An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Drumcollogher, County Limerick
Roll number: 71850B
Date of inspection: 26 September 2006
Date of issue of report:† 22 February 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Hazelwood College, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 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 subject teachers.
Upon entry to Hazelwood College students are given an open choice of the optional subjects available to study in junior cycle. The school management develops subject bands based on the choices of students and the resources available in the school. Students generally get their preferred choices. Students are facilitated in making their subject choices through an open day during which they attend classes in each optional subject. In addition there is a pre-entry meeting for parents during which they can visit the metalwork and engineering room to talk to the metalwork and engineering teachers.† As not all parents avail of this opportunity it is recommended that the school management should facilitate the metalwork and engineering teachers to inform all parents of the content and nature of the metalwork syllabus. This could be done through a short presentation to parents during the pre-meeting or through the development of an optional subjectís information leaflet that could be distributed to parents.
Subject choice for senior cycle occurs at the end of third year and at the end of Transition Year (TY). It was reported that students are given an open choice of the optional subjects and are asked to list subjects in their order of preference. There are optional subjects for both the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). For the ELC the school management develops subject bands to fit the choices of most students. This is to be commended as best practice. For the LCA, students choose between the Engineering and Information and Communications Technology vocational specialisms.
There is an appropriate time allocation for Metalwork and the time allocation for ELC and LCA Engineering is generous. The facilitation of double class periods is to be commended as they are essential for the development of design and processing skills through project work. However some double classes are not timetabled for the workshop and the two classes in third year are timetabled concurrently which will lead to difficulties during the completion of State Examination Commission (SEC) project work, as there is one metalwork and engineering room. It is recommended that the school management should ensure that students are not disadvantaged while completing their SEC projects and it is further recommended that concurrent timetabling for examinations classes in Metalwork and Engineering should be avoided in the future.†
The metalwork and engineering room is very well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources and is well maintained. A CNC machine for the room is kept in a storeroom adjacent to the room and is currently not working. It is suggested that this machine should be re-commissioned and kept in the metalwork and engineering room.
During the course of the inspection it was outlined that Hazelwood College was one of the schools included in the health and safety audit for the joint publication by the State Claims Agency (SCA) and the Department of Education and Science (DES), ďA Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technology Subjects. As part of this process the school received a risk assessment report from the SCA and DES and is in the process of carrying out each recommended action. The metalwork and engineering teachers carry out risk assessments on a regular basis and this is to be commended as best practice.
The metalwork and engineering teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring learning support at the start of each year. The metalwork and engineering teachers have a special needs policy in their subject plan that details strategies to support students and this is to be highly commended.
Subject teachers meet formally on a number of occasions throughout the school year and informally on a regular basis throughout each week. Subject department meeting records are kept that detail the key decisions made and action points. The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed a subject plan that details a number of policies and procedures. This is to be highly commended as it helps to ensure consistency of provision among teachers and helps significantly in teaching and learning in particular in the areas of classroom organisation and management, homework, assessment and special needs. The metalwork and engineering teachers are encouraged to continue to develop the subject plan to detail polices and procedures of relevance to the teaching and learning of the subject in the school.
As part of the subject planning process the Metalwork and Engineering teaching staff has developed schemes of work for each year group. The schemes of work detail the theory to be covered with each group. Each scheme is accompanied with project drawings for each year group. It is suggested that the scheme for each term should also detail the processes and associated projects teachers wish to cover with students. It was outlined during the course of the inspection that teachers record the completion of each aspect of the scheme. It is suggested that this could be incorporated into the written scheme of work with a section at the end of each term where progress and any areas that students are having difficulties with could be recorded, thus ensuring there is a scheme of work associated with each class group.
A variety of project work is undertaken in junior and senior cycle that incorporates a variety of processing skills and materials. The processes developed are appropriate to each year group. The projects and materials used in first year are to be commended, as they are interesting, use appropriate materials and allow students to develop a wide variety of processing techniques. The inclusion of past Junior Certificate SEC style projects into the junior-cycle scheme of work is to be commended. These develop and improve accuracy, finish and the quality of processing skills required of students while at the same time ensuring projects are interesting and engaging.
The metalwork and engineering teachers are to be commended for incorporating elements of the SEC Established Leaving Certificate projects into the scheme for senior cycle. It is suggested however that in future reviews of the scheme of work for senior cycle consideration should be given to extending the design and investigation element of the project to include manufacture. Students could be facilitated in designing and manufacturing projects in small groups.† This will help to develop the project management, time management, and processing skills required to complete SEC design and manufacture projects.† It will also help to ensure that students are familiar with the style, quality and standard of projects required for state examinations before they undertake this examination component of the syllabus.
The scheme of work for LCA is appropriate to each class group and teachers when deciding on project work take cognisance of the abilities, and interests of students.† In relation to the vocational specialism task engineering teachers allow students to complete projects that are of interest to students and this is to be highly commended. It is suggested however that teachers should carry out a risk assessment for larger project work.
It was evident from classroom observation that the metalwork and engineering teachers had planned and prepared for the lessons observed. In the practical lessons observed material blanks and working drawings were available for students. In addition all of the required equipment was easily accessible. All lessons observed had clear aims and objectives.
In the practical lessons observed students were engaged in the manufacture of a variety of project work. In one lesson observed students were engaged in the manufacture of a garden hand fork and in the other lesson observed students were engaged in the manufacture of a desk clock. In both lessons clear instructions were given and expectations set at the beginning of the lesson. This was achieved by asking students to stand in their assigned positions at the benches and present their projects to the teachers so they could assess student progress. This classroom management and teaching and learning strategy is to be highly commended as it not only allows teachers to assess student progress, provide instruction and set expectations but also allows teachers to ascertain which processes students are having most difficulty with so that such processes can be revised during the course of the lesson.
Demonstrations were a feature of the practical lessons observed. These were effectively managed through demonstration to half of the class at a time. This ensured that all students could easily follow the demonstration and teachers could ensure that all students were on task.
Throughout each practical lesson observed the teacher moved constantly around the room assessing studentís progress and ensuring they had no difficulties. In one lesson observed where the same difficulty arose with a number of students the entire class was stopped to highlight how it could be solved. Students were encouraged through prompting to solve the problem and this is to be highly commended as it ensured that students better understood the solution.†
Instruction provided throughout each practical lesson was at all times clear and precise and from classroom observation and discussions with students they clearly understood the directions given by the metalwork and engineering teachers. Students were able to demonstrate their ability to use metalwork hand tools and machines appropriately for both marking out and manufacturing processes in each practical lesson observed.† At all times proper safety practices were employed.†
The metalwork and engineering teachers are to be commended for developing effective strategies to manage tools and equipment during each lesson. Tool racks on one wall of the classroom allow the metalwork and engineering teachers to quickly assess if all tools have been stored correctly at the end of each lesson and also allow studentís easy access to tools as required. In addition, at the end of each lesson students generally put away the material, working drawings and tools they have used and clean down the benches and machines. This contributes to a well-organised learning environment for the teacher and student.
In the theory lesson observed the topic under study was a revision of the structure of materials. Throughout the theory lesson there was a high level of teacher-student interaction through directed and open questioning. The revision lesson was used to good effect to assess student understanding of material previously covered and to further expand students understanding of the structure of materials. This was particularly evident when students were asked to compare the properties of different unit cell crystalline structures and explain why one structure is more ductile than the other.
Effective use was made of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help students visualise and better understand different aspects of the structure of materials. Through their answers most students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter. Handouts on some topics produced by teachers support the teaching of engineering theory. From an examination of student copies for this theory lesson it was evident that students had not taken any notes on the topic or on topics covered in previous lessons and that students use the textbook to complete examination questions given by the teacher to help revise material covered in class. From a review of the feedback given to students in copies it was evident that a number of students had difficulty in formulating accurate and precise responses to past examination questions. In this regard it is recommended that all class groups should take short concise notes with appropriate diagrams for each engineering theory topic.††
In all lessons observed classroom discipline was sensitively maintained through constant movement around the room and engaging with students. It was evident that a good rapport exists between students and the metalwork and engineering teachers. There was a mutual respect between students and teachers evident in all lessons observed.†
All non-examination classes are assessed at Christmas and at the end of the school year. In addition different year groups are assessed at random throughout the year. Reports are sent home after each examination. For non-examination classes in metalwork and engineering the overall grade awarded for examination reports is based on a combination of marks for the projects students have completed and an end-of-term written examination. This is to be commended as best practice as it helps to encourage students to complete projects to a high standard and assessing both theory and practical activities mirrors the procedures employed in the State examinations and is therefore an accurate indicator of overall ability. Examination class grades are generally based on written examinations.
The frequency of homework given to students varies from class to class and depends on the time of year. No homework is given to first years in Metalwork, second years are given homework on a regular basis after theory lessons, examination classes are given homework on a regular basis and fifth years are given homework on an irregular basis in Engineering. It is recommended that homework should be given on a regular basis to all year groups even when students are engaged in practical activities. The homework given at the end of practical lessons could focus on the processes being undertaken by students or the tools and equipment being used by students.† The assigning and completion of homework on a regular basis helps studentsí retention and understanding of the material covered in class and helps in the development of study skills for Metalwork and Engineering. From a review of student homework copies it was evident that homework is checked and feedback provided. The metalwork and engineering teachers keep records of studentsí project grades, attendance and examination results. Each student also has a school diary.† This diary is used to inform parents of student progress and must be signed by parents once per week.†
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Students are given an open choice of subjects in junior and senior cycle
∑ The Metalwork and Engineering room is very well resourced in terms of equipment, materials and teaching resources
∑ The metalwork and engineering teachers have a special needs policy in their subject plan
∑ The Metalwork and Engineering teachers have developed a subject plan and schemes of work for each year group
∑ In the lessons observed effective teaching strategies were used to assess student understanding and learning throughout each lesson
∑ The metalwork and engineering teachers have developed effective classroom management strategies for practical work
∑ Effective use was made of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help students visualise and better understand subject matter in the lessons observed
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 Metalwork and Engineering and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.