An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
St. Paulís CBS
North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7
Roll Number: 60430O
Date of inspection: 19 and 20 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on The Quality of learning and teaching in Irish
Subject Inspection Report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Paulís CBS, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of the quality of teaching and learning in Irish and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined the 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 to the subject teachers.
Junior cycle Irish was inspected in this school in 2004. This 2007 report is based on the quality of learning and teaching in Irish in the junior cycle and in the senior cycle.
Irish is well supported in St. Paulís CBS and good provision is made for the subject. There are four teachers of Irish, two of whom have long experience of teaching Irish in the school.
The school transfer examination given to students is based on their literacy and numeracy ability. This assessment is carried out in order to identify those students who may need extra support and to provide management with the necessary information when planning to address their needs while attending the school. There are three class groups in first year, two class groups in second year and three class groups in third year in the junior cycle. Two class groups from first year and one each from second and third year of the junior cycle are participating in the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP). Students in these classes, along with their fellow students in the cycle, study Irish according to Siollabas don Teastas Sůisearach: Gaeilge. Teachers and management are highly commended for the inclusion of these students in provision made for Irish in the schoolís junior cycle in general. The allocation of students to JCSP classes is based on their achievements in the school transfer tests, on consultation with their parents and with the feeder primary schools, which is commendable.†
The schoolís Transition Year programme was re-introduced in the 2005-2006 school year. Currently, there are no students in the second year of the Leaving Certificate established. There are two class groups in Transition Year and one other class group in senior cycle undertaking the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. Studentsí participation in these programmes is based on interview and on consultation with their teachers and parents.
Junior cycle classes, with the exception of those participating in the JCSP, are of mixed ability. Students in fifth year are streamed to a limited extent based on examination levels. One class comprises both higher level and ordinary level students and students taking ordinary level and foundation level form another class. All third year Irish classes are timetabled concurrently and the same arrangement is in place for fifth year classes. This eases access for the students to the class that best suits their needs.
JCSP classes in each year of the junior cycle are allocated four single periods of Irish. Regarding the other classes in the junior cycle, first years and second years have four classes per week and this allocation is increased to five periods for third years. Transition Year students have three classes of Irish per week and fifth years have five periods per week. All of these classes have single class periods, except for one double period which has been allocated to Transition Year classes. Single class periods are distributed on the timetable so that students have daily input as is recommended. While the amount of time and the distribution of classes on the timetable are generally satisfactory, it would be worthwhile monitoring the benefit Transition Year students derive from the double class.†
Classes in English as a second language and learning support are provided for students who are exempt from the study of Irish while Irish classes are in progress, as far as possible. It was reported that students with exemptions who are interested in the language are encouraged to participate in Irish classes. Management and teachers are commended for the efforts made to provide exempt students with an alternative programme of study during Irish classes and for supporting and encouraging them to study Irish.†††
Events were held during the current school year to celebrate Seachtain na Gaeilge and posters and other material developed for the events were on display in the school during the visit. It is recommended that an account be kept of the events organised and that they be appropriately developed.† It is also worth remembering that events in which students have the opportunity to use Irish or to experience Irish culture outside the classroom need not be restricted to national events. It was reported, for instance, in one case, that learning in class is linked to school trips abroad. This involved, for example, the writing of real postcards in Irish. Availing of such realistic situations to foster studentsí learning is highly commended.††
Management recently ensured that staff received professional development regarding differentiation and is commended for this provision. As was observed, each student is encouraged to attempt Irish at the highest level according to their ability. Teachers and management are highly commended for this.†
A high level of cooperation and support among teachers of Irish was evident during the visit. Irish teachers hold three formal meetings and regular informal meetings during the school year. Progress has been made in developing a plan for Irish. The plan for Irish 2006-2007 was made available and indicated that relevant material was completed in most of the sections. Regarding the next steps it is recommended that the aims, objectives and long-term and short-term planning for the teaching and learning of the subject for the various year groups be further developed, as was recommended in the last report. It is also recommended that a record be maintained of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities which are organised to support the teaching and learning of Irish. It would be desirable to have the plan for Irish available in Irish, as were the plans for individual classes which were made available.††
Plans for individual classes were of good quality, particularly when the subject matter was planned for per term. Also commendable regarding these plans was the thematic organisation of the content and where they detailed the integration of the various elements of the syllabuses and the development of the different language skills. It is recommended that these plans be used as a model and that plans for the various year groups be provided in the plan for Irish. It would be worthwhile using the language functions and the expected learning outcomes at the various levels as a framework for this work.†
The Transition Year plan was provided and the subject outline is to be commended as it was linked to the studentsí experience and gave them a broader insight into aspects such as literature and included the use material from the communications media in its implementation. It is recommended that this plan be further developed and be more comprehensive. It should also be included with the other plans in the schoolís Irish plan.†
The schoolís Information and Communications Technology policy has been reviewed given the greater provision of broadband and computers and whiteboards/screens available in certain classrooms. It is recommended that the teachers of Irish explore ways in which they could make use of these facilities in the teaching and learning of Irish.†
The classes observed involved work on a variety of aspects of the courses: oral, aural, reading comprehension and writing skills, literature, and vocabulary development on individual topics. There was clear continuity with preceding classes.
Classes were commenced in various ways. In some cases the roll was called first and students answered in Irish. In another case students were asked to give the date in Irish. In yet another case there was general conversation in Irish. Such practices help the students settle into an Irish class after coming from a situation in which another language is the means of communication. Roll call is always important and practices such as eliciting the date from students and general conversation give students the opportunity to revise their learning. It is recommended that these practices be extended to other classes.
Students were informed of the lesson content in all cases, a practice which is commended. It is recommended that the expected learning outcomes be shared with the students as a means of developing this practice and linking it with the planning work already mentioned.† This would increase their understanding of the reason for the learning and specific tasks being undertaken by them. Homework was corrected in some cases and in one particular case the students were guided through the correction and marking of their work. This was done in a sensitive manner and the criteria were clearly explained to the students. This was an effective way to practice and reinforce the use of numbers and numerical skills and to develop the studentsí understanding of their learning.††
Students were assigned various tasks, which ensured a suitable pace to the work, in most classes. In some cases these tasks were based on different language skills. This type of approach is commended especially when the tasks are based on a common theme. This allows students an opportunity to practice vocabulary and structure in different ways. Studentsí experience and areas of interest were used to explain vocabulary and expressions and to give them the opportunity to practice them. This is good practice and it is recommended that its use be extended.
Good examples of the teaching of literature and of developing the studentsí competence in oral Irish were observed. Poetry was discussed orally and the poetís feelings regarding certain situations were related to the studentsí own life experience to assist their understanding of the content. In another case, students were encouraged while reading a passage from a short story to identify the words they recognised. Cooperative learning was promoted when students were divided into pairs and given dictionaries to find the meaning of new words. This learning was consolidated by asking the pairs to construct sentences using the new vocabulary. This work is commended.
Opportunities to develop studentsí phonetics were availed of in some instances when working on reading or listening. It is recommended that this practice be expanded as it would enhance studentsí listening skills and further develop their reading skills in Irish. Grammar was integrated with the work in some cases. In one instance a reading text was effectively used to illustrate samples to the students. This type of approach is highly commended.
Irish was the general language of communication and instruction for the most part in the classes observed. Using the target language is good practice. To support the greater use of Irish in class, it is recommended, as was done in some cases, that students be enabled to use the classroom vocabulary necessary, and especially to ask questions in Irish. It is recommended that the practice observed in one instance where students were asked to translate questions into English is avoided, and that other strategies be used to ensure their understanding and to increase the use of Irish.††
The atmosphere in all classes was conducive to learning and a mutual respect between students and teachers was evident. Students paid attention to the work and in certain cases they demonstrated a good level of interest and understanding of the work in progress. Students were highly praised for their efforts and there was a clear emphasis on providing them with a positive learning experience. Material in Irish was displayed on the walls in most classrooms and in some instances highly effective use was made of this material to support learning.††
Studentsí learning is assessed through the assigning and correcting of homework, class tests on completion of a unit of work, monitoring class participation, formal house examinations which are held twice a year, as well as mock State exams. All language skills are included in the assessment of studentsí work in the case of some classes. The assessment of all the language skills is good practice and is in line with the aims of the syllabuses and it is recommended that its use be extended to other classes. The teachers are to be highly praised for using the Christmas examination to carry out formative assessments of studentsí learning.†
A record of studentsí achievements is kept in teachersí journals and centrally. Reports of studentsí achievements are sent home regularly. Parent-teacher meetings are organised in the school annually to give parents an opportunity to discuss studentsí progress. It was reported that assessment is differentiated in the case of mixed ability classes, a practice which is commended and which gives each student the opportunity to achieve according to their ability. The teachers are to be praised for the records they keep of studentsí achievements, for monitoring their progress and for keeping parents informed.†
Studentsí work in folders and in copybooks was reviewed during the visit. The material therein, for example various writing tasks, as well as notes on literature, vocabulary on various topics and points of grammar, was in line with the requirements of the syllabuses. In the case of one class, there was much translation to English in the copybooks. It is recommended that this practice be avoided so that the studentsí learning can be focussed on the acquisition of Irish. The profile statements regarding the students undertaking the JCSP were being completed.
Studentsí work was regularly corrected in certain cases. Marks were awarded for work in some cases and, as was observed in one instance, the students were enabled to correct their own work. There were also examples in which the teachers had provided notes of praise on the work. It is recommended that the teachers of Irish, when planning for the teaching and learning of the subject, discuss and agree an approach to correcting studentsí work and that it would have due regard to work on the different language skills. As part of this, it is recommended that students be credited for work done correctly or well, as was the case, and that they be given direction on how to improve their work. It would be worth consulting some issues of info@ncca (www.ncca.ie) for more information on Assessment for Learning (AfL) in the context of this work.††
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Support and provision for Irish in St. Paulís CBS is good.
∑ Students are supported and encouraged to study Irish to a challenging level.
∑ A high level of cooperation and support among teachers of Irish was evident.
∑ Irish is allocated a satisfactory amount of time and students receive regular input regarding the language.
∑ Students are provided with opportunities to use Irish outside the Irish classes and strong emphasis is placed on using the studentsí own experiences to develop their interest and ability to speak the language and to provide them with positive learning experiences.††
∑ Very good planning and preparation had been undertaken for most of the classes observed which ensured that they had a good structure.
∑ Irish was the general language of communication and instruction for the most part in the classes observed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ Continue developing the plan for Irish and explore and plan for the integration of ICT in the teaching and learning of Irish in the school.†
∑ Extend the use of Irish as the general language of communication in the classroom and enable the students to use the necessary classroom language, as had been done in some cases.
∑ Extend the practice of including all language skills in the assessment of studentsí work.
∑ Share expected learning outcomes with the students, and the assessment criteria as was done in a particular case, and agree and approach to the correction of the studentsí work.†††††
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Irish and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.