An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Borris Vocational School,
Borris, County Carlow
Roll number: 70400L
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Borris Vocational School, Co. Carlow, 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.
Provision is made for technology education in the curriculum of the school through the inclusion of Metalwork at junior cycle and Engineering at senior cycle. At senior cycle, Engineering forms part of the Leaving Certificate, the Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). It is commended that all students are presented with the opportunity to choose to study a technology subject.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle. This allocation includes four class periods per week at junior cycle, two class periods in TY and five class periods in fifth and sixth-year. This allocation provides adequate time for practical, project and theoretical work to be accommodated.
In Borris Vocational School, a large proportion of boys study Metalwork and Engineering in junior and senior cycle respectively. Presently no girls study Metalwork at junior cycle and only a very small percentage choose Engineering at senior cycle. It is recommended that school management undertake research as to why girls are not choosing the subject and, together with the subject department, develop strategies to encourage them to do so at junior cycle.
Incoming first-year students and parents are supported in making an informed subject choice through an open day held in the school. The subject teachers facilitate this by showcasing a number of student projects in the Metalwork/Engineering room. There will be a further opportunity to improve the open day experience for prospective students when the Metalwork/Engineering room is fully operational in the new school building.
At both junior and senior cycle, students’ preferences are surveyed and subject option bands are devised based on these preferences. This method of providing student choice for optional subjects is commendable.
School management plans to introduce a taster programme for first-year students that would allow them to sample Metalwork prior to choosing their optional subjects. This initiative would benefit students when making their choices, as it would allow for informed choices to be made. It is suggested that the department develop a number of student friendly projects to be incorporated into the taster programme for first-year students. This, combined with the new accommodation, could encourage a more equitable uptake of the subject at junior cycle. Senior cycle students are supported in making their choices by information and advice provided by the guidance counsellor and by the experience gained from participating in the Engineering module during TY.
There is one Metalwork/Engineering room in the school. The room is currently being equipped to Department of Education and Science guidelines. Some machinery has been delivered. However, there is a delay in relation to the supply of two centre lathes. Upon completion, this room will provide excellent accommodation for the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering. It is recommended, to further improve teacher demonstration facilities in the classroom, that school management and the subject department should identify suitable information and communication technology (ICT) hardware resources and incorporate them into the classroom.
The teachers of Metalwork and Engineering have attended the recent Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses being provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service, and plan to attend further courses during the year. This commitment to CPD is commendable.
Teachers of Metalwork and Engineering form a department group in Borris Vocational School. This group formally meets three times during the year and regularly on an informal basis to discuss subject department planning issues. The subject co-ordinator convenes formal meetings, records minutes and key decisions and identifies actions required. This practice is beneficial to subject planning.
A comprehensive subject plan has been developed collaboratively for junior cycle, TY and senior cycle. It is suggested to further build on this good planning, that a number of state examination type projects be included in the planned practical coursework for junior cycle students. These projects may be amended to suit specific groups’ abilities. The Engineering module planned for TY focuses mainly on junior cycle material. This practice has evolved due to the varying abilities of students participating in the TY module. Peer-learning and group work are planned for within the TY in order to involve all students in the subject. While these methodologies are appropriate to TY, it is recommended that the TY plan be developed by revising the module content to include more senior cycle orientated material. This Engineering module should be developed to promote the subject at senior cycle and should be delivered to the students in an interesting and significantly different way to Leaving Certificate material.
A clear long-term plan for the teaching of the subject should be further developed and integrated into the School Plan. It is recommended that this include a needs analysis of the Metalwork/Engineering room leading to the development of strategies to provide for suitable tool storage, machinery layout, a common resource area and demarcation of safety zones at all machines.
The subject teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The subject plan outlines a number of strategies reported to be used when dealing with students with special educational needs. Special educational needs students are accommodated in practical lessons through the individual help and guidance provided by special needs assistants. This inclusive approach to the teaching and learning of Metalwork/Engineering is commendable.
A number of resources have been identified and developed by the subject department. The preparation and use of such resources enhances the learning experience for students and improves their overall learning environment. Colourful posters detailing ignition systems, engine types and braking systems are also displayed in the room and these could be incorporated into lessons to highlight key concepts and terminology.
Teachers had planned for each lesson observed during the course of the evaluation. In the theory lessons, workshop tools such as hacksaws, blades, micrometers and gauges were on hand for students to examine. Notes and question sheets had also been prepared for students, which allowed for the stimulus to be varied regularly. This planning is necessary as, at present, not all lessons are taught in the Metalwork/Engineering room. In the practical lessons, material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student. In addition, all equipment and tools were readily accessible for students and for demonstration purposes. This level of lesson planning is commendable.
In all lessons observed, a clear learning objective was shared with the class from the beginning. This was evident in a junior cycle practical lesson where the students were given a working drawing and material blanks. Students were then allowed time to examine the drawing and to formulate their sequence of work, prior to a full demonstration of the correct sequence on the blackboard. This focussed the students on the task and allowed the important points to be recapped. This type of re-focusing was carried out a number of times during the lesson to ensure all students were kept on task. This is to be commended as good practice as it allows the teacher to guide the students in their learning but also allows each student to undergo experiential learning during practical lessons.
All lessons observed were clearly structured. This was particularly evident in a senior cycle metrology lesson. In this lesson the parts of the micrometer and vernier callipers were revised prior to taking measurements. This lesson gave students a solid knowledge base to build on prior to the introduction of the topic of limits and fits. This clear introduction engaged students and the recap at the end of the lesson consolidated their learning.
Effective teaching methodologies were observed throughout the evaluation. Demonstrations to both the class group and to individuals occurred in all lessons. In all instances, the correct use of tools, equipment and processing techniques was highlighted and appropriate terminology was used. These demonstrations were clear and effective and consolidated previous student learning. Teachers’ use of the blackboard and whiteboard was clear and effective and was integrated into lessons in short and concise intervals. Suitable worksheets were utilised to vary student learning in a small number of lessons. The use of such resources is commendable.
In all lessons observed, teachers circulated among the students to provide individual guidance and support. By doing this, teachers were able to assess student understanding and skills and offer assistance where necessary. This was particularly evident in a junior cycle practical lesson where almost all students received individual assistance and direction.
There was no use of ICT in lessons observed during the evaluation. However the subject department is keen to implement ICT into the teaching and learning of the subjects in the future and has sourced a number of useful websites and software applications. Once appropriate ICT hardware has been identified and incorporated into the Metalwork/Engineering room the use of such resources will be easily integrated into practical and theory lessons.
In all lessons observed classroom management was effective. Discipline was sensitively maintained through positive interactions and through constant teacher circulation. All interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful. Students received regular positive affirmation and most student responses were affirmed. Almost all students were industrious and a genuine work ethic permeated through the lessons.
During the evaluation there was a large number of good quality student projects on display around the room. This is a very good method of drawing attention to individual students’ work and highlighting their achievements. It is suggested that the subject department consider displaying quality student projects permanently outside the Metalwork/Engineering room. This would have the effect of raising the profile of the subject in the school community and rewarding student achievement.
Students’ practical and project work was achievable and challenging indicating a good level of learning. Most student copies were of good quality and contained short and concise notes for each topic combined with relevant sketches.
Students in Borris Vocational School have achieved recognition in local competitions organised by the Engineering and Technology Teachers’ Association (ETTA) and are entered in the upcoming national competition. Participation in such competitions allows students to achieve in a forum outside the confines of their classroom and raises the profile of the subject in the school and in the wider community.
At junior cycle almost all students follow the higher-level course and students’ results in school assessments and examinations reflect high attainment. The subject department and students are commended for this achievement. The uptake of higher level at senior cycle is also good and students achieve very well in their chosen level.
Student assessment occurs through both formal, end-of-term examinations, and through informal assessment techniques employed by the teachers. These include in-class questioning, monitoring of student practical work, homework, theory tests and end-of-term class tests.
The end-of-term examinations for first-year students are made up of practical and theory tests. For second and fifth-year students, the focus of assessment shifts to project and theory assessments. Students in the TY programme have their projects assessed on a bimonthly basis, the results of which are conveyed to parents. In third and sixth year, most of the work is made up of the state examination project and practical assessments. Theory work is examined at Christmas and during the ‘Mock’ exams. These assessment techniques are congruent with the aims and objectives of the subject syllabuses and give recognition to the skills learned in all strands of the syllabus.
The subject department has developed a large number of common projects and practical tests. These assessment techniques are a valuable resource to the department and allow for analysis of results across the class groups. It is suggested that this policy be extended to theory assessments.
The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents biannually. The communication of student progress is also regularly carried out through parent-teacher meetings and through the student journal. This practice is commendable as it gives parents an accurate reflection of student progress.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Metalwork and Engineering are available to students at both junior and senior cycle and there is an appropriate time allocation that allows for adequate time to complete practical work, project work and theory.
· The Metalwork and Engineering room is currently being furnished with new machinery equipment and materials.
· CPD is both facilitated and encouraged by management.
· A taster programme for incoming first-year students is currently being devised and, on implementation, will provide support for students and parents in relation to subject choice at junior cycle.
· Time dedicated to planning is utilised by the subject department to prepare a detailed subject plan.
· Planning for lessons was appropriate and consistent with teachers’ individual short-term planning.
· The subject department is both inclusive and supportive of students with special educational needs.
· Classroom management was effective and contributed to a safe and participative learning environment.
· Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful.
· All lessons were clearly structured and content was introduced in manageable incremental steps.
· The assessment modes used are congruent with the aims and objectives of the subject syllabuses.
· The overall quality of student practical and project work is of a high standard and demonstrates considerable student learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· School management and the subject department should formulate and implement a strategy to address the current gender bias in Metalwork and Engineering.
· The subject department should work collaboratively to review the Engineering module currently offered to Transition Year students, ensuring that it is consistent with the aims and objectives of the programme.
· The subject department should identify suitable information and communication technology (ICT) hardware resources and incorporate them into the Metalwork and Engineering classroom.
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 June 2008