An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of
Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
Crescent College Comprehensive S.J.
Roll number: 81014R
Date of inspection: 23 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in materials technology (Wood) and construction studies
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Crescent College Comprehensive as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies 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 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.
Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are optional junior and senior cycle subjects respectively in Crescent College Comprehensive. Junior cycle students study MTW as part of the Junior Certificate while fifth and sixth year students study CS as for the Leaving Certificate.
The school has an optional transition year (TY) programme that has a very high level of uptake. In the current school year there are four TY class groups. Two of these four groups study a MTW/CS module as part of the programme. While this is commended it was noted that the other two groups were not being exposed to this module. It was also noted that different timetabling arrangements were in place for the two classes exposed to the MTW/CS module. The MTW/CS module is currently delivered in the smaller of the two woodwork rooms and the class groups are large. It is recommended therefore, in the interests of equality of access for all students to all aspects of the programme, that all TY class groups should be timetabled equally for the MTW/CS module and that the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-Primary Schools should be used to inform decisions related to appropriate class sizes for class groups timetabled for the woodwork room in which the module is delivered.
Time allocation for MTW for Junior Certificate and CS for Leaving Certificate in the school is appropriate and the allocation of double and single class periods reflects good practice. This is commended.
The school organises information meetings for students and their parents, at appropriate times, on optional subjects choice and additional support is provided by subject teachers and the guidance counsellor. These arrangements are commended.
First-year students sample Materials Technology (Wood) part of a 'taster' programme before making final decisions about subjects that will be taken for the remainder of junior cycle. Optional subject bands related to students prioritised subject choices are formulated after the 'taster' programme. This is commended.
A survey of optional subject priorities for students entering senior cycle was conducted two years ago and optional subject bands were then designed to accommodate those choices. The bands formulated then are still in operation and current fifth-year students chose their optional subjects from these. While the methodology initially employed to develop the option bands is commended it is recommended that this process should be repeated each year in order to ensure that the needs of each successive fifth-year cohort are addressed by the arrangements for optional subject choice.
MTW and CS classes comprise students from a range of abilities and students are encouraged to take State examinations at the appropriate level. Fifth and sixth-year CS classes are co-timetabled in the current school year and Leaving Certificate higher and ordinary level class groups have been created. Movement between levels is accommodated and students may sit the CS examination at the appropriate level within class groups.
Girls are well represented in all junior-cycle MTW and senior cycle CS classes and this is commendable.
Practical and theory work in MTW and CS is conducted in two adjacent woodwork rooms. The larger room is a specialist MTW/CS room and the second room, formerly a drawing room, was equipped by the school to meet the increasing uptake in the subjects and this is commended. Both rooms are well maintained, equipped and decorated but the room equipped by the school as a second woodwork room is relatively small, for the large class groups of senior students who are timetabled for practical lessons there. CS theory is also taught in a well-appointed, well-equipped and decorated drawing room. Purchased, teacher-made and student-made wall charts on a range of woodworking and construction topics are displayed in the rooms and these are complemented by displays of safety signage and examples of students' practical, project and drawn work. Both woodwork rooms and the drawing room provide stimulating visual learning environments for students of the subjects and this is commended.
Access to appropriate computer hardware and drawing software is provided in both woodwork rooms and the drawing room and the school's design and communication graphics (DCG) room may also be accessed by MTW and CS classes when required. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning is being actively promoted within the subject department and this is commended.
Senior management encourages and facilitates teachers' engagement in continuing professional development (CPD) and this is commended. Over the last two years MTW and CS teachers have attended extensive subject-specific in-service provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) and a culture of teachers sharing good practice within the subject department was evident during the evaluation. This is commended
The school has a safety statement and the woodwork rooms are specifically referred to in it. Commendably, the MTW and CS teachers were consulted during its formulation. Safety audits have been conducted in both woodwork rooms during the current year and subject planning documentation contains a comprehensive section on health and safety practices and procedures operated by the subject department. This approach is commended. In order to enhance the current arrangements it is recommended that the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools be used to inform an annual review of all health and safety practices and procedures in the woodwork rooms into the future.
Crescent College Comprehensive has a MTW and CS subject department within a technology subjects department and the role of co-ordinator is rotated among teachers of all the technology subjects. The MTW and CS teachers meet formally each term and records of meetings are retained as part of subject department documentation. Reports are made to the senior management team on subject-related issues when necessary following these meetings. Formal meetings are supplemented by frequent informal meetings throughout the school year. These arrangements are commended.
Comprehensive MTW and CS subject planning documentation has been developed collaboratively by teachers. Work to date in this area is highly commended. In order to further enhance this documentation it is recommended that the subject plan should be regularly reviewed and refined so that it reflects the reality for the subjects in any given school year.
The programme of work outlined for TY students in subject planning documentation emphasises aspects of wood technology. These include the use of standard woodwork room equipment and associated health and safety practices and procedures, wood jointing and finishing techniques, specialised woodworking in the areas of marquetry, carving and turning together with computer aided design (CAD). While the TY programme designed for delivery in the school is comprehensive and wide-ranging its focus is predominantly on wood technology. It is recommended therefore, that it should also allow students to engage with construction principles and technology in a manner that would inform their fifth-year optional subject choice at the end of the TY programme.
An extensive range of MTW and CS resources has been developed and is used by teachers to support teaching and learning. These resources are readily accessible to teachers on a shared folder on computers in the rooms in which the programmes are delivered. This is highly commended.
Additional resources to support teaching and learning may be accessed, when required, following consultation with the principal and this arrangement reportedly works effectively in the school.
MTW and CS teachers liaise with the learning support team when planning for students in their classes who have additional educational needs. This is commended.
Students' outcomes in State examinations are analysed and compared to the national averages each year. This practice is commended.
Second and third-year MTW practical and theory lessons, fifth-year CS theory and sixth-year lessons where students carried out Leaving Certificate CS project work were evaluated during the inspection.
Very good teaching of MTW and CS was observed during the course of the evaluation.
Teachers' planning and preparation for all lessons evaluated was of a high standard. All lessons had clear aims and objectives and were suitable for the stage of the programme being delivered. Lessons were structured to ensure continuity and progression through the MTW and CS syllabuses and all activities were well managed in an appropriately ordered learning environment. This is commended.
Teachers employed a suitable range of teaching methodologies and this was appropriately related to the needs, interests and abilities of students. Lesson aims and objectives were differentiated by teachers in order to meet students' needs in class groups comprising students from a broad range of abilities.
Teachers demonstrated appropriate skills, practices and processes to whole-class and to smaller groups during practical lessons. Demonstrations were also made to individual students when required. These demonstrations emphasised best practice, including best health and safety practices, and were very effective. A similar approach was adopted during MTW and CS theory lessons and teachers modelled best practice in the development of theory skills for the students. This practice is commended.
Leaving Certificate students were engaged in project work from a number of different areas of the syllabus during the evaluation and this variety was benefiting all students in the classes. Junior Certificate MTW students worked on the early stages of their project for the 2009 State examination and their work reflected appropriate engagement with the design process and procedures required for the successful completion of the design and make project. Teachers' management and facilitation of the complex process of completing large numbers of individually designed projects as class work or for State examination purposes is highly commended.
During lessons teachers employed individual and global questioning techniques. Higher-order questions were used to advance students’ understanding of concepts being dealt with during the lessons. Questioning also served to focus students' attention and to support and reinforce their learning. This approach is commended.
Extensive use of ICT was made by teachers during presentations. The use of ICT also allowed teachers to present the developmental stages of work undertaken in a coherent manner. Presentations supported the development of students' thinking from concrete experience to abstract representation and facilitated the development of the key theory skills of scaled drawing, freehand sketching and concise note-making. Teachers' use of ICT also served to emphasise the technological nature of the subjects and the practice observed is highly commended.
Teachers used and emphasised the principles and terminology associated with MTW and CS during the evaluation and students communicated effectively with their peers, teachers and the inspector using this terminology. As a consequence students engaged with essential concepts, listened to teacher instructions and assimilated subject-specific terminology during teacher inputs and while working on their own tasks. This enhanced both teaching and learning and is commended.
While textbooks are prescribed for the subjects these were not overly relied upon during the lessons evaluated. Rather, texts were used as a resource and were supplemented by teacher-designed handout materials when appropriate. This approach is commended.
During lessons teachers moved around the woodwork and drawing rooms and interacted with individual students as they engaged in the completion of practical or theory tasks. Students' progress was assessed during these interactions and assistance to individual students was also provided by teachers when this was required.
The woodwork and drawing rooms were well organised and classroom routines were employed during all lessons. These routines promote student responsibility for the creation of an ordered learning environment and are commended.
Homework featured at the beginning and end of all lessons and this helped to ensure continuity with previous and future lessons. Homework activities were appropriately related to previous or upcoming lesson content and this practice is commended.
Students’ enthusiastically engaged in the completion of all classroom activities. They displayed the quality of their understanding of lesson concepts through the competencies they exhibited during the completion of assigned tasks and in their ability answer and ask questions.
The content of MTW and CS notes copies and drawing portfolios was appropriate and there was commendable evidence of coverage of consistent, comprehensive syllabus-related material.
Students exhibited levels of subject-specific knowledge and skills consistent with the range of abilities in classes visited during the evaluation.
In Crescent College Comprehensive MTW and CS students' practical, project, drawing and theory class work and homework are regularly assessed and the practices adopted by the MTW and CS teachers are informed by the school's assessment and homework policies. This is commended.
Formal end-of-term and end-of-year examinations in MTW and CS are held each year and Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students sit mock examinations in the second term.
End-of-topic examinations are also regularly scheduled in the classrooms. Following these, students' work is graded and formative feedback is provided by the teacher. A similar procedure is employed for completed practical and project work. Students' work is graded following the application of a marking scheme and formative feedback for students is also provided as part of this process. This approach is commended.
Formal examinations are supplemented by continuous assessment of all students' class work and homework and regular written and oral feedback is provided for students.
The results of all assessments are recorded systematically and parents are regularly informed of the nature of students’ progress in MTW and CS. Regular school reports, comments in the student's journal together with parent-teacher meetings are used for this purpose.
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 Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2009