†An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Nagle Rice Secondary School
Doneraile, County Cork
Roll number: 62210K
Date of inspection: 29 April 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Nagle Rice Secondary School. 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 two days, 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 planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and subject teachers.
All first-year students are afforded the opportunity to study Home Economics. This facilitates more informed decision-making by students in relation to Junior Certificate Home Economics. In addition, all TY students study a module of Home Economics, once again facilitating more informed decision-making by students, this time with regard to Leaving Certificate Home Economics. For all other year groups, Home Economics is offered as an optional subject. It is very positive that student preferences inform the formation of subject bands in both junior and senior cycles, as this helps to ensure equality of access for the students to all optional subjects.
Home Economics is a very popular subject in junior cycle, demonstrating uptake levels that far exceed national norms. Another positive finding is the fact that the subject is as popular with male students as it is with female students. Uptake in senior cycle has declined somewhat in recent years, with a very dramatic decline obvious in the current fifth-year and sixth-year class groups. This requires further investigation on the part of both management and the members of the home economics department. Following the outcomes of this investigation, strategies which are designed to seek to reverse this trend will need to be implemented. Some possible approaches were shared with the members of the home economics department on the day of the subject inspection.†
The timetabling of Home Economics is very favourable. It is commendable that teacher input relative to timetabling is sought by management, as is the fact that every effort is made to accommodate the observations and preferences of department members. Class sizes are most conducive to the safe delivery of each syllabus. The staff members deployed to teach Home Economics are suitably qualified. It is good that every effort is made by management to provide for continuity of teachers from one year to the next.
Home Economics would benefit greatly from some additional resourcing. Members of the home economics department, together with management, need to complete a resource audit of the schoolís home economics facilities. In turn, this should inform the preparation of a plan of action that is designed to meet the resource needs of the subject in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term.
Managementís support for the continuing professional development (CPD) of the members of the home economics department is manifested in a number of ways, for example, payment of the annual fees for the teachersí membership of the ATHE (Association of Home Economics Teachers). This is noted as very generous. Teachers are also released from teaching duties to attend relevant in-service. The provision of whole-staff CPD on topics that are identified by staff as important is recommended. CPD on strategies to promote student-centred learning could be considered.
A whole-school health and safety audit was completed by an outside agency in 2005. This included the identification of hazards, risks and control measures in relation to Home Economics. This approach is commended. Consideration ought to be given to providing for a more regular review and updating of this subject-specific statement. The subject-specific documentation reviewed included an additional commentary on health and safety in the departmentsí facilities, as prepared by the members of the subject department. Risk assessment, which is the approach used in the whole-school audit, should be applied to this commentary as well as to any following documentation that is prepared by department members on health and safety. The further investigation of the reason for the ongoing interruption of the gas supply to the kitchen is advised. Likewise, the effectiveness and adequacy of the ventilation systems in the room needs to be examined and, as required, any emerging issues should be addressed.
A subject co-ordinator, who oversees the planning work of the department, is in place. The position has been held by the same department member for a number of years. In the interests of equality and the professional development of all department members, it is recommended that the position of co-ordinator be rotated. Managementís support for the practice of collaborative subject-department planning is evident in the provision that is made for two, formal subject department meetings each year. Comprehensive minutes are maintained for these meetings. This practice is commended. Informal meetings of department members are also held. These, more often than not, take place on a weekly basis. This is evidence of teachersí additional commitment to collaborative planning and preparation, and is commended.
A subject department plan is being prepared. Certain aspects of this plan are quite well developed. These include, for example, the section that relates to general provision for Home Economics in the school. Efforts should be made to ensure that the department plan held by the subject co-ordinator matches that which is housed in the staffroom in the subject planning file. At this point in the planning process it is recommended that the department completes a SCOT analysis. This would seek to identify the subjectís strengths, its challenges, the opportunities for development and any threats to the subject, and would provide direction for the departmentís future planning work. The development of a corresponding set of action plans would also facilitate the department members in making planning intentions a reality. An action plan could, for example, identify responsible persons, targets and desired outcomes, tasks, timeframes, resources and remits and arrangements for monitoring and evaluation.
Programmes of work are not well developed. This, representing the most important aspect of subject department planning, needs to be prioritised by the home economics department. With the exception of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), outline programmes of work have been agreed for each year group. The value of this work is however questioned, as teachersí diaries and studentsí copybooks indicated that teachers are inclined not to adhere to these planning documents. While it is accepted that a deviation from any planned programme of work is required at some point or other, more often than not in order to address the specific learning needs of individual class groups, every effort should be made by teachers to ensure that the topics or areas that have been agreed for each term are actually covered. This is recommended as agreed programmes of work are considered very valuable in terms of: fostering discussion amongst department members relative to teaching and learning; facilitating the introduction and use of common assessment; and providing an overview of how and when different aspects of each syllabus will be delivered, which will prove invaluable in instances of teacher absence. An agreed, written programme of work for Hotel, Catering and Tourism (HCT) needs to be developed as a priority. This should outline, at a very minimum, when each module and the related units will be delivered. †††
In the departmentís planned review of the existing outline programmes of work, it is recommended that the following key qualities of good programmes of work are borne in mind. Programme plans should be: syllabus rather than textbook based; identify, at a minimum, work to be covered on a term-by-term basis; grounded in learning outcomes; ensure a developmental approach to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes; reflect the integrated approach recommended in the syllabuses; and generated using information, communication and technology (ICT). In junior cycle, programmes of work should document where the design brief approach is being incorporated. In time these outline programmes of work could be further developed to provide detail on a topic-by-topic basis about learning outcomes, resources, methodologies, homework and assessment procedures. It is important to state that there is some evidence of the development of some of the existing outline programmes of work in this manner. This therefore is commended, whilst it is also further encouraged. On a more specific note, and as a matter of priority, it is recommended that as a first step in the review of the TY programme of work that it is grounded in a set of learning outcomes. This would direct teachers in the planning of the programme and also, in turn, in the planning of lesson content.
Teachers are commended for the maintenance of ďcurricular foldersĒ. These are used to house teaching and assessment resources for topics delivered in each year. In order to foster and promote a greater sharing of resources amongst staff members, the development of a shared bank of resources which might, for example, be divided by year group and by topic is recommended. This will facilitate even greater discussion amongst teachers regarding teaching and learning in Home Economics in the school.
There is evidence of planning for the provision of co-curricular activities, which are designed to extend and support classroom learning in senior cycle. Teachers are encouraged to look at how provision for co-curricular activities in junior cycle classes might be facilitated.
The overall quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics in Nagle Rice Secondary School is only fair, with evidence of some poor practice and some satisfactory practice.†
Planning for lessons was more obvious in some lessons than in others. In one instance advance planning and preparation for a lesson were found to be unsatisfactory, as the key resource required for the efficient and effective delivery of the lesson content was not available at the outset of the lesson. In another instance, considering the time available and the chosen methodology, the lesson plan was far too ambitious. Good planning and preparation are essential aspects of seeking to ensure the provision of good quality teaching. It is recommended therefore that teachers devote a greater amount of time to lesson planning and preparation. This recommendation has relevance for some of the other findings detailed in the following text.
Considering the topics being taught in lessons a limited range of resources was utilised. This needs to be addressed at lesson planning and preparation stages. More often than not, the teachersí intentions for each lesson were shared with students. This is positive. However, this was very general and failed to identify for students the stages of each lesson and, more importantly, the desired learning outcomes. It is recommended therefore that teachers consider adopting an approach to lesson introduction which seeks to provide maximum information and motivation to students. Almost all lessons commenced with a review of work previously covered, another commendable practice. However, in all instances the approach adopted here was found to be weak, in that the questions posed did not provide for a comprehensive review of a topic and didnít provide for a thorough evaluation of general student learning. This needs to be addressed both at lesson planning and preparation stages and in the early stages of lesson delivery. ††
Teacher instruction was found in one lesson to be inaccurate. This is a very serious finding, and supports the previous recommendation relating to the need to devote more time to planning and preparing for lessons. Lessons were very teacher led, with teacher instruction and activity dominating in theory lessons. It is recommended, in planning and preparing for lessons and in their delivery, that teachers seek to make the experience as student centred as possible. In doing so teachers are encouraged to reflect on what it is they are asking their students to do in each lesson. In deciding on the strategies to be provided for in each lesson, teachers also need to remain conscious of the different learning styles, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. It is recommended that teachers make every effort to provide strategies, in every lesson, that will seek to provide for the student who prefers to learn by seeing, for the student who prefers to learn by doing, as well as for the student who prefers to learn by listening. This is very feasible in a subject such as Home Economics. To conclude, and with all of the above in mind, the exploration and introduction of more student-centred strategies and methodologies is strongly recommended. A number of suggestions were provided to teachers on the day of the subject inspection.
Questioning was one of the two main strategies utilised by teachers over the course of lessons. The purpose of its use was two-fold, in that it was introduced as a means of involving students in the lesson and in order to check studentsí understanding and knowledge of work previously covered or work being explored. Both uses are commended. The main types of questions posed to students were lower order in nature, requiring students to recall information relating to topics or areas. Teachers are encouraged to provide for a greater variety in the types of question posed to students and in doing so to seek to develop higher-order thinking skills in students. In answering questions posed by teachers the students tended to chorus answer. This is a practice that needs to be discouraged. As a means of addressing this, an approach to be considered is one where the teacher poses a question to the class, requests students to put up their hands if they would like to attempt to answer the question, at which point the question would be directed to a named student. It was also observed that male students were much more vocal and more at ease in contributing to lesson content by answering questions than their female counterparts. This finding needs to be considered by teachers.
It was observed that there was an over-reliance on the strategy of note-taking in all theory classes. Teachers are encouraged to look at the introduction of strategies that would lead to the development of note-making skills in students which, in the long-term, would prove far more valuable then the skills associated with transcription. Considering the time of year, it was found that in one lesson the note-taking engaged in by students was reminiscent of that which might be used when a topic is being taught initially. Teachers are therefore encouraged to look at other, more efficient approaches to revision. It was observed that very little work has been completed by students in their personal copies of the past certificate examination papers. As a result, two recommendations are made. First, the earlier introduction and use of past examination papers requires consideration and secondly, a more overt highlighting and discussion of the structure and layout of exam papers should be provided for on an ongoing basis, but in particular at this time of the year.
In all practical lessons there was evidence of a very good and very thorough monitoring by teachers of student activity, with support and assistance being provided to individual students as required. This is commended. On-the-spot demonstrations or the provision of whole-class inputs by the teacher were utilised over the course of lessons to support student learning relative to the task at hand. This is very positive and is further encouraged. The early introduction of students, from first year, to the design brief approach to practical food studies is very highly praised.
In an LCA practical lesson, where students were completing one of the key assignments associated with one of the HCT modules, many of the students demonstrated a lack of knowledge and therefore a lack of confidence in terms of the individual duty assigned to them. Students did not demonstrate ownership of the task. This suggests that more in-class time should have been provided for studentsí planning and preparing for this key assignment. This would have ensured a deeper, more meaningful involvement of the students in the task and therefore enhanced learning. In the same lesson, where students were preparing food for others, there should have been a greater emphasis placed on hygiene. This needs to be addressed in future lessons.
A lesson summary was not provided in the majority of lessons and where it was provided it was unsatisfactory, in that it wasnít fully utilised to check general understanding and learning in the topic and it did not provide for an identification of the key points of the lesson. This is also highlighted as an area for development.
The assessment of studentsí progress and achievement in Home Economics is supported by a very structured, whole-school approach to assessment. Formal assessment days are organised, more or less on a monthly basis, in all subjects and for all class groups. Following this an assessment report is posted home. This system, which supports teachers in their efforts to provide for the continuous assessment of students, is commended. End-of-year examinations for non-examination classes, together with the organisation of pre examinations for junior and leaving certificate classes provide summative assessment opportunities. This is also praised.
A selection of assessment papers, which were designed by the members of the home economics department and utilised by them to determine studentsí advancement and attainment in Home Economics, were reviewed as part of the subject inspection. A number but not all of these were designed and constructed so as to reflect the style of questions and, where appropriate and possible, the layout of past certificate examination papers. This is therefore identified as an area for development for the home economics department. †
It is very positive that in the assessment of junior cycle studentsí progress and achievement in Home Economics, teachers provide for the evaluation of all examinable components of the syllabus. This includes studentsí practical, project and written work. In addition, the mark issued to students at key times during the school year, namely Christmas and the summer, is an aggregate mark. This is a more accurate indicator of studentsí actual achievement in the subject and is highly commended. It was noted that the approach taken to the formal assessment of practical food studies work in junior cycle varies between members of the department, with some good practices evident in both approaches. It is suggested that the opportunity provided at planning meetings to discuss and share the teachersí individual approaches be considered, with a view to agreeing a best practice approach that would be adopted by both teachers. The ideas discussed with the teachers on the day of the inspection should also be considered as part of this task.
Provision for the more formal assessment of fifth-year studentsí journal work is suggested. To this end, teachers are encouraged to provide for the marking of at least one of the leaving certificate food-studies assignments. This is an area where peer assessment could be introduced. As students must have a clear understanding of what they are to look for in their peersí work, teachers would need to prepare, in conjunction with their students, a guide to marking. The Chief Examinerís Report - Leaving Certificate Examination 2007, the Food Studies Coursework Guidelines and the recording criteria provided in each journal, together with exemplars issued by the Home Economics Support Service, should inform the preparation of same. The fact that a member of the department has acted as an assistant examiner in the correction of the journals for the State Examinations Commission should also prove very valuable. This is suggested as a means of highlighting to students best practice in relation to the completion of journals and in terms of providing some formal indication to students of their progress and achievement relative to journal work.
A room-based filing system has been established in the home economics room for the storage of the work associated with the key assignments of the HCT students. This is praised. As a means of assisting teachers and students to keep track of progress being made in relation to the key assignments, it is suggested that consideration is given to the introduction of a measure, for example a tick box, which is designed to allow students to indicate the areas where work has been completed. This would help to make students more responsible for ensuring that they complete the work assigned to them while also allowing teachers to track studentsí progress and participation. In TY, consideration ought to be given to the introduction of portfolio assessment for Home Economics. The introduction of a student log or diary is another assessment mode that could prove very valuable in the assessment of studentsí practical food studies work.
The practice in the home economics department in relation to the assigning and monitoring of homework appears to vary from teacher to teacher, but also from year group to year group and sometimes, even from class to class. For example, the copybooks of students in some class groups, while illustrating that lots of questions had been completed by students, bore very little evidence of teachersí correction of this work. On the other hand, in the copybooks of another class group some excellent examples of the annotation of studentsí work were observed. The latter practice is commended and further encouraged. Similarly, the workbooks of some class groups bore evidence of the completion of a number of activities, together with the monitoring of same, while the workbooks of other class groups were barely utilised. As alluded to previously, the studentsí past certificate-examination-paper booklets that were reviewed illustrated very little usage. The above findings give rise to four recommendations. First, it is strongly recommended that every effort is made to review all work assigned to students as homework and in doing so to provide some form of feedback to students. Secondly, all resources that students are required to purchase should be utilised in either the teaching, review, or assessment of studentsí learning in specific topics. Thirdly, teachers are encouraged to vary the types of exercises assigned to students with a view to seeking to develop a variety of skills including, for example, analytical, literacy and higher-order thinking skills. Finally, it is also strongly suggested that individual teachers need to develop consistency in their overall approach to homework. In time, consideration might also be given to the development of a subject-specific homework policy.
Feedback provided to parents, via school reports and at the annual parent-teacher meetings, is supported by very strong record-keeping practices. This practice is commended.
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 and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, April 2010