed a good level of planning and preparation was evident, this included prepared teacher notes for the lesson and student worksheets.
One lesson observed had a clear learning intention that was shared with students at the beginning. This was achieved by the use of a mind-mapping technique on the blackboard where previous learning was revisited. This enabled student knowledge and understanding to be assessed and appropriate strategies to be formulated for the lesson. It is recommended, even in lessons of a practical nature, that students are made aware of the criteria for success from the outset, thus providing teachers and students with an achievable and a measurable goal for the lesson.
The practical lessons observed were structured and well organised. The predominant methodology employed in these lessons was group demonstration supported by teacher circulation to provide individual assistance and guidance. This methodology allowed teachers to circulate the classroom and made them available to offer considerable individual assistance and guidance to students. This was particularly useful in communicating key points to EAL students. Another possible strategy could be the development of a number of diagrammatic process sheets that would sequentially and diagrammatically help students to understand instructions and to implement the skills and techniques necessary.
The theoretical lesson observed incorporated a number of methodologies. These methodologies were varied throughout the lesson helping to maintain student engagement. One particular strategy was to reinforce the students’ technical literacy by using a crossword puzzle comprising recently introduced terms. This strategy, particularly suitable to junior cycle students, was successful as it allowed students to demonstrate their knowledge through the completion of an enjoyable task.
In one lesson observed, questioning was used successfully to ascertain student knowledge and understanding. In this lesson, questions were asked of the entire group and after an appropriate pause individual students were picked to answer. The level of difficulty of these questions was varied and almost all students were included. In some lessons opportunities to question students were not taken, particularly during practical demonstrations.
Although ICT resources are available in the Metalwork and Engineering room they were not utilised during the course of the inspection. It is suggested that the subject department continues to identify suitable resources and incorporate them into lessons where appropriate. Possible applications in practical lessons could include exploded views of assembly type projects and use of parametric modelling software to demonstrate the correct sequence of manufacture of individual parts. By incorporating ICT into practical lessons it is also possible to integrate theoretical content easily. This can be achieved by using the Internet to research a material being used or by using simulation software to demonstrate electronic circuits or plastic processing techniques.
In all lessons observed students were well behaved and a positive atmosphere was evident. This atmosphere was created through teachers’ positive affirmation of students and by their calm and professional manner.
Student learning was at an appropriate level and in some cases students’ responses to questions indicated considerable understanding. Student skills were commensurate with the level required for the chosen projects. However, some further thought should be given to the implementation of some design and make projects especially at senior cycle.
A good proportion of students take higher level in both the Junior Certificate Metalwork and the Leaving Certificate Engineering examinations. These students are generally successful at their chosen level. However, during the course of the inspection it was reported that JCSP students normally attempt ordinary level. This is an area that should improve with an increased allocation of two periods per week to a total of four periods. The subject department is to be commended for promoting higher-level among the current Junior Certificate group in an effort to raise student achievement levels. It is suggested, in order to inspire students to achieve their full potential, that the subject department assemble a selection of high quality examples of student work and display them in the classroom.
Students are assessed regularly both formally and informally. The formal end-of-term examinations for all year groups consist of written examinations combined with a practical element, as is best practice. In addition to this, a formal homework policy is currently being developed to provide teachers, students and parents with useful guidelines in relation to the setting, completion and supervision of homework activities. This initiative is commended.
Currently, it is not subject department policy to administer common examinations to class groups of similar ability. It is suggested that this practice should be considered, as it will be supported by the agreed curricular planning already in place.
Students’ project work is corrected upon completion and feedback is given to students orally. This constructive feedback enables students to reflect on their learning and to improve their skills by modifying their practice based on the advice and guidance given to them by their teacher.
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 Metalwork and Engineering 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 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
Since October 2008 the school management and staff have been actively engaged in a curriculum review with the expressed intention of ensuring that each exam subject at Junior Certificate level has at least four contact classes where required.
It is expected to conclude this review before the end of the current academic year.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Currently preparations are being completed to have a stand alone Engineering module for our Transition Year Programme.
On receipt of the final Report, school management instigated a full risk assessment on the items of equipment which were of concern to the Inspector. A full copy of said report will be forwarded if required.
As part of our continued commitment to improve the service available to our students, there is continuous adaptation modification and updating of both the subject plan and the project work available to the students.