An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
St Mac Dara’s Community College,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W
Roll number: 70260V
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Mac Dara’s Community College, Templeogue, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. 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.
Metalwork and Engineering form part of all programmes offered by the school. The allocation of class periods to the subjects at both junior and senior cycle is very good, providing ample time for theoretical, practical and project work to be accommodated.
During their first year in the school, students take part in a taster programme that allows them to sample all optional subjects available to them. As part of this taster programme, students are introduced to Metalwork for two periods a week. This allows students entering second year to make their optional subject choices based on their experience and on their aptitude for the subject. In addition to this, students are further assisted in making their optional subject choices through informal advice from their subject teachers, a subject choices pamphlet and a parents’ meeting where subjects are discussed and advice is offered to parents. Senior cycle students who choose Transition Year (TY) also get to sample the subject prior to making their subject choices for the Leaving Certificate. Students, who choose not to take part in the TY, receive information from teachers in third year and are also supported by a senior cycle choices pamphlet. The level of support in place for students at critical decision making times in the college is commended.
A large proportion of both girls and boys choose to study Metalwork and Engineering. The subject department has been instrumental in the development of a number of projects that are equally appealing to both boys and girls and are commended for their work in this regard.
Both of the Metalwork/Engineering rooms are very well resourced and are clearly identifiable from the corridor with large signs above each door. The school has received funding for health and safety purposes as per circular letter PBU 5/2005, and is in the process of updating the machinery and facilities. Once complete, school management should ensure that all machinery and equipment in each room is listed on the current equipment list of the relevant Department of Education and Science circular.
School management has supported the members of the subject department through the allocation of resources and by facilitating their attendance at the continuous professional development (CPD) courses currently being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service. In addition to this, members of the subject department have also taken part in CPD provided by the Engineering and Technology Teachers Association (ETTA). This commitment to CPD is commended.
The Metalwork and Engineering teachers form a subject department in St. Mac Dara’s Community College. Subject department planning meetings are held regularly and informal meetings are also used to plan on a daily basis. The intention to record decisions made at these meetings and tasks to be completed will further develop subject department planning.
A comprehensive subject department plan has been developed. This plan outlines the organisation of the subject in the school and details a number of department policies. To further develop this planning, it is recommended that the subject department identify a number of long-term goals for the subjects and put strategies in place to achieve them. These goals should include the incorporation of information and communication technology (ICT) into the teaching and learning of the subjects and the identification of the most suitable storage solutions and room layout to maximise the available space in both rooms.
The subject department plan also contains an agreed curricular plan for the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering. This curricular plan is based on student learning outcomes and is fully supported by teachers’ individual planning, which is of a very high standard.
The subject department works closely with the learning support and the special educational support team in the identification of strategies suitable to teaching individual students with specific difficulties. It is suggested that these strategies be listed in the relevant section of the subject department plan in order to provide a quick and easy reference point for the Metalwork and Engineering teachers.
The subject department has designed or tailored the practical projects used to develop students’ skills. The suitability of these projects is regularly assessed to ensure that they are suitable for the ability of the class group, interesting for students to make and educationally worthwhile. This attention to project design and selection is commended.
An Engineering module has recently been re-introduced into the TY. This is a welcome development. The TY plan for Engineering consists of the manufacture of a candle holder with a lunar theme. This is an attractive piece of decorative metalwork and is worthy of inclusion in the module to help students develop their processing techniques. In order to help students gain a further insight into the subject, it is recommended that the subject department explore as many teaching and learning methodologies as possible. Teamwork, independent learning, peer learning and the development of students’ presentation techniques could all be used to ensure that students’ learning experiences are significantly different during their TY.
In lessons containing a significant theoretical content, the learning intention was shared with students at the beginning. This meant that students were made aware of the criteria for success and this allowed them to strive to achieve it and to self-evaluate their progress. In addition to this, homework was corrected at the beginning and students were assessed on previous learning. This approach was evident in most lessons as teachers have agreed on a common lesson structure providing consistency across the department.
A variety of teaching methodologies was employed during the lessons observed. Teachers used group and individual demonstrations and facilitated learning by encouraging students to learn experientially through their participation in the design process. This commitment to design and manufacture projects among senior cycle students is commended. Where teacher demonstrations were used, students were then encouraged to work together in groups to carry out the various tasks demonstrated. This was a good approach but led to some delays at certain machines. It is suggested, to avoid such difficulties, that teachers plan to stagger student processing procedures.
In all practical lessons, teachers circulated the classroom and monitored students’ work. This practice allowed for guidance, affirmation and advice to be administered throughout each lesson. It is important, that when circulating the classroom, teachers ensure that students are not seated while carrying out benchwork and that passage ways between work benches and machines are free from students’ bags and chairs, as in all lessons a large number of trip hazards were observed. Once all new machinery and equipment is installed permanently, the subject department should ensure that safety zones be demarcated around all machines. This, together with storing bags and chairs in a safe place during practical lessons and the numerous safety posters and standard safety signs displayed around the room, will help to instil appropriate health and safety awareness in students.
Important aspects of each lesson were communicated to students in a clear and unambiguous manner. This was achieved through appropriate use of the whiteboard, overhead projector and prepared student notes. Student focus was maintained in theoretical work by beginning most lessons with some element of theory and then progressing onto practical work based on the theoretical learning. This was most apparent in a junior cycle lesson where the properties and applications of aluminium were discussed prior to introducing a project made primarily from this material.
Student knowledge and understanding were assessed regularly and in a varied manner in all lessons observed. In a junior cycle lesson observed, a number of students were called to the whiteboard to complete a flowchart detailing various heat treatments. Individual students were questioned in all lessons and written work was monitored at the beginning and during lessons.
There was no use of ICT during the lessons observed. The subject department reported their intention to install data projectors in both rooms as a matter of urgency. This will provide an opportunity for good quality ICT resources to be incorporated into the teaching and learning of the subjects. It will also improve the subject department’s ability to share resources and to develop parametric models of State Examinations Commission (SEC) projects in order to help examination year students visualise and assemble their work.
Students were well behaved during all lessons. This was maintained through appropriate lesson content and positive student affirmation. Students were aware of the appropriate storage procedures for tools and actively contributed at the end of lessons in tidying the classrooms.
A large number of good quality student projects are displayed in both rooms and in one room the planned projects for each year group are mounted on the wall. This provides students with an example of the standard of work expected of them and is a motivation to complete their projects to the best of their ability. A good number of posters are displayed around both rooms thus helping to create a technology-based learning environment for students.
Students demonstrated good learning commensurate with their age and ability in all lessons and in some cases the standard was significantly higher. All students are encouraged to attempt the higher-level course and have achieved very well at this level in the State Examinations.
A number of assessment techniques are used to ascertain student progress in Metalwork and Engineering. These methods include: formal end-of-term examinations; in-class questioning; monitoring and evaluation of students’ practical work and homework and design portfolio work. Results of these assessments demonstrated good student progress.
The end-of-term examinations for all year groups consist of written examinations combined with a practical element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subjects’ syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. Some elements of common assessment are given to class groups of similar ability where appropriate and this practice is encouraged.
All project and practical work are corrected and feedback is given to students orally. The level of feedback given to students in relation to their written work varied. It is suggested, that a common approach to providing formative and constructive feedback, especially for students’ written work, be agreed among the subject department. Parents are kept informed of students’ progress through regular reports home, parent-teacher meetings and through correspondence via the student journal.
Almost every year since 1991, Engineering students in St Mac Dara’s Community College have been successful at both regional and national competition level. The participation and success in these competitions is commended. These achievements have been recognised in a number of student publications and by a large display of student achievements and awards in the classrooms.
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 October 2008