An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Abbeyfeale County Limerick
Roll Number: 71870H
Date of inspection: 4 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in the Vocational School, Abbeyfeale conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacherís written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and subject teacher.
Home Economics is a well established and vibrant subject at the Vocational School, Abbeyfeale. Commendably, all first year students study Home Economics for the year and optional subject choices for junior cycle are made on transfer to second year. This arrangement permits students to study the full range of optional subjects in first year and should facilitate students in making a more informed choice with regard to subjects available for junior cycle. The first year home economics programme is regarded by the school not only as the first year of the three year programme but as a lifeskills programme for all first year students. Home Economics is optional in all other year groups.
Participation rates in Home Economics (HE) are generally in line with the national average and this uptake is supported by the subject departmentís active promotion and marketing of the subject at open days and information evenings. In the context of the predominately male student cohort it is notable that uptake with regard to male students significantly exceeds the national average for males. Significantly, almost all of the female students have currently opted to study Home Economics. The school reports that numbers of students studying HE are generally on the increase in senior cycle. Much credit is due to both management and the home economics personnel for encouraging and motivating students in this way.†
Students at both junior and senior cycle are given an open choice of subjects and, subsequently, subject option bands are created within the constraints of available resources. Students and their parents are well informed and supported in choosing subjects and levels within subjects.† Every effort is made to ensure student satisfaction with regard to the granting of their preferred subject choices. While recognising the constraints regarding subject choice options in a smaller school, it is recommended that the school continue to support students in choosing to make less traditional subject choices, in order to encourage gender balance.†
There is very good resource provision and whole school support for Home Economics and a high level of commitment to the organisation, planning and teaching of the subject is evident. Class period provision is in line with syllabus recommendations, however double classes timetabled in the afternoon are 10 minutes shorter than those scheduled earlier in the day. Management is conscious of this issue and endeavors to be equitable to all subjects with regard to time allocation. The facilitation of double class periods for each year group supports the development of design and processing skills through project work. Students generally provide materials for practical work, supplemented by school provision where required. Classes are organised on a mixed-ability basis and the home economics department is pro-active in encouraging all students to fully realise their potential. The home economics department liaises with the learning-support department on an ongoing basis and materials are adapted to suit the needs and abilities of students with additional needs as appropriate. Students are given extra support at lunch time, especially with regard to mandatory project work. There are plans to include Home Economics in the schoolís Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and this is fully encouraged. In this regard the Home Economics materials that have been developed by the JCSP should be explored and an assessment of their appropriateness within education provision for students with additional needs should be undertaken, given that JCSP has a useful student motivation dimension.
A strong commitment to continuing professional development is evident. There is active engagement with the Teacher Professional Network as well as a variety of in-service training.† In addition, considerable experience and expertise have been gained by the teacher in the marking of various aspects of the subject in the State examinations. This has a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics at the school.
The school has a large specialist home economics room, which functions as a kitchen and a textiles room. This specialist facility has benefited from some incremental improvements over time. While the home economics room is in need of updating and modernization, it is well maintained and resourced with an appropriate range of equipment necessary for the teaching of the subject. In the context of annual stocktaking an audit on equipment is undertaken and management is supportive of requests made for the ongoing replacement and updating of equipment and resources for both Food Studies and Textiles as necessary. In this context the provision of some additional sewing machines should be prioritised. In the absence of a specialist room for textiles, personnel should be vigilant regarding issues vis-ŗ-vis the use of a dual purpose room for food and textiles studies. A review of the schoolís existing health and safety statement is a stated intention of management. The home economics department has developed its own safety policy and there is evidence of very good health and safety practices in home economics classes.
The home economics department is well supplied with information and communication technologies (ICT) resources and has designated television and video/DVD equipment. There are two computers and a printer available for student use in the home economics room and access to a computer room can be pre-arranged by the teacher, subject to availability. Currently the home economics teacher makes use of her own laptop during lessons and has access to one of the schoolís data projectors. A designated data projector should be provided as soon as possible for the home economics room.
Subject department planning for Home Economics is ongoing and a comprehensive subject plan has been developed. This subject plan is grounded in the schoolís mission statement, and includes such details as the subjectís aims and objectives, health and safety policy, and some information on cross curricular links, resources, methodologies, assessment and homework procedures, planning for cultural diversity and students with special educational needs. In addition long-term outline plans of work have been drawn up for each year group. These plans are syllabus based, time bound and provide an outline of the course content including the relevant practical and project work to be completed. Links between theory and the related practical work as well as proposed modes of assessment are evident in the plans as recommended in the syllabuses. In the context of planning for junior cycle project work, the good practice of developing the design process from an early stage in junior cycle, in both food studies and the practical textiles work is adopted. Students complete a mini-design brief in tandem with the craft item being produced. It is also praiseworthy that these plans are utilised as working documents in that they incorporate a review section for comments which informs future planning for the subject. In the context of ongoing subject planning it is recommended that these long-term outline plans of work be further developed to include the learning outcomes to be attained, choice of teaching methodologies and resources, in addition to details on revision and examination preparation. With regard to curricular planning for first year students the school should consider striking a balance between providing a general lifeskills programme for all first year students and providing the first year of the three year cycle for those students who wish to continue to study Home Economics for the Junior Certificate and subsequently the Leaving Certificate. State Examination Commission marking schemes, chief examinersí reports, syllabuses and teacher guidelines should continue to be utilised as a resource to inform planning at Junior and Leaving Certificate levels.
In the context of the proposed amalgamation of post-primary schools in Abbeyfeale, it is positive that some curricular planning for Home Economics has been undertaken in conjunction with the other local school where the subject is offered. It is laudable that monitoring and review of the work of the home economics department occurs on a regular basis, priorities are set as appropriate and consequent issues are regularly communicated to the principal.
There is a commitment to expand studentsí learning through planned activities both inside and outside the classroom. This is currently achieved through the introduction of visiting speakers and extra-curricular and co-curricular activities such as entry to a variety of cookery competitions in addition to planned visits to local supermarkets, butchers, and the local farmers market. Such activities are commendable as they broaden studentsí educational experience and ultimately make learning more real and enjoyable. With regard to cross-curricular planning there is ongoing engagement with teachers of Business Studies and computers and other subjects as appropriate.
A resource library area is currently being developed in the home economics room and is accessible to students in order to enhance their learning. It offers a variety of learning resources including reference books, leaflets, relevant publications, posters, DVDs, videos and commercially prepared resource packs. Management should continue to support the ongoing investment in the development and expansion of such a resource area to support teaching and learning in Home Economics.
The quality of advance planning, individual lesson preparation and teaching and learning was very good in all lessons observed. Lessons were clearly focused, well sequenced and presented at a pace that accommodated the individual abilities of the students. Learning outcomes for the lessons were clear and shared with students at the outset and there was evidence of good continuity with previous learning and appropriate integration of theory with practical skills. Lessons were well structured and in line with syllabus requirements. The teacher showed an awareness of the studentsí various learning styles and adapted the teaching and learning to suit the studentsí needs.
Very good subject knowledge was demonstrated by the teacher. Instruction was clear, accurate and contextualised and frequently supported by the use of a range of relevant visual and tactile stimuli and resources to enhance teaching and consolidate learning such as PowerPoint presentations, student handouts, worksheets, samples and the board.† Materials were clearly planned and presented to ensure student learning and retention. Very good use is made of ICT in subject planning and class preparation to produce resources and the incidental usage of ICT as a teaching tool in the classroom is commended.
The use of appropriate active learning methodologies such as brainstorming, problem solving, pair work, group work and peer learning demonstrated the teacherís student-centred style. Other teaching methodologies observed included whole class teaching, teacher demonstration, individualised learning, and the use of worksheets. Particularly impressive questioning and explaining strategies were used in the classes observed to engage students in the learning activity, to check understanding, to support students in the development of higher order thinking skills and to link new information with prior learning. Much emphasis was placed on studentsí understanding of content and processes and there were very good examples of linking the lesson content to studentsí every day experiences. Such elements of best practice should continue to be incorporated regularly into lessons. Differentiated teaching methodologies were employed to varying degrees to meet the learning needs of students; however, in the context of mixed-ability classes, consideration should be given to the use of more differentiated methodologies in order to enhance provision for diverse student learning needs. This could be achieved through the use of differentiated worksheets or assignments where the task could be extended or reduced according to the studentsí ability. In addition, the use of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) profiling system to include the use of statements and learning targets for individual students would assist in achieving this goal.
During practical work observed, there was an appropriate balance between teacher instruction, demonstration and time to allow students to work independently. Good emphasis on explaining of key concepts, the linking of theory to practical work and the development of appropriate manipulative skills was observed. Students worked collaboratively and participated actively in tasks. Students are encouraged to undertake evaluations of tasks completed. However, such evaluations should include evaluation of the product, the process and the overall task as this will inform continuous assessment of student work more accurately.
Students were well managed, guided and directed in all learning activities and their work was monitored carefully in a supportive and encouraging manner. There was a commendable concern for studentsí understanding of content and for the acquisition of appropriate manipulative skills in practical classes. Studentsí learning was evaluated through examination of their copybooks, folders, project work, tests and their ability to display their knowledge and skills. The students responded well to questions and displayed good knowledge and understanding of the subject and demonstrated good teamwork skills in practical work appropriate to their class group and level. Students were competent with regard to the organisation and presentation of coursework. It is praiseworthy that good use is made of ICT for both research and presentation of coursework. Students demonstrated great interest and enthusiasm for the subject.
Student-teacher rapport was very good and studentsí efforts were encouraged and affirmed. This contributed to a positive classroom atmosphere that was conducive to effective learning. The physical environment of the home economics room is stimulating and is enhanced by the display of a variety of educational posters and studentsí project work.
Student progress and competence in Home Economics is monitored and assessed effectively by a range of assessment modes that reflect the assessment objectives of the syllabuses. These include for example, oral questioning, monthly class assessments, homework assignments, examination questions and continuous monitoring of studentsí practical and project work. Insofar as possible the grades awarded for Home Economics throughout the year are an aggregated mark for written tests, food and culinary skills practical work, and coursework completed. Relevant State Examination Commission (SEC) documentation is used to inform assessment procedures employed. There was evidence of careful planning for and the incorporation of regular homework, revision and assessment, in order to maximise the learning experience of students. High expectations are set for all students and an appropriate examination focus is evident which provides student motivation for tasks. With regard to formative assessment useful teacher comments, where evident, provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. Further information on formative assessment is available on the NCCA website at www.ncca.ie.
The home economics department has developed a homework and assessment policy in line with the whole-school policy for homework. Formal school assessments are carried out at Christmas and at end of year. Examination classes also have regular written tests in accordance with revision plans and sit pre-certificate examinations in the spring. Clear procedures are in place for regular assessment of student learning, record keeping and reporting procedures. There is a good level of contact maintained between the school and parents. Assessment outcomes are recorded systematically and students and their parents are advised regularly on studentsí progress in the subject.
The school maintains its own records of student achievement in State examinations and management should consider the merit of encouraging subject departments to engage formally in the analysis of student achievement in the context of national norms. In doing so one should be mindful of individual studentsí abilities and achievements.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ All first year students study Home Economics for the year and it is an optional subject in all other year groups.
∑ Participation rates of male students in HE classes significantly exceed the national average for males.
∑ There is very good resource provision and whole school support for Home Economics and a high level of commitment to the organisation, planning and teaching of the
subject is evident.
∑ A strong commitment to continuing professional development is evident.
∑ The home economics department is well provided for with regard to information and communication technologies.
∑ Subject department planning for Home Economics is ongoing and a comprehensive subject plan has been developed. In addition long-term outline plans of work have
been drawn up for each year group.
∑ There is a commitment to expand studentsí learning through planned activities both inside and outside the classroom.
∑ The quality of advance planning, individual lesson preparation and teaching and learning was very good in all lessons observed.
∑ The students responded well to questions and displayed good knowledge and understanding of the subject and demonstrated good teamwork skills in practical work
appropriate to their class group and level.
∑ Students were challenged to reach their full potential in Home Economics and they demonstrated great interest and enthusiasm for the subject.
∑ Student-teacher rapport was very good and studentsí efforts were encouraged and affirmed.
∑ Student progress and competence in Home Economics is monitored and assessed effectively by a range of assessment modes.
∑ There was evidence of careful planning for and the incorporation of regular homework, revision and assessment, in order to maximise the learning experience of
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ In the context of ongoing subject planning it is recommended that the long-term outline plans of work be further developed to include the learning outcomes to be
attained, choice of teaching methodologies and resources in addition to details on revision and examination preparation.
∑ With regard to curricular planning for first year students, the school should consider striking a balance between providing a general home economics lifeskills
programme and providing the first year of the JC Home Economics syllabus.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Home Economics and the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published January 2009