An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
Kilmuckridge Vocational College,
Kilmuckridge, County Wexford
Roll number: 71650Q
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 Kilmuckridge Vocational College. 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 two days, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and the teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers.
Kilmuckridge Vocational School offers Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) as optional subjects within the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate programmes. At junior cycle the allocation of class periods to TG is very good. At senior cycle, due to the low uptake in sixth year, both the fifth and sixth-year class groups are combined in order to make the subject viable. This situation is unsatisfactory. It is recommended, providing the number of students choosing DCG at senior cycle continues to increase, that school management prioritises the deployment of subject specialist teachers to their subject area, thereby enabling two distinct class groups to be formed in fifth and sixth year.
All members of the graphics subject department have recently attended continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This engagement in CPD is of considerable benefit to teachers involved in teaching the revised DCG syllabus.
Taking the schoolís current enrolment into account, the uptake of both TG and DCG, with the exception of the current sixth-year cohort, is good. At junior cycle the number of girls choosing TG is particularly encouraging. This subject should continue to be promoted among all incoming first-year students in order to improve the gender balance at senior cycle.
The school has a new TG and DCG specialist room. This room is well resourced with a number of desktop computers, drawing boards, data projection equipment and a variety of new demonstration resources such as models and teaching aids. There are ample storage facilities in the room providing students and teachers with safe locations to store their work and equipment. Plans are also in progress to permanently position the projection screen and data projector in the room. This will assist with the introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) resources into lessons.
It was reported during the inspection that students are given introductory subject specific information at the beginning of first year and are permitted to change from one subject to another for the first three weeks of term. In order to further promote the subjects, school management in cooperation with the subject department, should ensure that all parents and students are fully informed and presented with up-to-date information pertaining to TG and DCG, prior to students making their optional subject choices.
This new subject department has been engaged in substantial subject planning since the beginning of the year. To direct this planning, a subject coordinator has been appointed and the various planning duties that have arisen have been divided among all three members of the group. This collaboration is commended and has culminated in the production of subject plans for both TG and for DCG. These plans detail the departmentís policies in relation to common practices such as the allocation of homework, assessments and recording and reporting procedures. One such policy recommended the use of the student journal when communicating with parents. This valuable resource was rarely used during the course of the inspection and it is recommended that that the subject department make every effort to implement this policy fully.
Another possible area for development would be the inclusion of a review section in the subject plan. This section would assist the subject department when analysing the strengths and challenges facing the subject within the school. An example of an area for review could be the quality of homework and portfolio work submitted by students or a review of the success of the methodologies employed to teach specific topics. This reflective practice should identify areas to improve upon thereby benefiting the teaching and learning of the subjects in the school.
As part of this subject planning, yearly curricular plans have been developed for each year group. At senior cycle this planning is based on the learning outcomes listed in the syllabus. The planning at junior cycle is based on curricular content. It is suggested that the subject department enhance this planning by clearly specifying the precise learning outcomes required for junior cycle students at the end of each year.†
Currently there is no long-term plan for the development of the subjects in the school. It is recommended that the subject department formulate a number of attainable goals and strategies to bring about their realisation. Examples of these goals could be raising student uptake at higher level at junior and senior cycle and increasing parentsí and studentsí awareness of TG and DCG.
Teachers individual planning for lessons was very good. This preparation included: lesson plans, visual aids and resources, models of three-dimensional representations of two-dimensional drawings, prepared drawing sheets for students, prepared blackboard drawings and a variety of ICT resources and geometric models. The preparation and integration of such resources into lessons added to the studentsí learning experiences and helped with the visualisation of complex concepts. This quality planning for lessons is commended.
In all instances teachers identified the aims and learning outcomes of lessons and communicated these objectives with students. Teachers achieved this by writing the key points of the lesson on the blackboard at the beginning. This was a successful strategy as it allowed teachers to recap on the key points at the end of the lessons thereby reinforcing studentsí learning.
In two lessons observed the level of activity and participation rates among students was appropriate. In these lessons students were challenged and the quality and quantity of work expected from them was high. All members of the subject department should share these high levels of teacher expectation and implement strategies to increase student productivity.
In all lessons observed the quality of demonstrations was very good. Teachers used a variety of media to good effect, including very good blackboard drawing and high quality sketches. These techniques enabled teachers to demonstrate best practice and allowed students to model these high quality drawings.†
All subject matter was introduced to students in a sequential manner building on previously covered material. There were also a number of very useful teaching strategies employed in order to help students to understand more complex concepts. Examples of these strategies included allowing students to view a large model of the principal planes of reference combined with an auxiliary plane. This model was used innovatively to help students gain a fuller understanding of the projection system being studied. Another very good strategy was the use of tracing paper over studentsí work. This was used to show students the next step in the process or to illustrate to them where they had made mistakes. The use of such inventive strategies is commended.
There was limited use of differentiation in the lessons observed. In one instance students were encouraged to work on a more difficult question if they had finished the prescribed problem. This allowed the teacher to circulate the classroom and to provide additional help and guidance to those students who needed it, while the more able students were suitably challenged. Abilities in all class groups were wide ranging and required a differentiated approach. Some opportunities to use this approach were not availed of during the inspection. Differentiated teaching should be further developed across the subject department.†
The predominant teaching methodology employed in the lessons observed was teacher demonstration, followed by student work and teacher circulation. At junior cycle, teachers distributed partially completed solutions to help students to set-up their work. This is a subject department policy and has many benefits, however these sheets should be used judiciously as there is an inherent benefit in students setting up questions on their own sheets as it develops their drafting skills and helps them with their examination technique.
In all instances students were very well behaved and a positive atmosphere was evident. This was assisted by teachers following similar routines in class such as checking attendance, monitoring homework and allocating small tasks to students on a rotational basis. Minor items of equipment were also made available to students who mislaid or forget their own and this meant that all students presented for class ready to begin work. Teachers regularly affirmed students where appropriate and there was a good rapport between students and teachers.
Students demonstrated a level of knowledge and understanding of the topics being covered appropriate to their ability. They were suitably motivated and maintained this motivation even though in some cases, they had completed the tasks assigned to them and were awaiting further instruction.
The majority of students follow the ordinary course at junior and at senior cycle. These students generally achieve quite well at this level. An opportunity to increase the uptake at higher level in both programmes now presents itself with the new facilities and resources available to the school and the introduction of the new DCG syllabus at senior cycle.
In addition to the formal assessments that take place at Christmas and summer it is recommended that regular end-of-topic assessments be given to students to ascertain their understanding of specific curricular content. The results of these assessments could then be used to inform teachersí strategies in the classroom.
Teachers checked studentsí work in all lessons. In most cases oral feedback was given to students to help them to identify areas for development. In some cases written feedback was given to studentsí portfolio work. This could be further enhanced by the subject department deciding upon a list of required drawings and allocating a significant portion of marks in terminal examinations for completed portfolios. This practice would help students maintain up-to-date portfolios and also give them credit for their work throughout the year.
At senior cycle, DCG coursework is currently not included in the calculation of studentsí end-of-term grades. It is recommended that this practice be introduced as soon as possible in order to prepare students for the new examination procedures of senior cycle Design and Communication Graphics.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Continuous professional development is encouraged and facilitated by school management.
∑ The TG and DCG room is a bright, well-maintained classroom appropriate to the teaching and learning of the subjects.
∑ The subject department has recently developed subject plans for both DCG and TG
∑ The teaching resources and models prepared for lessons added to students engagement and understanding of the subject matter.
∑ Planning for lessons was in all cases thorough.
∑ All lessons had clear aims and learning outcomes that were communicated to students from the beginning.
∑ The demonstration media employed to convey complex concepts were of a high standard.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ It is recommended, that school management prioritise the deployment of the relevant subject specialist teachers to their subject areas with a view providing
two distinct class groups in fifth and sixth year DCG.
∑ A review section should be developed in the curricular planning documentation in order to monitor, review and develop teaching and learning strategies.
∑ Long-term goals for the development of the subjects within the school and strategies to achieve these goals should be determined. Possible areas could
include raising the number of students attempting higher level in state examinations and raising the awareness of both TG and DCG among parents and students.
∑ The subject department should utilise the student journal on a more regular basis in order to maximise communication with parents pertaining to studentsí progress
∑ The subject departmentís expectations in relation to the quantity and quality of work expected from students should be set at a consistently high standard.
∑ A differentiated approach to teaching should be adopted by the subject department to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
∑ The subject department should introduce regular end-of-topic tests to ascertain student understanding of syllabus content and to identify areas requiring further study.
∑ A coursework element similar to that required in the state examinations should be introduced to senior cycle DCG.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published October 2009