An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing
Coláiste Cois Siúire
Mooncoin, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 70620C
Date of inspection: 16 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Cois Siúire conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing 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 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.
Technical Graphics at junior cycle level and Technical Drawing at senior cycle, together with Metalwork, Engineering, Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies comprise the technological curriculum available in Coláiste Cois Siúire. This is an impressive range of technological subjects on offer, especially for a school of this size. From discussions with school personnel, and from observations during the course of the inspection, it was clear that management is very supportive of the ongoing development of the technology subjects in the school, including Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing. This high level of interest in the subjects is helped by the fact that a member of the school’s senior management team is involved in teaching the subjects. Although there is no dedicated budget for the subject area it was reported that management treats all reasonable requests favourably.
There are two fully qualified teachers of the subjects on the school staff. Both teach classes across the junior and senior cycles in the school. This is good practice as it helps to maintain and enrich the level of teaching expertise available in the subject. In general, teachers retain classes from year to year as they progress through the school. This is also good practice as it provides continuity in the subjects for students. On occasions, however, a class group may have a different teacher for one year. In such circumstances it is important that appropriate collaboration takes place between teachers regarding the abilities and progress of those students affected.
Taster courses operate for first-year students in some subjects. Upon enrolment all first years study Art and Technical Graphics for four weeks. Thereafter, they choose one of these subjects to study to Junior Certificate level. It was reported that the take-up of the subject at this level has increased slightly over the last few years. Currently, there is one class group in each year of the junior cycle studying Technical Graphics. While class sizes at this level are small (i.e., between ten and twelve) they do represent between 30-50% of the total cohort of students in their particular year. Junior cycle classes are provided with two forty-minute and two thirty-five minute lesson periods each week in the subject. These appear on the timetable as two double periods, which is good practice in the case of a subject with a significant practical component. Currently, Technical Graphics is timetabled opposite Art in first and second year and against Art and Business Studies in third year.
There is one class group in each of fifth and sixth year studying Technical Drawing. Again, class sizes at this level are small. Classes are provided with three forty minute and three thirty-five minute lesson periods per week in the subject. This level of provision is considered generous. Teachers share the teaching of the subject at this level. One teaches the mandatory plane and solid geometry section of the Technical Drawing syllabus to both fifth and sixth-year classes. Students are provided with four lessons per week for this section. Students must also study one of two optional sections, either building or engineering applications. One teacher teaches the building applications section to some students, while another teaches engineering applications to those who have opted for Engineering. Students are provided with two lesson periods per week for this section and these optional sections are taught to both fifth and sixth-year students together. This collaborative teaching arrangement has operated in the school for some time and to date has worked quite well. This is commended. Currently, Technical Drawing is timetabled opposite Art and Accountancy in both fifth and sixth year of senior cycle.
The school had one dedicated Technical Graphics/Drawing classroom but, due largely to space restrictions, it is no longer used for the subjects. The room is now used predominantly as a Mathematics classroom. Currently, the subjects are taught in the school’s Engineering and Construction Studies workshops. Both workshops are kept neat and tidy and are generally well resourced in terms of graphics/drawing equipment. There is an appropriate amount of blackboard drawing equipment in each workshop. For example, there are adequate numbers of drawing boards and T-squares available for student use and an adequate supply of drawing stationery was observed. A number of graphic models are available in the workshops to aid teaching. Some of these were acquired commercially, while students manufactured others in the school as part of their project work. This is a practical example of cross-curricular work with other subjects and is commended. Notwithstanding, models are in limited supply. Extra graphic models covering a wider range of topics on the syllabus should be built up over time. While these could be stored centrally, they should be shared between both workshops. Samples of students’ drawings are displayed on the workshop walls and these act as a stimulus and source of motivation for students. It is important that these displays are changed regularly.
The Construction Studies workshop is furnished with nine personal computers. These computers are loaded with a leading computer aided design (CAD) software package. Currently, the distribution of information and communication technology (ICT) equipment is skewed in favour of the Construction Studies workshop. The current level of ICT access for students in the Engineering workshop is completely inadequate. In effect, it means that those students timetabled for Technical Graphics/Drawing in the Engineering workshop are not being exposed to CAD. Currently, the teaching of CAD in this workshop is primarily a paper-based exercise. It is recommended that all students be treated equitably with regard to their level of ICT access in the subject. An upgrade in ICT facilities in the subject area will soon be possible as the school is due to receive an equipment grant from the Department of Education and Science in respect of the introduction of the revised Leaving Certificate Technical Drawing syllabus (i.e. Design and Communications Graphics). In spending this grant, consideration should be given to supplying both workshops with ICT facilities. Indeed, the possibility of reinstating the decommissioned Technical Drawing/Technical Graphics room should also be addressed as this classroom is already fitted with up to fifteen network points. Furthermore, consideration should also be given to acquiring fixed digital projectors and printers for the subject area, extra computers for student use and an interactive whiteboard.
School management facilitates teachers in attending professional development courses wherever possible. Most recently staff attended the first round of professional development provided by T4 (the Technology Subjects Support Service) concerning the introduction of the new Leaving Certificate Design and Communication Graphics syllabus. Some teachers have also attended relevant courses that they personally sourced and funded over the years. All teachers are members of a relevant professional association and school management encourages this.
There is an informal head or coordinator for the subject area in place in the school. While meetings take place two or three times annually on a formal basis between teachers, most discussions and planning concerning the subjects take place on an informal basis throughout the course of the school year. Consideration should be given to recording deliberations of formal meetings held and circulating these to management for information. From discussions with teachers it was clear that they are committed to their subjects and that they work well as a team.
In the year prior to this inspection a comprehensive department plan was developed for the subject area. At that time three subject teachers were involved in developing the plan. The plan contains information, presented in a concise and informative manner, relevant to practically all aspects of the subjects, including details of syllabus content, time allocations for classes, class organisation and homework details, as well as information on student assessment procedures, teachers’ record keeping and cross-curricular work. It is important, however, that the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan would be monitored. This is an issue that could be discussed at either formal or informal future meetings of teachers. The plan should also be reviewed at regular intervals in light of the findings of the monitoring process.
Planning for lessons is based predominantly on teaching experience. In general, junior cycle classes are designed to ensure that the syllabus is covered by the middle of third year. The junior cycle syllabus is generally taught at higher-level up to the ‘mock’ examinations at which point students, in collaboration with their teacher, will decide to opt for either higher or ordinary level in their Junior Certificate examination. The latter part of third year is primarily concerned with revision work. The same general principles apply at Leaving Certificate level. Again, the ‘mock’ examinations tend to determine whether a student will opt for higher or ordinary level in the examination and revision work dominates thereafter. While this planning arrangement works quite well it is recommended that the details regarding the work covered in lessons be fully recorded. It is acknowledged that the subject plan contains details of some schemes of work for different class groups, but this section is incomplete. Priority should be given to reviewing the schemes of work in the subject plan. Teachers should consider developing common schemes for classes.
While students are supplied with textbooks very little use is made of these in either lessons or for homework purposes. The class sets of textbooks observed in classrooms are quite dated. It is recommended that new and up-to-date textbooks be acquired for use with students at the next available opportunity. This should involve collaboration with the person responsible for the book loan scheme currently operating in the school. A variety of other resources are used to aid the teaching of the subjects. These include models, teacher developed handouts and support textbooks. In the case of support textbooks in particular a wide range has been acquired over time. Teachers share resources among themselves as necessary. Central storage areas for these resources should be developed in the workshops.
From the sample of students’ graphics/drawing portfolios examined it was clear that students are being exposed to the entire syllabi of both subjects. However, numerous incomplete drawings were observed in portfolios and it was evident that many were constructed using inappropriate drawing instruments. Portfolios would benefit from regular monitoring by teachers. In monitoring portfolios teachers can ensure that only completed drawings are inserted, that correct drawing techniques and instruments are being used in producing drawings and that drawings are kept neat and tidy. It can also be a good way of ensuring that students do not place incorrect solutions to questions into their portfolios. Students should regularly receive feedback on their portfolio work. Students are allowed to store their drawing portfolios in school, but sometimes take them home prior to examinations for study and revision purposes.
Junior and senior cycle lessons were visited during the inspection. Class registers were called at the outset of lessons with student attendance and punctuality being recorded as appropriate. It was obvious in all cases that students had an established routine with regard to entering the classroom and setting themselves up for a lesson in drawing/graphics; this was done quickly, quietly and efficiently. Also, from the content of lessons observed there was evidence of continuity with previous lessons and all students were engaged in kinaesthetic learning.
Lessons were well prepared in advance. Examples of lesson preparation included the careful pre-selection of drawing questions for completion by students in lessons, the preparation of student handouts or worksheets, the setting up of ICT equipment and the selection of models for use during lessons. In particular, the use of models as a visual teaching aid assisted in developing students’ spatial understanding.
The blackboard, which is so central to the teaching of Technical Graphics/Drawing, was used effectively in lessons as an instruction aid and for assisting with explanations. Drawings were constructed on the blackboard during the course of some lessons using dedicated blackboard drawing equipment. In such cases care was taken to ensure that students followed the different steps involved. There was a particular emphasis in some junior cycle lessons of use by the teacher of technical drawing equipment at the blackboard. This was good practice as the techniques modelled students’ use of such equipment at their drawing boards and so aided students’ understanding of certain construction techniques. It is recommended that greater use be made of such drawing techniques at the blackboard across all junior cycle lessons. There were also good examples of the sketching of technical drawing solutions on the blackboard. These worked particularly well with senior cycle classes and, as they take less time to construct than technical drawings, they give students more time to construct their own drawings on the computer or on their drawing boards. Coloured chalk was used effectively across all blackboard work to aid clarity and student understanding.
In a number of lessons visited some students were using conventional drawing techniques while others were using computer-aided drawing (CAD) techniques. It was not possible for all students to use CAD simultaneously in these lessons, as there were only nine computers available in the workshop that had CAD. It was reported, however, that CAD was also available in the school’s computer room, but that this room was used sparingly for Technical Graphics/Drawing. The obvious seamless transition that students had made from manual to computer-aided drawing was particularly striking in these lessons. Students displayed a high level of proficiency in the use of CAD during these lessons. While students’ use of CAD observed was exemplary it is important to remember that the focus of the current course is on the development of students’ motor skills through manual drawing techniques. This is also the focus of the state examination in the subject. With the imminent introduction of the revised syllabus, however, both teachers and students will be well positioned to engage with the extensive CAD element that appears on this syllabus.
There was good teacher movement throughout the classroom during the lessons observed and this had the effect of keeping students on task. Opportunities were also taken here to monitor students’ work and progress and give individual tuition where needed. While most lessons were appropriately paced it is always important to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the content of lessons and students’ abilities. Effective questioning techniques, such as higher-order, leading and probing questions, were used to aid teaching and learning in some lessons. It is recommended that such techniques, particularly higher-order questioning, be replicated across other lessons. Across all lessons, however, students were given adequate time to reflect before answering questions and were regularly affirmed for correct answers given. Students were also provided with appropriate opportunities to ask questions. Questions were regularly asked of individual students with care being taken to ensure that all students were included in the process.
From discussions with teachers and students, and from observations of a sample of students’ homework diaries, it was clear that homework is assigned sporadically in the case of some classes. Homework is an important part of students’ learning experience and even though in Technical Graphics/Drawing it will be different from that assigned in the case of most other subjects because of the need for dedicated instruments, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be assigned regularly. It is recommended, therefore, that homework be assigned, collected and corrected regularly across all classes and that students receive appropriate and timely feedback on such work. Students should be encouraged to use their homework journals accordingly. For those classes that experience difficulty with homework consideration could be given to exploring the possibility of assigning different forms of homework such as paper or cardboard model building, project research or sketching, colouring and rendering work.
There was good classroom management in all lessons visited that made for effective learning environments. Positive relationships existed between teachers and students and between students themselves. From discussions with students it was clear that they enjoyed studying Technical Graphics/Drawing. In particular, some senior cycle students viewed it as being important for their future careers. Discipline was sensitively maintained in all lessons visited.
Overall, student learning outcomes, as seen for example in students’ examination results, are very good. In recent years the majority of students, particularly at junior cycle level, have taken their subjects at higher-level and are encouraged to do so by their teachers. It was reported that management personnel analyse state examination results annually.
All non-examination classes in the school sit formal examinations at Christmas and in the summer. Examination classes sit Christmas and ‘mock’ examinations. In all cases reports are sent home. It was reported that other techniques are used on a continual basis to assess students’ performance, including oral questioning during lessons, monitoring of students’ level of engagement in lessons and homework.
Teachers keep records of students’ examination results, attendance, punctuality and behaviour. There is scope, however, for other records to be kept including homework and records regarding students’ portfolio work. Detailed and informative record keeping can place teachers in an ideal position to give accurate feedback on student performance at parent-teacher meetings. There is usually one such meeting devoted to each year group in the school annually.
It is recommended that a certain percentage of marks (for example, 20-30%) be allocated to students’ drawing portfolios when arriving at a final grade for their Christmas and summer tests. This arrangement would reward students for their work all year round and would further encourage them to keep their portfolios in good order.
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 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.