An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics
and Technical Drawing
Cashel, County Tipperary
Roll number: 65300D
Date of inspection: 26 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Rockwell College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics (TG) and Technical Drawing (TD) 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 teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
With an illustrious history spanning almost a century and a half, Rockwell College today continues to offer a broad secondary education in a co-educational setting to boarders, day boarders and day students. Together with TD, the senior cycle curriculum of the college also includes Home Economics and Agricultural Science from the applied sciences group of subjects. TG and TD, the focus of this subject inspection, alone represent the technology subjects in the college. Encouraged by the interest expressed by parents, it is commended that the college is at present giving consideration to the introduction of a second technology subject. It is an aim, stated in the college’s development plan 2005 – 2007, that a fully equipped Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood) room be developed. The introduction of such subjects will benefit students, particularly those whose interests lie in the technologies, by providing them with a wider subject choice. Management is encouraged to continue its efforts in this regard and to consider carefully which of the three technology subjects, Materials Technology (Wood), Technology or Metalwork, is best suited to the needs of the students of Rockwell.
While the single teacher of TG and TD undertakes specific subject planning for these subjects, when opportunities are presented for scheduled subject planning meetings, he meets in a group with other teachers who similarly are the only teachers of their respective subjects in the school. At these meetings, common planning concerns are discussed. The provision of such opportunities for collaborative planning is commended. It is advised, where not already the case, that the opportunities presented by such meetings be used to discuss and plan for a broad range of shared pedagogical concerns. Such items as successful experiences of innovation or the use of teaching methodologies and approaches that worked particularly well, might be discussed. Planning of this kind can lead to enrichment of the teaching environment in each of the subjects concerned and to opportunities for further collaboration among the teachers.
As school development planning has advanced, so also has the subject department plan for TG and TD. Programmes of work have been set down for each year and a good start has been made in completing the subject plan, structured as suggested by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). Such formal planning is commended.
In recent years continuing professional development (CPD) specific to the teaching of TG and TD has not been in evidence. However, the introduction of the Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) syllabus in 2007 provides for a coherent and complete programme of CPD through the Technology Subjects Support Service, t4, www.t4.ie. It is advised that the teacher of TD be facilitated to take full advantage of the t4 programme. The potential reinvigoration of both TD and TG through this CPD programme is great and it is urged that it be fully realised.
In first year, the time allocated for the teaching of TG consists of one double period for two four-week modules. This allocation of sixteen forty-minute periods, ten hours and forty minutes in total, is not sufficient to properly cover the Junior Certificate syllabus. It is recommended that the time allocated to the teaching of TG in first year be increased. It is noted that the present second year TG class were not timetabled for the subject in first year. It is recommended, should these students not have sufficient time to complete the course, that steps be taken to address their needs. The allocation of four periods per week in second and third year, notwithstanding the previous comments and in the context of a suitable allocation in first year, is sufficient to teach the TG syllabus in these years. Similarly, the allocation of five class periods per week in senior cycle, as currently in fifth year, is sufficient to teach the TD syllabus. In the case of each class group both in senior and junior cycle, one double-period lesson per week is timetabled, which is good practice. In general the allocation, configuration and distribution of class periods for the teaching of TG and TD, outside of first year, is commended.
Generally, teachers are classroom based in Rockwell College. The room used to teach TG and TD is thus the base room of the teacher concerned. As a consequence, it is used for the teaching of some Science and Mathematics classes in addition to TG and TD. The room is adequately large as a general classroom. In the context of teaching TG and TD, in particular in light of the introduction of computer aided design (CAD) as a mandatory element of the DCG syllabus, the classroom is too small. Space will be required to accommodate a computer and data projector for the teaching of CAD, together with computers for student use, student desks for drawing and storage space for students’ folders, teaching aids and equipment. It is recommended that a room of sufficient size be identified and designated as a specialist room for the teaching of TG and DCG. The development of such a specialist teaching facility has further advantages in the context of the college’s planned introduction of a second technology subject. It can provide space for the installation of further ICT hardware which may be provided and be a valuable facility for the teaching of theory lessons, drawing and CAD to students in both technology subjects.
At present students of TG and TD do not make use of the college’s ICT facilities for CAD. It is acknowledged by the subject department that, although the computer room is used very extensively, it might be available for one period per week for each TG and TD class. It is urged that the use of the computer room be requested and that, as soon as it becomes available, the parametric modelling CAD package chosen for use in the technologies be installed on the computers allowing all students of TG and TD to be introduced to CAD from first year. It is urged that the computer room be used for teaching class groups the use of the CAD package and that the smaller number of computers available in the specialist graphics room be used subsequently for individual student project work, when it is not envisaged that all members of a class would be using CAD concurrently. It is recommended that all students of TG and TD study CAD.
It is commended that all students in the current first year are being provided, by means of taster modules, with the opportunity to study TG, which, together with the information provided for students and their parents, supports them in making appropriate subject choices for junior cycle. While at present there are no female students studying TD or TG outside of first year, where all students study the subject, it is commended that the option to study both subjects is available to all, irrespective of gender. It is urged that a policy with regard to gender balance in the study of the technologies in the college be developed, in particular in the context of adding another technology subject to the curriculum.
It is recommended that DCG be included in the Transition Year (TY) programme. This can be achieved by providing a module of CAD as already planned by the subject department. It is recommended that the parametric modelling CAD package chosen for use in the technologies be used for the module and that the written programme include the use of the software package to explore some aspects of DCG that are likely to appeal to the interests of the greatest number of TY students. The inclusion of DCG in the TY programme will, in addition to its educational value, provide support for student decision making for subject choice in senior cycle.
The lessons visited in the course of the inspection were well planned and closely followed the written notes supplied in advance. Careful planning aided the smooth implementation of active group work by students in one of the classes visited. Long-term planning has resulted in clear and well-defined schedules of work for each year of the junior and senior cycles in TG and TD. These schedules are broadly in line with the requirements of the respective syllabuses. However, in order to build on the work already done, it is advised that the schedule in junior cycle take more account of the importance of developing students’ freehand drawing skills. The TG syllabus sees freehand drawing as integral to all areas of the syllabus, as well as being a stimulus to spatial reasoning. It is recommended that more freehand drawing be done throughout the course, particularly in first year. It may be possible to adopt a cross-curricular, collaborative approach to the introduction of freehand drawing to students who also study Art and it is suggested that this be investigated with the teacher concerned. It is further recommended that the first-year programme involve a series of modular topics, which together lay the foundation for the following two years as indicated in the TG syllabus. This recommendation is made in the context of more time being made available for TG in first year.
The introduction of the new DCG syllabus at the beginning of the coming school year provides an exciting opportunity to engage in detailed planning of senior cycle. It is recommended that the new syllabus, and its implications for the teaching of the subject, be carefully studied initially and that appropriate fifth and sixth-year programmes be designed in preparation for its introduction. Full involvement in the continuing professional development (CPD) programme provided through the Technology Subjects Support Service, t4, www.t4.ie , is strongly encouraged. It is a valuable resource for effective planning and implementation of the syllabus.
All TG and TD classes are of mixed ability. The educational needs of individual students are addressed within the normal class setting with the work suited to students’ ability. It was observed in the course of the lessons visited that extra help and encouragement were given to students as appropriate, in line with best practice. There is collaboration with the school’s special educational needs team as needed. In general a higher-level programme is followed with classes in both junior and senior cycles. Students decide on the level to sit in the State examination, in consultation with their teacher, following the pre-examination. The proportion sitting the examinations at higher level is ahead of the national norms.
Students hold their completed drawings in orderly folders which are stored on shelves in the classroom. Consistent with best practice, these drawings were used as a resource by the students when solving problems in class in the course of the lessons visited. While senior cycle students use A2 size folders, it is presently the practice for junior cycle students to use A4 folders to hold their completed A3 drawings. It is suggested that folders of A3 size be used by students in junior cycle classes to avoid finished drawings having to be folded. Good use of the overhead projector was observed in the classes visited. It is suggested that the use of transparency overlays might be explored to further improve the impact of images on screen.
While CAD has not been an important element in the teaching of TD in Rockwell, it will be of central importance in the teaching of the DCG syllabus. Fifth-year students, beginning in September 2007, will need to have access to CAD from the outset of the course. It is essential that the necessary planning is in place to allow this access. It is urged, in addition, that all students of TG be provided with experience of CAD beginning in first year. It is recommended that planning be undertaken immediately to provide facilities for CAD teaching in the computer room and in the graphics room, utilising the software package to be identified for the technology subjects. It is further recommended that the planning of programmes of lessons appropriate to students in each year, including Transition Year, be undertaken. The recommended participation in the CPD provided by t4, www.t4.ie , will be of particular benefit in the course of this planning work.
In the lessons visited a range of teaching strategies was adopted. These strategies were appropriate to the students’ abilities and interests. The use of scissors and glue by pairs of students in one lesson successfully involved them in a practical investigation of Pythagoras’ Theorem. A similar approach had previously been taken to investigate the angles in triangles. In another class students again worked in pairs to solve a problem on the areas of figures which was the topic of the lesson. It is commended that students became actively involved in their learning as a result of such approaches. Encouragement is given to the further development of similar approaches, wherever appropriate, not least when planning for the teaching of the DCG syllabus. Direct teaching was well supported by effective use of the overhead projector and white board. Questioning techniques were effectively used to elicit information and solutions from students where appropriate.
In the case of each lesson visited, the purpose of the lesson was clearly stated at the outset and remained so throughout. The lessons were well structured with defined introduction, development, recapitulation and conclusion. The lessons were well paced to suit the work rate of the students while achieving the work goals set at the beginning of the lesson.
Continuity with previous lessons was seen in the students’ work reviewed in the course of the inspection. It is commended that suitable teaching materials were sourced from the internet for use in one of the lessons visited. While the use of such materials is commended, the difficulty of distortion of scale that arises when they are printed may need to be anticipated. It is preferable, in circumstances where distortion becomes a problem, that students draw the figure accurately themselves before continuing with the work being undertaken. Students effectively used common constructions that they had drawn previously as reference material in a lesson where areas were being converted. This is a good way to encourage students to develop their independent learning skills and problem-solving faculties. In a fifth year TD lesson students were given a past Leaving Certificate question to attempt later in the lesson. While it is desirable that students work on past papers in preparation for State examinations, it is recommended that care be taken that this work is used to reinforce learning and understanding and does not become an end in itself.
It is commended that the atmosphere in the classroom was at all times pleasant, positive and conducive to learning. Students remained engaged with their work and contributed freely when questioned. The teacher engaged individually with students as they completed their work, providing help and encouragement as needed and affirming their effort. Mutual respect was evident in all interactions and discipline was unforced and intrinsic to students’ behavior. The maintenance of this learning environment is commended.
Formal house examinations are held in Rockwell at Christmas and summer. In addition to these formal examinations, class tests are administered in TG and TD midway through and again on completion of each topic. Students’ completed drawings are also assessed, particularly in first year. The assessments carried out in the course of the term are recorded and aggregated with the marks achieved in the formal examinations to arrive at the overall result at Christmas and summer. It is commended that continuous assessment is carried out in both subjects. While the modes of assessment in the respective State examinations do not at present include coursework assessment, the DCG syllabus does and it is helpful that the practice in Rockwell anticipates this. It is recommended, in order to further improve good practice, that a little more formality be brought to continuous assessment. In particular it is suggested that the weighting of marks to be used when aggregating be stated in advance and that students be kept informed of the impact of their achievement to date on their likely overall result. Such feedback on their progress has the potential to provide extra motivation and more immediate reward for effort made.
In addition to formal assessment, the practice, observed in the lessons visited, for the teacher to provide, with sensitivity, informal feedback, affirmation and encouragement while working with individual students is commended. The assessment, including the students’ own assessment of their work and progress, implicit in such interaction, is a powerful aid to student learning. Homework, assigned once or twice weekly in junior cycle and once per week in senior cycle, is checked and corrected in class.
In the lessons visited, students displayed enthusiasm and curiosity for the subjects and, when questioned, showed an understanding and knowledge consistent with their age and ability. An examination of the students’ work, which was systematically kept in well-organised folders, showed effective development of their drawing skills and competence over time. In order to further enhance students’ appreciation of order, neatness and good presentation, it is recommended that they be encouraged to be more attentive to the use of borders and the careful placing of drawn or stamped title blocks on their drawing sheets. The aim is to make them appreciate each drawing as an object of pride, the product of their skill and understanding, produced to the highest standard achievable.
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 Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.