An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of French
Coláiste Cois Siúire
Mooncoin, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 70620C
Date of inspection: 17 September 2008
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN FRENCH
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Cois Siúire, Mooncoin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in French 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 subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Coláiste Cois Siúire is a co-educational vocational school with 159 students. The study of French is compulsory for all students at junior cycle who are not in receipt of learning support. However, the blocking of French against learning support means that students who require learning support are denied access to the study of modern European languages. This needs to be addressed in order to ensure equity of educational provision for all students.
There is good whole school provision for French in relation to the allocation of time and timetabling. Junior cycle lessons are timetabled in single periods throughout the week, while senior cycle students have one double period and three single periods. This is commended as ongoing contact with the target language represents best practice.
There are two teachers currently involved in the delivery of the French programme; both of whom are graduates in the subject. Teachers reported that while they avail of a number of opportunities to speak French, thereby up-skilling themselves linguistically, they have not benefited from inservice programmes for French in recent years. It is recommended that, in the interests of ongoing professional development, the teachers of French should inform themselves and avail of all initiatives offered to support the teaching and learning of French. These include the range of French courses and scholarships to France funded jointly by the Department of Education and Science and the French Cultural Services, programmes coordinated by Léargas and subject relevant courses offered by local education centres. Teachers are also encouraged to join the French Teachers Association (FTA) and benefit from their inservice programmes and seminars. To this end school management should consider supporting teachers’ professional development in whatever way possible.
Classrooms are teacher based and all rooms visited had visually stimulating displays of French maps, posters and photographs of French related activities. This is commended as it enables students to assimilate, over time, aspects of French life and culture. As the year progresses it is recommended that teachers post up classroom language, key expressions, grammar points and samples of students’ work which will affirm and support current and future learning.
Resources are provided on request to management. Teachers have relevant audio equipment and have access to television and DVD players when needed. Materials include DVDs and documents downloaded form the internet. Teachers are also planning to order French magazines to further support students’ language learning and cultural awareness. The school has a computer room and there is also access to a number of interactive whiteboards, one of which is available for the teaching and learning of French. Information and communication technology (ICT) is used with some groups and the school has an annual subscription to an educational website for the teaching and learning of French. Students are also encouraged to use this website for their own research. This is commended.
Coláiste Cois Siúire has currently no formal links with France. The town of Mooncoin is twinned with Plounévez Lochrist in Brittany and teachers reported that cultural exchanges have taken place in the past. Given that there are already established contacts through the town twinning association, the teachers of French should make contact with the schools in their twin town for the purpose of exchanging information at classroom level and creating opportunities for authentic communication and cultural awareness. Programmes such as e-pals are effective and enjoyable ways of achieving this objective. Cross-curricular activities include a trip to France every two years organised jointly by the French and Art departments. This is commended. Co-curricular activities over the years have included visits from French theatre companies, visits to a French café for breakfast and French film. However, they tend to occur on an ad hoc basis. It is recommended that the use of co-curricular activities be established on a more permanent basis to ensure that students are afforded a range of enjoyable and beneficial language learning experiences.
Coláiste Cois Siúire has embraced subject planning development as part of its whole school planning initiative. The members of the French department work as a team for planning purposes rather than nominating a subject convenor. Subjects are allocated planning time at the beginning of the school year and as part of staff meetings, which occur about three times annually. The teachers of French also meet informally on an ongoing basis. A record is kept of all decisions taken at formal meetings. This is good practice.
A review of the planning documentation submitted on the day indicated that the members of the French department have made good progress in establishing the aims and objectives for the teaching and learning of French. The plan also includes the school context, resources, effective methodologies and assessment and reporting protocols. Teachers are commended for their work to date in subject development planning. Curriculum planning for first year students was also submitted and presented in terms of learning outcomes. This is good practice as the development of learning outcomes promotes the teaching of transferable skills and allows for a differentiated approach to teaching and learning. It also facilitates self-evaluation and review. As teachers further progress the good work completed in subject development planning they should establish generic learning outcomes in terms of ‘can do’ statements for all other year groups. This approach, which, as mentioned earlier, focuses on the development of transferable skills, will afford teachers greater variety in the choice of topics to be studied with students. Such planning should also include the linguistic strategies and proposed methodologies, including ICT, to support these outcomes. This approach will also enable teachers to self-evaluate and ensure that their practice is informed by their planning.
There was evidence of careful planning and preparation for the lessons observed with the advance readiness of technical equipment, supplementary materials, photocopying and worksheets.
Inspection activities included the observation of three lessons, two at junior cycle, and one at senior cycle. Interaction with the students and a review of their copies was also facilitated.
The target language was used by the teacher in all of the lessons observed. In some instances it was used throughout the lesson and included very good examples of explanations given by the teacher in French. This is very good practice. In instances where translation was used to support comprehension, it is recommended that efforts be made to explain to the students in the target language first and then verify whether or not they have understood. To this end, and as a means of further promoting the use of the target language in the classroom, teachers should give the students the necessary linguistic strategies to ask questions, make requests and to express difficulties in French. Students should also be afforded more opportunities to ask each other questions in the target language as an alternative strategy to the more traditional format of teacher-student question and answer sessions.
The correction of pronunciation errors was observed in some instances. This is good practice as correct pronunciation and intonation are essential components of successful language learning. It is recommended that this attention to pronunciation be extended to all lessons through the use of short regular pronunciation drills, in addition to the correction of errors.
A topic approach, which facilitates the integration of the different language skills, was observed in some lessons. Such an approach is good practice, in line with syllabus recommendations. There were some instances however, where the teaching and learning of French was compartmentalised into discrete skills though the use of an examination preparation format. It is recommended that a more integrated approach which focuses on the transfer of learning from one skills area into another be adopted. It is also recommended teachers look at new ways of exploiting listening texts to vary from total reliance and repetitiveness of the examination style format of information retrieval.
There was good use of flash cards to support learning in some of the lessons observed, while in other instances a game was used as an enjoyable means of recapping on previous learning. ICT was also effectively integrated into the work of some lessons. The use of such supports to enhance learning is commended.
Pair work was used in some lessons to support the development of oral skills. The use of pair or group work is good practice as it promotes active and independent learning. However, in some instances too much time was allowed for the completion of the activity. In order to ensure ongoing student engagement and optimum learning outcomes pair and group work tasks need to be shorter and more focused.
Some lessons were well structured with an appropriate follow through from previous to new learning. In other lessons however, a significant amount of time spent was spent on the revision of previous learning through the repeated use of the same activity. This reduced the time available for introduction of new material, thereby limiting the progression of new learning. In these instances teachers should remain attentive to the management of time and ensuring an appropriate balance between old and new learning.
Most students indicated a good understanding of the work in hand and applied themselves to the tasks assigned. Some however, were observed to have disengaged from the work of the lesson. In these instances teachers need to review their methodologies to ensure that the work of the lesson is appropriately differentiated to ensure that all students are fully engaged and that the lesson content and teaching strategies meet the needs and abilities of the entire student cohort.
Assessment modes used to monitor students’ progress in Coláiste Cois Siúire include class-work and homework assignments, class tests and formal examinations. While still at a very early stage in the school year, a review of students’ copies indicated evidence that homework had been assigned and corrected. This is good practice. It is recommended however, that teachers seek alternative exercises to translation as homework assignments. Students sit formal examinations at Christmas and in the summer. Certificate examination students have formal tests at Christmas and sit mock examinations in the second term. Where possible, students sit common tests. This is good practice. An aural component is included in all formal tests and Leaving Certificate students are given a mock oral examination. To further build on the good practice of including an aural component in all tests and to promote oral skills development, teachers should introduce some form of oral assessment for all students.
Contact with parents is maintained through the use of the school journal, school reports and the annual parent teacher-meetings.
A review of certificate examination results indicates that students are choosing levels appropriate to their abilities. School management reported that students are encouraged to take higher level wherever possible. Parents of Junior Certificate examination students are also informed of the levels chosen by students for their certificate examinations. This is commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is good whole school support and provision for French in the allocation of time, timetabling and the provision of resources.
· The members of the French department have made very good progress in subject development planning
· The target language was used by the teacher in all of the lessons observed.
· A variety of methodologies, including opportunities for active learning, was observed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· School management should review its educational provision for students requiring learning support to ensure equity of access to the study of modern European
languages for all students.
· To further build on the good work completed in subject development planning teachers should establish generic learning outcomes in terms of ‘can do’
statements for all year groups and include the linguistic strategies and proposed methodologies to support these outcomes.
· Where relevant a more integrated and differentiated approach to skills development should be adopted.
· Where relevant greater attention should be paid to the management of time to ensure the optimum progression of new learning.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of French and with the principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2009