An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE)
College Street, Cavan
Roll number: 61080S
Date of inspection: 26 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in CSPE
Subject inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in the Royal School Cavan conducted as part of a whole-school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) 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 headmaster, deputy principal and subject teachers.
Subject provision and whole school support
School management supports teaching and learning in CSPE in a variety of ways such as referring to the subject on the school’s website, in the school’s prospectus and on ‘open-night’, including it in school examinations and reporting students’ progress in it to parents. The school has begun to recycle waste and this good practice supports and gives a practical expression to a number of key concepts of the CSPE syllabus. As a means of further increasing environmental awareness and of promoting active citizenship the school should consider engaging with the Green-Schools programme (www.greenschoolsireland.org). Whole-school engagement with active citizenship could be further increased by the celebration of special events such as World Environment Day or Energy Awareness Week. To make parents aware of the key concepts of the syllabus and the importance of the Action Project it would be useful to provide them with a handout either on ‘open night’ or at a parent-teacher meeting.
Some students are involved in The Economics of Staying in School project sponsored by Junior Achievement Ireland. The programme aims to improve life skills for young people, to encourage ‘at-risk’ students to stay in school and to provide positive role models from the business sector for young people. Commendably this will involve collaboration between three schools in Cavan town and will give expression to many of the concepts and skills outlined in the CSPE syllabus.
Timetabled allocation for the subject, one class period per week in each of the junior cycle years, is in line with syllabus recommendations and the good practice of teachers continuing with their classes for second and third year is established. This allows for continuity in programme planning and for the organisation of action projects. Teachers, in almost all cases, teach a second subject to their CSPE classes. These arrangements are in line with best practice as outlined in Circular Letter M13/05. All classes are of mixed ability.
Teaching resources have been catalogued and are available in the staff-room. Commendably these resources have been categorised by year groups, thus providing a useful support to teachers who are new to the subject. Resources have been provided by the Citizenship Education Support Team, by various agencies and by individual teachers. The sharing of teacher-generated resources is very good practice and its wider use is encouraged. Information and communications technology (ICT) has been provided in the staff room and students can access the school’s computer room.
Currently four teachers, two of whom are new to the
subject, deliver the CSPE teaching programme in the
Students with additional educational needs are included in mainstream CSPE classes and teachers are made aware of the specific needs of individual students.
Planning and preparation
A subject department plan is in place and the planning process is supported by the appointment of a subject co-ordinator. Formal planning meetings take place each term and teachers are also engaged in informal discussions on an ongoing basis. It is recommended that minutes of subject department meetings be maintained so as to have a record of decisions arrived at and to facilitate forward planning. The subject department plan contains an outline of topics to be taught in each term in each of the junior cycle years. It includes reference to agreed textbooks, assessment and recording procedures and a list of action projects undertaken in previous years. It also outlines plans for the action project for third year students for the current school year. Planning for students to undertake a second action project, perhaps a small scale project in first year should be considered. This would facilitate the development of key skills which would benefit students when undertaking the action project for certificate examination purposes. It is recommended that the subject department plan be reviewed and that a focus be given to identifying learning outcomes linked to curriculum content, teaching methodologies, resources and assessment.
The use of ICT provides opportunities for the development of appropriate resources to support teaching and learning in CSPE and for students to engage in collaborative and independent learning. In order to exploit the potential of ICT for teaching and learning it is recommended that a policy for the use of ICT in CSPE be developed and be included in the subject department plan.
There was effective planning by individual teachers for the lessons observed. Each of the lessons observed was part of a larger planned unit of work and learning objectives for the lesson were clear. The good practice of sharing the planned learning objectives with students was evident in some lessons and its wider use is encouraged as a means of providing a focus for students’ attention.
Teaching and learning
In the lessons observed, classroom management was of a very high standard, there was a relaxed and positive atmosphere and students were frequently affirmed by their teachers. Students willingly engaged in planned learning activities and showed a good knowledge of issues being discussed. The display of charts and particularly students’ posters and projects in classrooms helped to create a stimulating learning environment.
High quality teaching and learning was evident in the lessons observed and was most effective when students were actively engaged in the learning process. Teachers had established clear classroom routines. Lessons generally began with roll call and homework was monitored and corrected, lessons concluded with appropriate homework being assigned and this was recorded by students in their homework journals. This structured approach is commended as it provides an environment where the focus can be on teaching and learning. Knowledge from pervious lessons was recalled through a question-and-answer session between students and teacher before new subject matter was introduced. This is good practice and is particularly important in CSPE classes given the time lapse between lessons.
Teaching methods used largely involved teacher exposition, question-and-answer sessions between teacher and students and students completing short written tasks. Students contributed to discussions and were encouraged by teacher questioning to relate the topic under discussion to their own experiences or to current events. This is good practice as it helps students to appreciate and understand the concepts in CSPE. As a means of further relating discussions to the world outside the classroom, students should be encouraged to develop a photo gallery of political figures on a class notice board. They should also be encouraged to display photographs and articles from the print-media relevant to topics being studied as part of the CSPE teaching programme. In one of the lessons observed there was very good use of pair-work by students. Clear instructions were provided to students as to the task to be completed and as they worked together the teacher moved around the classroom offering support and advice as appropriate. During interaction with the inspector the students were clearly engaged by the task and obviously enjoyed working in a collaborative manner. When the task was completed feedback was taken by the teacher in a whole-class setting. In keeping with the concept of ‘active citizenship’ the greater use of active learning methodologies, such as that just described, is recommended and that an appropriate balance between teacher-input and student activity is maintained. While discussion within CSPE classes is an important method of developing the key skills of speaking and listening, care needs to be taken to ensure that the pace of the lesson does not become too slow so that some students lose attention.
During the lessons observed it was evident that attention is being paid to developing students’ knowledge of the language appropriate to CSPE and this is highly commended. In one lesson where new terms were introduced they were clearly explained, written on the board and were recorded by students in their copybooks. The provision of such ‘quiet time’ is commended as it enables students to reflect on and to assimilate new knowledge. As discussed during the feedback to teachers, consideration should be given to providing such reflective time for students at the conclusion of lessons using appropriate worksheets. These worksheets could then be retained as a record of progress and could be used for revision purposes.
The mixed-ability structure of classes and the
presence of students with additional educational needs in mainstream classes is
a feature of the
Teachers assess students’ progress on an ongoing basis by the use of questioning during class, regularly assigning and monitoring homework and by holding class tests when sections of the teaching programme have been completed. Formal assessments take place at the end of the first term and third terms. Students in third year sit pre-examinations during the second term. CSPE is included in these assessments. Parents receive reports on students’ progress following formal assessments and at formal parent-teacher meetings held annually for each year group.
Examination materials issued by the State Examinations Commission are taken care of by the subject co-ordinator. These are made available to individual teachers as requested, and the completed documents are returned to the school’s office where they are securely stored and are made available on the day of the CSPE examination. Students to date have been using the Report on the Action Projects (RAPs) proforma booklet. Students receive appropriate and constructive feedback from their teachers in relation to the completion of their report on the action project. This use of assessment for learning approaches is commended and the CSPE teaching team is encouraged to develop a policy in relation to assessment for learning (AfL) and to include this in the subject department plan.
During the evaluation a sample of students’ copybooks was viewed. These were generally being well maintained with key words underlined or highlighted and work was neatly presented. The good practice of providing students with an outline of the CSPE syllabus was noted in some copybooks.
Summary of main findings and recommendations
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 CSPE and the deputy principal and with the headmaster at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2009