An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Ballinteer Community School
Roll number: 91305L
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Ballinteer Community School. 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 these subjects in the school. The evaluation was conducted over three days, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teacher. 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.
Ballinteer Community School offers Metalwork and Engineering to all students. In addition to the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate programmes, the school also offers the Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programmes to its students. The time allocated to Metalwork and Engineering in all of these programmes is appropriate as it allows for adequate time for practical work, project work and theoretical work to be accommodated.
At junior cycle, students make their optional subject choices prior to entering the school. These optional subjects are offered in pre-defined subject option bands. This practice limits student choice and should be revised. School management should consider introducing a short taster programme where students could sample all of the optional subjects available to them. Senior cycle students choose from a list of available optional subjects. Subject option bands are then devised based on student preferences, as is best practice.
The uptake of the subject among boys in the school is good. In contrast, the number of girls choosing to study the subject is particularly low. In order to improve this situation, the type of projects undertaken in practical lessons should be carefully chosen to ensure that they are equally appealing to both boys and girls. This could be achieved by utilising a variety of materials and innovative designs. Some of these designs could incorporate electronic circuits to heighten students’ interest in the subject.
The planned move to a new school building is imminent. This new building will provide excellent accommodation for the subject, with modern machinery and equipment easily accessible. The new Metalwork/Engineering room is bright and spacious and will provide a pleasant teaching and learning environment. This is a major boost for the subject and should also help with its promotion among girls.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend the continuous professional development (CPD) courses currently offered by the Technology Subjects Support Service. This commitment to CPD is commended.
The subject department has worked on the development of a subject plan for Metalwork and Engineering. This plan has identified a number of strengths and some areas for improvement, namely the incorporation of information and communication technology (ICT) into the teaching and learning of Metalwork and Engineering and the issue of gender inequality in student uptake of the subject. In addition to these challenges, school management and the subject department should look to further improve the numbers of students choosing to take higher level especially in the Junior Certificate Metalwork state examination.
Curricular planning is also developing in the subject department. It is recommended that, rather than listing curriculum content, this planning should focus on the intended learning outcomes for students, be they in practical or theoretical lessons. In addition to this, expected timeframes should be identified for the achievement of these learning outcomes.
As TY is compulsory, the TY plan has been developed to cater for students who may not have studied junior cycle Metalwork. Due to this, a significant portion of time is dedicated to the development of rudimentary skills. It is suggested, in addition to the development of these important skills, that a considerable focus be put on theoretical content. This content could be made significantly more interactive through the development of a wider variety of teaching and learning methodologies. These could include taking a particular topic, such as the various manufacturing processes used in the production of plastic products, and incorporating a group/project work element. Students could then be graded on their ability to create and deliver a presentation describing the process they studied. This would incorporate peer teaching, independent research, teamwork and the development of ICT skills.
The subject department is made fully aware of any student who requires additional educational support. It is therefore imperative that strategies are identified to fully include all students in the subject. This should be achieved by identifying the students’ needs rather than their disabilities. Specific guidelines for teachers of students with mild learning disabilities in a technology setting can be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/PP_Tech.pdf.
A variety of teaching resources has been accumulated over a period of time. These resources are stored in the classroom and are readily accessible during lessons and include videos, Digital Versatile Discs (DVDs), books and models. This collection of resources allows lessons to be interspersed with relevant teaching aids thereby improving students’ learning experiences.
All lessons observed had a clear structure and a definite learning intention. It is recommended that the learning intention of each lesson be shared with students at the beginning as it allows students to self evaluate and to become fully aware of the criteria for success. To further support this, students should be reminded of the key points of the lesson at the end by way of a focussed recap of the lesson.
Each lesson observed during the inspection was well planned. Material blanks and working drawings had been prepared for each student and a number of teacher-prepared student notes were distributed in some classes. Demonstrations were well thought out and executed, and where necessary, completed student projects were available to show students an example of the expected level of work prior to commencing the project themselves. This level of lesson planning is commended. To further build on this quality planning, some hand written notes should be updated to electronic format in order to improve their legibility and their visual impact. This could be achieved through using colourful diagrams and pictures supported by short concise notes written in large fonts.
In one LCA lesson observed, students were active participants in their learning. Some students in this group contributed to the lesson through their demonstration of correct practices and procedures to their peers. This had the effect of creating a very co-operative environment where the teacher facilitated student learning. In the other lessons observed, student learning was more passive. It is recommended, in order to create a more active learning environment for students in the Junior and Leaving Certificate programmes, that a variety of teaching methodologies be developed.
Written process sheets detailing the sequence of manufacture have been developed to cater for some students with additional educational needs. Incorporating diagrams where possible would further develop these process sheets. These would also assist students with reading difficulties and would promote independent learning.
While there was no use of ICT during the evaluation it was reported that a number of online resources have been identified and are used regularly in class. Plans are in place to install a data projector in the new Metalwork/Engineering room. This will facilitate the use of ICT in the teaching and learning of the subjects.
Throughout the evaluation students were constantly reminded of health and safety procedures. This commitment to health and safety education is commended. Further opportunities to instil a sense of safety in students will present themselves when the school takes occupancy of the new building. This could be achieved by explaining the safety features of the new machines such as safety cut-off switches, machine guards, fume extraction and modern safety signage.
In all lessons observed, students were mannerly and co-operative and actively contributed to the positive teaching and learning environment.
Students were allocated specific tasks at both the beginning and end of practical lessons. These tasks were carried out dutifully. All tools and equipment needed for each lesson were stored safely and were easily accessible.
Students demonstrated learning through their application of knowledge and skills in practical lessons. This learning was appropriate to their age and ability. In theoretical lessons the standard of learning was more varied. In order to accurately determine student learning and to modify teaching strategies accordingly it is important to instigate discussion and dialogue on a regular basis especially with small class groups. This could be achieved by encouraging students to offer their opinions, by involving them in the design of assessment procedures and through varied questioning techniques.
At junior cycle the majority of students follow the ordinary-level course. At senior cycle the opposite is the case with the majority following the higher-level course. Steps should be taken, in order to address this anomaly, to increase the number of students attempting the higher-level course at junior cycle.
Metalwork and Engineering students generally receive formative feedback on assessments. This feedback is administered in a sensitive manner. Examination year groups are given summative feedback based on their written and practical examinations. These results are well maintained and easily accessible. It is suggested that a combination of both be utilised in order to achieve maximum benefit for students of all year groups. Where summative marks are given to students, they consist of a combination of both practical and theoretical assessments, as is best practice.
Theoretical lessons began with the correction of homework. This had the effect of consolidating previous learning and facilitating the maintenance of accurate student records. The subject department has identified the need to review the assessment system employed for TY students. It is suggested that a more innovative method be used in order to align more closely with the aims and objectives of the TY programme.
The school, in an effort to develop its record keeping and reporting system, has introduced a computerised programme for monitoring attendance, disseminating information and communicating with parents. This system, in conjunction with parent-teacher meetings, the school journal and regular reports home, provides good links with parents.
A number of good quality projects and photographs of various achievements are displayed around the classroom. An opportunity now presents itself to transport the best examples of student work to the new building. This will allow for the status of the subject within the school to be elevated. In addition to this, the planned award for the best Engineering student at Leaving Certificate level will also provide recognition of student attainment in the subject area and present an incentive for junior cycle students to achieve at a higher level.
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 teacher 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.
Published November 2008