An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Baldoyle, County Dublin
Roll number: 91342R
Date of inspection: 30 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Pobalscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle, 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 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 the subject teachers.
Home Economics is an optional subject in both junior and senior cycle in Pobalscoil Neasáin. A module in Home Economics is also offered as an option in the Transition Year programme (TY) for the duration of the year. It is commendable that first year students have the opportunity to sample all optional subjects for a few weeks before making a final choice. The school offers a good range of optional subjects and hence it is encouraging that there is a gradual increase in the numbers, and particularly in the numbers of male students, choosing Home Economics in both junior and senior cycle. In order to maintain the current uptake levels it is recommended that the subject department should monitor uptake of the subject on an ongoing basis and where necessary, consideration should be given as to how uptake could be increased. In senior cycle, for example, this might involve a review of how Home Economics is offered in TY and the length of the TY modules.
All classes are mixed ability. Students perform very well at all levels in the state examinations. However, participation rates at higher level are sometimes low. It is recommended that discussion and review of participation rates, at both junior and senior cycle, and an exploration of strategies to raise students’ expectations, should form a regular part of subject planning in Home Economics.
There is very good whole school support for the provision of the subject in the school. The time allocation for Home Economics at all levels is appropriate and class periods are generally well spread throughout the week. In fifth and sixth year, where all classes have two double periods and a single period per week, it is recommended that consideration be given to splitting one of the double class periods into two single periods, thus creating an additional opportunity for class contact time.
The facilities for Home Economics include two well resourced and well organised kitchens and a textiles room. When necessary, resources are allocated on the basis of teacher requisition and the teachers acknowledge the excellent support from management in terms of requests made for the ongoing replacement and updating of equipment. The good practice of using a maintenance schedule for this process is commended. There is a school policy in relation to health and safety, and health and safety notices are prominently and appropriately displayed in the specialist classrooms. On the day of the evaluation, a potential hazard was noted and brought to the attention of management and teachers. It is acknowledged that management intended to pursue the issue immediately.
There is very good evidence of a strong and well-established subject department, with a collaborative approach to the organisation, planning and delivery of the subject. A high level of co-operation exists within the team of two very experienced and dedicated home economics teachers. Co-ordination of the subject is shared equally between them and in this case, it is evident that the system is very effective. Management is very supportive of collaborative planning and formal time is made available for this process. In addition, the teachers meet frequently on an informal basis.
Subject planning for Home Economics is very advanced. A subject policy has been developed that outlines details of the organisation, planning, delivery and assessment of the subject in the school. Detailed schemes of work that provide evidence of very good practice in relation to planning are included. The schemes are based on the syllabus and outline the content to be covered on a week-by-week basis. The content is further broken down to include the learning outcomes and performance indicators for students. There is very clear evidence of the appropriate integration of practical coursework with the related theory. Methodologies and resources to support teaching and learning in each case are included as well as assessment modes that are related to the learning outcomes. The schemes of work for both junior and senior cycle are coherent and clearly indicate a developmental approach for students in the attainment of knowledge, understanding and skills. The schemes are reviewed regularly.
It is commendable that planning for resources to support teaching and learning is a key element of subject planning in Home Economics. In addition to the variety of commercial support materials such as videos, charts, reference books and educational packs the teachers have developed a range of teaching aids and materials on a variety of syllabus topics; they are readily shared amongst the team. During the evaluation, it was noted that students’ project work on display in the classrooms is also used as a valuable resource for teaching and learning.
Students are encouraged to access information on the internet and further explore topics covered in class. However, access to information and communication technology (ICT) in the school is limited due to the demands on the facilities. It is noted that teachers make good use of ICT in the preparation of resources for classroom use as well as for the preparation of planning documents. As part of long-term subject planning it is recommended that the potential of ICT to enhance teaching and learning in Home Economics be explored and that consideration be given to how best to plan for the integration of ICT into classroom activities.
Short-term planning for the lessons observed was excellent. Lessons had clear aims and objectives, were well structured and proceeded at a good pace, resulting in the completion of a realistic amount of work in the allotted time. The good practice of sharing the planned learning outcomes with the students was noted. There was evidence of good continuity with previous lessons by linking with, and building on, students’ prior knowledge and experience, by questioning and by appropriate reference to course areas related to the topics being taught. An effective example of a question posed to help students recap on the content of a previous lesson on financial management required them to reflect on and identify the information from the lesson that would be useful to them in their lives. Opportunities were well used throughout, and at the end of lessons, to summarise learning and check understanding.
The underlying principles of good teaching and learning were evident during this evaluation. In all of the lessons observed there was a good balance between teacher input and student activity and this was facilitated by a range of well chosen and effectively used methodologies. As well as helping students understand the content of the lessons, the range of strategies and materials used was effective in stimulating and maintaining student interest throughout the lessons, thus ensuring that students engaged actively with the learning process. Observation of classroom activities, interaction with students and an examination of students’ work indicates good progress in teaching and learning.
There was much emphasis on learning by doing, on the application of knowledge and on the promotion of independent learning. A lesson from the food studies section of the senior cycle syllabus provided excellent examples of meaningful student engagement and the appropriate integration of theory with practical activities. Students were involved in individual food tasting and evaluation, as well as a group work exercise that involved the analysis of the nutritional value of a range of processed vegetable products, using the information on the packaging and the food tables in the textbook. The feedback from the group work was well processed and resulted in a whole class discussion, accompanied by probing questions from the teacher that provided students with opportunities for the application of the information. These activities were interspersed with clear teacher instruction and appropriate use of the textbook and white board.
The practical lesson observed was the first food and culinary skills lesson for first years who chose Home Economics, following the completion of the taster programme. This lesson provided very good evidence of all the necessary elements of a well-planned and well-managed practical lesson. Appropriate emphasis was placed on training the students in the correct procedures for the operation of a practical lesson including the handling and use of equipment and appliances and the importance of maintaining high standards in hygiene and safety. There was a very good focus on teaching and learning and a staged approach was effectively used in helping students develop the basic skills of the lesson. The clear instruction and attention to detail resulted in the demonstration of a range of practical skills. Students were also given the opportunity to display their flair and creativity. A striking feature of the lesson was the intention that students would apply their knowledge of nutrition and healthy eating to the preparation of food for a healthy lunch; the prepared food from the lesson was carefully stored for consumption by the students at lunchtime.
Classroom management was excellent in all lessons. The good practice of taking the roll call at the beginning of lessons was noted. The quality of the student-teacher relationships and the warm, enthusiastic and professional manner in which the teachers interact with students had a positive effect on the quality of learning in the classroom. Student participation was encouraged and good use was made of praise to affirm students’ efforts. The physical environment of the classrooms is attractive and stimulating and provides a print-rich learning environment for students. The classroom walls are adorned with a range of educational posters as well as a wide variety of students’ projects that are of a high standard and very relevant to the syllabus. In addition, there are attractive photographic displays that celebrate students’ achievement in the subject.
It is very commendable that the range of assessment modes used to assess student competence and progress reflects the assessment objectives of the syllabuses. In particular, teachers are commended for the emphasis placed on the regular assessment of students’ practical skills. It is noted that assessment results are systematically recorded thus building a profile of students’ progress and achievement in the subject over a period. Results of assessments are communicated to parents and students on a regular basis.
There is evidence of very good practice with regard to the regular setting, checking and monitoring of homework. It is very encouraging that the good practice observed in relation to homework is in keeping with the school’s homework policy. It is obvious that homework is planned to complement the learning outcomes of the lessons as well as providing opportunities for the promotion of independent learning. It is laudable that students are provided with opportunities in both oral and written work for the development of higher order thinking skills.
The good practice of having students work on past examination questions was noted. This helps them prepare for the examination by developing proficiency in essential skills such as the analysis, interpretation and application of knowledge. There were very good examples of assessment for learning practices evident in the marking of homework, tests and examination questions. Meticulous marking and helpful teacher comments enhance learning by informing students about their progress in terms of challenging them to improve, and by affirming work well done. The Chief Examiner’s Reports and the associated marking schemes for past examinations issued by the State Examinations Commission should also prove a useful source of information for students and teachers. These can be downloaded at www.examinations.ie.
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 Home Economics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.