An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of

Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies

 

REPORT

 

Gorey Community School,

Gorey, County Wexford

Roll number: 91412N

 

Date of inspection: 22 March 2007

Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007

 

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gorey Community School conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. 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 this subject 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 teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teachers.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are offered as Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate optional subjects respectively in this co-educational community school. Senior cycle students study Construction Studies as part of the established Leaving Certificate (LC) or as one of a combination of optional subjects that form vocational subject groupings (VSG) for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students study Graphics & Construction Studies (G&CS) as a vocational specialism and Transition Year (TY) students in the school study Construction Studies as part of their programme.

 

Students entering first year are given an open choice of available optional subjects, and option bands based on students' choices are then developed. A similar system operates for students entering senior cycle in the school. This practice ensures students' choices and interests are facilitated, and this is commended

 

A comprehensive programme to ensure that students and parents are well informed in relation to programme and optional subject choice is operated by the school. Senior management, guidance counsellor, programme co-ordinators, year heads, and subject teachers are all centrally involved in this process. This is commended.

 

The school provides every opportunity for girls to study the subjects by providing an open-choice system of access to optional subjects and a significant number of girls take Materials Technology (Wood) in junior cycle. It is noteworthy however, that Construction Studies in senior cycle is taken predominantly by boys. It is recommended that ways to promote a higher uptake of the subject by girls should be examined and implemented by the school's Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies subject department in future years.  

 

All junior cycle Materials Technology (Wood) classes, senior cycle Construction Studies classes, Graphics and Construction Studies in LCA, and Construction Studies in TY receive an appropriate time allocation. These allocations include double and single class periods that allow adequate time for practical work, project work and theory to be accommodated and this type of provision is commended.

 

The school's Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood) specialist rooms are used for the delivery of all programmes in the subjects and these rooms are also used as general classrooms. The rooms are well resourced, appointed, equipped, maintained, and decorated. All rooms are also equipped with dust extraction systems. Charts related to wood and construction technology, health and safety signage and numerous examples of students' practical and project work are displayed in the rooms and this ensures a visually rich and stimulating learning environment for students where their work is affirmed. This is commended.

 

In order to enhance the health and safety emphasis being promoted by the Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies teachers it is recommended that all practices and procedures employed in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies should be informed by the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary Schools (2005); that room-specific safety rules should be developed; and that charts related to the appropriate use of hand tools should be prominently displayed in all the Materials Technology (Wood)/ Construction Studies rooms.

 

Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies teachers and students have access to information and communication technology (ICT) in all the specialist rooms together with access to the school's computer rooms. This level of access is highly commended. 

 

The school's library contains a technology section and access to this resource allows Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies students to conduct subject-related research. The availability of this resource is commended and it is recommended that the library's technology section should be updated regularly.

 

Planning and preparation

 

The school has a formal Materials Technology (Wood) Construction Studies subject department and teachers meet formally on a number of occasions during the year to discuss subject-related issues. A collaborative approach to planning is adopted and a high level of cooperation and peer-group support was evident during the inspection. Formal records of meetings are kept and issues raised are discussed with the principal when appropriate. Teachers also meet informally on a regular basis. The school has a Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies co-ordinator who facilitates the sharing of resources and good practice. These arrangements are commended.

 

A comprehensive Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies subject plan has been developed in the school. This includes syllabuses, programmes of work in line with curricular requirements for each year group in each subject area, and aims and objectives for all programmes being delivered. Subject plans also include references to timing of lessons within the planned programmes, methodologies to be employed, resources required for the delivery of programmes of work, provision for students with special educational needs (SEN), assessment procedures and timing of assessments, homework, prescribed texts, provision for health and safety, ICT, and the continuing professional development (CPD) of subject teachers, among other areas. Teachers' work on the subject plan is highly commended. 

 

Teachers are currently availing of CPD opportunities being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) in preparation for the introduction of the new Design and Communication Graphics Construction Studies (DCG) and Technology syllabuses in September 2007 and the senior management is commended for facilitating teachers' attendance at these CPD days. It is recommended that further opportunities related to the introduction of the new Architectural Technology syllabus should be availed of when these are scheduled over the coming school years. 

 

All Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies class groups are of mixed ability and students sit examinations at the level appropriate to their abilities. Materials Technology (Wood)/ Construction Studies teachers liaise with the school's learning-support team when planning for students with special educational needs and this is commended.

 

Teaching and learning

 

An appropriately ordered learning environment was created and maintained during all lessons evaluated. This is commended.

 

Teachers' excellent level of competence and skill in the subjects was reflected in the teaching of the lessons observed.

 

Lessons had clear learning intentions and were coherent and well structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses. Lessons were appropriately paced in terms of the class groups observed and were suitable for the time of year. Lessons also took account of the differentiated needs of students. This is commended as good practice. 

 

Teachers employed appropriate methodologies in terms of students’ abilities, needs and interests and a range of strategies was used. During practical and theory lessons for example, teacher demonstrations were employed. Formal demonstrations to whole class groups, smaller groups, and individual students were used. This practice is commended. 

 

Junior Certificate Materials Technology (Wood) students were being expertly guided through the design and make process as they worked on their projects for State examination purposes. Leaving Certificate project work is currently nearing completion and a variety of projects will be presented for examination purposes. Teachers are highly commended for their organisation, management, and monitoring of large numbers of projects for examination purposes.

 

Global and directed questions, including higher order questions, were used effectively to revise material covered in previous lessons, to introduce new topics, to direct student attention and to summarise at the end of lessons. This approach to questioning is commended.

 

Multi-media, overhead projector (OHP), and chalkboard presentations were used effectively during Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies theory lessons. These presentations served to focus student attention, to support their learning, and to summarise at the end of lessons. Handout materials were also used in tandem with these presentations and this practice is commended.

 

The wood and construction technology principles demonstrated during practical and theory lessons were presented incrementally and teachers scaffolded students' development in the topics covered during lessons. This practice is commended.

 

The terminology associated with Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies was used continually by teachers during lessons and students communicated effectively using this terminology. Familiarity with and appropriate use of this terminology is an important part of the technological process and the approach being adopted by teachers is commended.

 

Classroom routines were evidenced during all lessons observed. These are particularly important in specialist rooms and when practical lessons are being undertaken as they ensure the learning environment is well organised, managed and safe during activities and the use of such routines is commended.

 

Textbooks are used for Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies theory lessons but these were not heavily relied upon during lessons observed. A wide variety of resources has been developed or identified by teachers and is used effectively to complement texts, for reference purposes, to supplement lesson content, and for homework assignments. This approach is commended. 

 

Teachers moved easily around the classrooms and engaged with individual students, assessing their progress in the completion of classroom tasks. This is commended as good practice.

 

The quality of students’ understanding was reflected in their ability to ask and answer questions and in the competencies exhibited in their work during practical and theory lessons. Their written and drawn class work and homework was of a standard consistent with a range of abilities. The content of junior cycle and senior cycle students' notebooks and portfolios in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies respectively was appropriate and freehand and ruled drawings were of a standard that displayed a mastery of the knowledge and competencies associated with a wide variety of syllabus topics. Efforts should continually be made however, to further enhance students' design and practical skills and to emphasise the importance of freehand and ruled drawings and information-rich concise note-making as forms of technological communication. 

 

Ample opportunities for students to engage in independent and collaborative learning were built into all lessons evaluated and this practice is commended.

 

An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident in all classrooms visited. This promoted an atmosphere where students contributions to and participation in lessons were being encouraged and appropriately affirmed by teachers and students readily engaged with classroom activities. Students in all classes evaluated were enthusiastic, motivated, displayed their understanding of the concepts associated with lessons, and worked to the best of their abilities in an atmosphere that was conducive to learning.

 

Assessment

 

Christmas and end-of-year house examinations are organised in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and concurrent examinations are used when possible. Examination classes also sit a ‘mock’ examination in the second term.

 

A range of assessment modes related to subject-specific objectives is also employed by Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies teachers and practical, project, written and drawn class work, and homework is routinely assessed. Students' outcomes in these assessments are used to monitor student attainment and to inform teacher planning. These practices are commended. It is recommended however, that regular end-of-topic assessments of students' notes copies and drawing portfolios should also be undertaken and that the outcomes of these assessments should contribute to the Christmas and end-of-year examinations.

 

The quality of record keeping of student attendance at Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies lessons is of a high standard and the results of student assessments are recorded systematically. The results of students’ achievements are communicated to parents by means of school reports following Christmas and end-of-year house examinations for non-examination year groups. Three reports are issued to parents of third and sixth-year groups.

 

Parent-teacher meetings for each year group are organised each year and regular contact between teachers and parents using the student journal or through school systems is encouraged. These practices are commended.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         There is strong whole-school support for Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies.

·         The school has a formal subject department and a comprehensive Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies subject plan.

·         A high level of collaboration, cooperation and peer-group support among Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies teachers was evident during the evaluation.

·         Teaching of a high standard was observed.

·         A range of appropriate and effective teaching methodologies were employed during lessons evaluated.

·         Junior and senior cycle students are being expertly guided through the project design and realisation process.

·         Large numbers of projects for examination purposes were being expertly organised, managed, and monitored.

·         The standard of students' practical and project work and of freehand, ruled and scaled drawings reflected the range of abilities in the class groups evaluated. 

·         Students displayed positive attitudes to the subjects.

·         An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident in lessons evaluated.   

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         The increased uptake of Construction Studies by girls should be promoted.

·         The practices and procedures outlined in Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary Schools should be used to inform and enhance current health and safety procedures and practices in the Materials Technology (Wood)/ Construction Studies rooms. Room-specific safety rules and wall charts related to the appropriate use of hand tools should be prominently displayed in all specialist rooms.

·         Theory copybooks and drawing portfolios should be regularly assessed following the completion of specific topics and these assessments should contribute to overall Christmas and end-of-year grades awarded to Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies students.

·         Efforts to further enhance students’ Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies knowledge and design, practical and communication skills should continually be made. 

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers 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.