An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
Carnew, County Wicklow
Roll number: 70790E
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN TECHNICAL GRAPHICS AND DESIGN AND COMMUNICATION GRAPHICS
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Bhríde, Carnew, Co. Wicklow. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects 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 the teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and the subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Coláiste Bhríde offers Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) as optional subjects in its Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate programmes. In addition to this, a DCG module is also included in the school’s optional Transition Year (TY) programme and Graphics and Construction form part of the school’s Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. The school’s commitment to providing all of its students with access to graphics subjects is highly commended. The time allocated to these subjects in the various programmes is appropriate and this time is divided into single and double periods, as is best practice.
There are four teachers qualified to teach graphics subjects to the highest level in Coláiste Bhríde. Three teachers are currently assigned to teach the subjects and are deployed to class groups on a rotational basis thus ensuring continuity for students and cyclic exposure to junior and senior cycle classes for teachers.
The facilities available to the graphics subject department are good. These include a bright, well-equipped specialist room fitted with the appropriate information and communication technology (ICT) resources. The work carried out by the subject department in upgrading this room prior to the introduction of the revised DCG syllabus is commended. The subject department receives an annual budget from school management for the purchase of resources and consumables. In addition to this, students are asked to contribute to this fund by way of small weekly contributions. It is recommended that the subject department should identify any curricular areas that may need additional resources, for example geometric models, and plan for the procurement of such resources over time.
Students entering first year are provided with a wide variety of subjects and are asked to choose four subjects from a possible eleven optional subjects. The option bands are then formed based on students’ preferences. To support students and parents at this time an open evening is held where representatives from all subject departments are available to provide subject specific information. In addition to this, a second information evening is held for incoming first-year students in January. At this meeting, subject information packs and subject choice forms are distributed. These packs contain National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) fact sheets on each subject and general subject choice information. This level of support is commended.
At senior cycle, students are given the opportunity to sample DCG in TY. This helps students to gain a useful insight into the subject. Similar to first year, students entering fifth year are offered a total of twelve optional subjects from which they choose their four preferred subjects. Option bands are then defined based on these preferences, as is best practice. The procedures currently in place to assist students in making their optional subject choices and to ensure that students are given the opportunity to study their preferred subjects are commended.
Uptake for TG at junior cycle is good. At senior cycle, the very low number of girls choosing DCG is a cause for concern. To address this issue, the subject department should identify and implement strategies that may improve the gender balance at senior cycle. These strategies should then be reviewed after an appropriate period of time and amended if necessary.
The coordination of the graphics subject department is rotated among its members annually. Formal planning meetings are held three times during the year. These meetings, and the regular informal meetings, have provided the subject department with the opportunity to prepare a subject plan. This plan includes relevant information pertaining to areas such as: promotion of the subject in the school, statistical information regarding student uptake and the analysis of examination results. The subject plan also identifies areas for development within the subject department. Examples of these identified areas for development include: promotion of the subjects, planning for students with special educational needs (SEN) and promoting more gender balance within the subject area. This reflective analysis is fundamental to progressing and developing subject department planning and is commended. To ensure that planning is effective and has tangible outputs for students, the subject department should progress the most essential areas for development through the implementation of strategies designed to achieve them on a phased basis where appropriate.
Curricular plans have been developed for all year groups. The quality plans developed for first and second-year groups identify the concepts, class work, homework and assessment techniques employed for the various elements of the syllabus. To further improve these plans, appropriate methodologies and resources could be identified for each section. Curricular plans for the remaining year groups could then be redeveloped using the first-year and second-year plans as exemplars, in order to promote consistency throughout the subject department’s planning structures.
A good quality TY curricular plan has also been developed for students. This plan is varied and encompasses some aspects of the DCG syllabus and focuses on a variety of methodologies such as model making and parametric modelling. To further improve the TY plan and the DCG module, additional alternative and interesting assessment techniques should be employed to enhance the module and to align it fully with the overall aspirations of the TY programme.
Planning for the lessons observed during the evaluation was of a high quality and a wide variety of teaching aids and resources was prepared in advance and incorporated into lessons effectively.
In all lessons observed a clear learning intention was identified from the outset. Best practice was observed where this was shared with students allowing the lesson to be easily evaluated at the end. The content of lessons was consistent with yearly curricular plans and, in most cases, suitable to all members of the class groups. Where new topics were linked to previous learning, students were encouraged to draw on their previous knowledge and skills and apply them to the new topic. This was particularly successful in a senior cycle lesson observed.
All lessons followed the structure of introduction, topic development, student activity and summary. The transitions between lesson segments were well managed and students were involved in all aspects of lessons through questioning, demonstration and participation in activities.
The overall quality of graphics teaching varied from good to excellent. This was achieved through the use of good quality demonstration techniques, very good interaction and the use of appropriate teaching aids and resources to help students understand and visualise complex concepts. Blackboard constructions were clear and accurate and were enhanced by the use of neat freehand sketches and coloured chalk to assist students in the development of their visualisation abilities. ICT was also incorporated to supplement the learning experience for students. In one instance this was particularly successful when incorporated to provide students with various sectional views of a hyperbolic paraboloid structure. Another good use of ICT was observed in a junior cycle lesson on orthographic projection. Parametric modelling software was used in this instance to demonstrate orthographic multi-views of the required drawing thereby helping students to visualise the elevation, plan and end-elevation of the object shown in isometric projection.
The quality and effectiveness of questioning varied in the lessons observed. Questioning was most successful when individual students were posed questions and given adequate time to formulate their answers. However, in one lesson observed, the use of global questioning inhibited the full participation of some students.
Cross-curricular links with the school’s other three technology subjects were made regularly and this helped students to gain a fuller understanding of the role and uses of graphics outside of the school environment particularly in the areas of construction and engineering.
The encouragement of independent and explorative learning techniques also helped to develop a sense of enthusiasm for the subject. Students in one lesson were assigned a homework task requiring them to research the uses and applications of the topic of the day’s lesson. This technique and similar innovative and active learning methods are to be encouraged.
Students in all lessons observed were well behaved and a positive teaching and learning atmosphere was evident throughout the evaluation. Students were assigned tasks at the beginning and end of lessons and this contributed to the development of a sense of ownership of the graphics classroom. The classroom had a wide variety of student-made models and some good quality student drawings on display.
Students demonstrated a good understanding of the subject matter when questioned by their teacher and this knowledge was applied in many cases to their problem-solving exercises and constructions. Students’ work was appropriate to their level and ability and this is reflected in their uptake of higher level and their attainment in state examinations.
Formal examinations are held regularly throughout the year with an additional assessment for examination year groups in the springtime. The subject department administers common assessments where possible and examples of these assessments are held on electronic file allowing them to be revised regularly. This practice is commended. Informal class assessments are generally held on the completion of topics. These various assessments provide teachers, students and parents with useful information regarding students’ knowledge, skills, understanding and progress.
Parents of students in all year groups are provided with the opportunity to formally meet teachers once per year and, in the case of sixth year, twice per year. The use of the student journal to record homework and to communicate with parents varied. The subject department should make a concerted effort to ensure that all homework assigned is recorded in students’ journals and that the journal is used to communicate with parents on a regular basis and in a more consistent manner.
Students received good levels of oral feedback in relation to the quality of their class work during lessons. This feedback was administered at students’ desks during class tasks. Students’ portfolio work received varying amounts of formative feedback. The subject department should ensure that a level of consistency is achieved in relation to the quality and quantity of constructive feedback administered to students in order to improve their drawing skills.
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 Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the deputy principal and principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published April 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection