An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
St. Brendanís College,
Belmullet, County Mayo
Roll number: 72050U
Date of inspection: 28 September 2006
Date of issue of report:† 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Brendanís College, 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. 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teachers.
Upon entry to St Brendanís College students must select optional subjects from preset subject bands. Metalwork is generally placed opposite Business Studies. From next year students will be given an open choice and will be asked to prioritise those optional subjects which they wish to study. This change is to be highly commended as it is more student centred. At present students are facilitated in making their subject choices through an open day during which students experience each optional subject for a short period of time. During these lessons, which take place in March prior to enrolment, the metalwork and engineering teachers actively involve students in completing small projects such as picture frames and small brass cups. Parents are present when students are enrolled and subject choice is discussed with them on this occasion. In addition parents are also provided with a school prospectus that details the content of the metalwork syllabus, the facilities available to teach the subject in the school and a sample of student project work. This is to be commended as it ensures that parents are better informed when helping students decide on subject options. Subject choice for senior cycle occurs at the end of third year and at the end of Transition Year (TY). The inclusion of Engineering in the curriculum for TY is to be commended as it provides students who have not studied metalwork for junior cycle with the opportunity to experience the subject and therefore help them in making a more informed choice of subjects for the Leaving Certificate. For the Leaving Certificate, students are given an open choice of the optional subjects and are asked to list subjects in their order of preference. The school management develops subject bands to fit the choices of most students. This is to be commended as best practice.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and Engineering. The facilitation of double class periods is to be commended as they are essential for the development of design and processing skills through project work. Due to the high demand for the subject in the school and the fact that there is one metalwork and engineering workshop some classes are not timetabled for the workshop. In such instances the teachers work together to plan practical and theory activities for their respective classes to ensure students have sufficient access to the workshop for practical lessons.
Metalwork and Engineering are popular subject options in junior and senior cycle and there is a significant number of girls studying the subjects. The high number of girls is particularly evident in fourth year where in one class group ten of twelve students are female.
There is one metalwork and engineering room in the school. The room is very well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources and is well maintained. The school has recently received funding from the Department of Education and Science (DES) to upgrade machinery and equipment to ensure it complies with occupational health and safety standards. With this funding the school has purchased a significant number of new items of equipment and has removed all decommissioned machinery from the workshop. The metalwork and engineering teachers have received a copy of the joint publication by the State Claims Agency (SCA) and the Department of Education and Science (DES), ďA Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technology Subjects. As part of ongoing occupational health and safety practises in the school the teachers of metalwork and engineering carry out risk assessments on a regular basis. This is to be commended as good practice.
The metalwork and engineering teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The metalwork and engineering teachers have detailed strategies in their subject plan to support such students and this is to be highly commended.
The metalwork and engineering teachers meet once per month after school to discuss issues of relevance in their subject area. In addition the teachers meet informally on a daily basis. The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed a comprehensive subject department plan that includes schemes of work for each year group and a number of department policies and procedures. This is to be highly commended as it helps to ensure consistency in the provision of Metalwork and Engineering among subject teachers and helps significantly in teaching and learning in particular in the areas of classroom organisation and management, homework, assessment and health and safety. The subject plan is under continuous review and the teachers intend to add to it as issues arise.
The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed schemes of work for each year group. The schemes of work detail the theory and practical activities to be covered with each group. In some instances teaching resources are detailed and in all instances suggested teaching methodologies are attached to each scheme of work. The schemes of work are amended for each class group based on student ability and previous experience of the subject. This was particularly evident in the scheme of work for one fourth year class group where the majority of students had not studied the subject for junior cycle. This is to be commended as best practice as each scheme of work should be associated with a specific class group.
A variety of project work is undertaken in junior and senior cycle that incorporates a variety of processing skills and materials. The processes developed are appropriate to each year group. The inclusion of past State Examination Commission (SEC) style projects and practical examinations into the junior and senior cycle schemes of work is to be highly commended. These develop and improve accuracy, finish and the quality of processing skills and develop the project management and time management skills required of students.
The metalwork and engineering teachers work very closely together and have built on each others strengths to develop a large amount of teaching and learning aids. Such collaboration is to be highly commended.
It was evident from classroom observation that the metalwork and engineering teachers had planned and prepared for the lessons observed. Examples of such planning and preparation include the preparation of material blanks and working drawings for students. In all classes project drawings were laminated. The metalwork and engineering teachers are to be highly commended for developing laminated project step sheets which detail through the use of diagrams and short notes the stages required to complete each part of a project. This is a very effective teaching and learning aid and also assists in classroom management. In the theory lesson observed welding equipment was placed around the room prior to the lesson for demonstration purposes.† The metalwork and engineering teachers are to be highly commended for the level of planning and preparation for each lesson observed.
In the practical lessons observed students were engaged in the manufacture of a variety of project work. In one lesson observed students were manufacturing a key tag and in the other lesson observed students were completing a past SEC practical examination project. In both lessons clear instructions were given and expectations set at the beginning of the lesson.
Demonstrations were a feature of the practical lessons observed. Demonstrations were given to entire class groups, to small groups and to individuals. In all instances the demonstrations were well managed and the teachers highlighted the correct procedures and used the correct terminology. Questioning and discussion was a feature of all demonstrations. This ensured all students were on task and that they understood the directions given. The use of demonstrations during lessons is to be highly commended as they allow the teacher to model best practice.
Throughout each practical lesson observed the teacher moved constantly around the room assessing student progress, monitoring difficulties and demonstrating best practice. Instruction provided throughout each practical lesson was at all times clear and precise and from classroom observation and discussions with students they clearly understood the directions given by the metalwork and engineering teachers. Students were able to demonstrate their ability to carry out processes correctly in each lesson observed and at all times proper safety practices were employed.†
The metalwork and engineering teachers are to be commended for developing effective strategies to manage tools and equipment during each lesson. Tool racks at the end of each bench and on walls allow the metalwork and engineering teachers to quickly assess whether all tools have been stored correctly at the end of each lesson and they also allow students to have easy access to tools as required. In addition, at the end of each lesson students generally put away the material, working drawings and tools they have used and clean down the benches and machines. This contributes to a well-organised learning environment for the teacher and student.
In the theory lesson observed the topic under study was welding processes. The lesson observed was one of the last lessons in the unit of study. Students had previously taken short concise notes and drawn diagrams for a number of welding processes. This lesson was used to demonstrate a number of welding processes. The teaching strategy used was very effective in engaging students in the subject matter; this was achieved through demonstration of the parts and process of each type of welding. Throughout each demonstration the teacher used open and directed questions to ensure students understood the subject and to assess student understanding of the notes previously taken. This was followed by the completion of written questions on each welding process.
Effective use was made of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help students visualise and better understand different types of flames used in oxy-acetylene welding.
In all lessons observed classroom discipline was sensitively maintained through constant movement around the room and engaging with students. It was evident that an excellent rapport exists between students and the metalwork and engineering teachers. There was a mutual respect between students and teachers evident in all lessons observed.†
All classes are assessed at Christmas and non-examination classes at the end of the school year. Mock examinations are held for third and fifth year students in February. Reports are sent home after each examination. In Metalwork and Engineering the overall grade awarded for examination reports is based on a combination of marks for the projects students have completed and an end-of-term written examination. This is to be commended as best practice as it helps to encourage students to complete projects to a high standard and assessing both theory and practical activities mirrors the procedures employed in the State examinations and is therefore an accurate indicator of overall ability.
Homework is given on a regular basis to all year groups and from an examination of student homework copies, they are checked on a regular basis and constructive feedback provided. Students have both homework and note copies.
The metalwork and engineering teachers keep records of studentsí project grades, attendance and examination results. Each student also has a school journal. This journal is used to record homework and is also used to inform parents of student progress.† There are two parent teacher meetings per year group each year.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Students are given an open choice of subjects in senior cycle
∑ The metalwork and engineering room is very well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources
∑ The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed a comprehensive subject plan and schemes of work for each year group
∑ A high level of planning and preparation was evident in all lessons observed
∑ In the lessons observed effective teaching strategies were used to engage students and to assess student understanding and learning
∑ The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed effective classroom management strategies
∑ Effective use was made of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help students visualise and better understand subject matter in the theory lesson observed
The close working relationship between the metalwork and engineering teachers and the commitment they have to the subject, the school and students was clearly evident during the course of the evaluation. Such a commitment is to be highly commended and has ensured a high quality of planning and preparation, teaching and learning and assessment and achievement in Metalwork and Engineering in St. Brendanís College.
No 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 of the evaluation were presented and discussed.