An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Malahide Community School
Malahide, County Dublin
Roll number: 91325R
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection conducted as part of a whole school evaluation in Malahide Community School, Broomfield, Co. Dublin. 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 one day, 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.
As part of its technology curriculum, the school provides the option of Metalwork for junior cycle students and Engineering for senior cycle students. Currently, no Engineering module is offered to students in Transition Year (TY). It is recommended that school management, in consultation with the subject department, formulate an appropriate TY technologies module that would consist of elements from the four technology subjects offered in the school. Such a module would enable students who take TY to sample Engineering and could possibly lead to an increase in the number of girls choosing the subject.
The allocation of class periods for both junior and senior cycle students in Metalwork and Engineering is appropriate and consists of both double and single class periods, as is best practice. There is a slight anomaly one day during the week where class periods are ten minutes shorter in duration than class periods on other days. It is recommended that every effort be made to minimise the number of senior cycle engineering groups timetabled for these shorter class periods. This would help to ease the pressure felt by students at examination time by allowing them appropriate time to complete project work.†††
Students entering first year choose the subjects they wish to sample prior to their entry into the school. This system allows students to make their optional subject choices based on their experiences rather than on preconceived subject stereotypes. Where students choose to sample Business Studies, two additional subjects may be sampled prior to their final choice at the beginning of second year. Where Business Studies is not chosen as an optional subject, the number of subjects that a student may sample is increased to four, delivered in two sixteen-week blocks. It is suggested that all subjects are allocated equal time during this subject sampling programme in first year. At senior cycle, subject option bands are devised around student preferences, as is best practice.
In addition to the taster programme in first year, there are a number of supports in place for students when making their subject choices. An open night allows parents of prospective first-year students to view the facilities and to speak to teachers about the opportunities and advantages of choosing various subjects. This combined with the information and guidance provided for incoming sixth class pupils, helps make the transition from primary school to secondary school less formidable. At senior cycle, students who choose TY gain a useful insight into most senior cycle subjects and this support is further enhanced through a fifth-year options night, career talks and the involvement of the guidance counselling team.
A good proportion of boys choose to study Metalwork and Engineering. The number of girls opting to study Metalwork and Engineering is very low. In a school where over five hundred students are girls this is a matter of concern. In order to make the subjects more attractive to girls, teachers should consider the types of projects undertaken in practical lessons. It is important, for example, that all students, especially those following the subject sampling programme, are given the opportunity to make a wide range of multi-material based projects, some of which could involve simple electronic circuits. These projects, while incorporating the basic skills, should be equally appealing to both boys and girls.
Both of the Metalwork/Engineering rooms are very well resourced and well maintained. The work carried out by the subject department in this regard is commended. In both rooms, a variety of safety posters and standard safety signs is displayed around the room and appropriate safety zones are demarcated around all machines.
There are three teachers qualified to teach Metalwork and Engineering in the school. Currently, only two are involved in the teaching of the subjects. It is recommended that all teachers be given as much exposure to the various year groups as possible in order to help develop their expertise and proficiency. The experience gained by preparing a year group for practical, project and theoretical examinations is essential for all teachers of the subject and is fundamental in a teacherís professional development. In addition, the practice of replacing a teacher of an examination year group with another teacher mid-year should not be repeated. The accumulated experience and knowledge at school managementís disposal could be utilised in a more beneficial manner through, for example, team teaching or mentoring.
The teachers of the practical subjects form a subject department in Malahide Community School. Formal meetings are held regularly and have allowed for the development of a subject department plan and a subject action plan. Minutes of these meetings were made available to the inspector and they demonstrated that genuine discussion and dialogue in relation to a number of pertinent matters such as analysis of examination results, ordering of materials and consumables and specific training requirements for new machinery is ongoing.
The metalwork and engineering subject plan details the organisation of the option structure in the school, curriculum planning for all year groups and policies relating to homework, assessment, reporting and record keeping procedures. In one instance, curricular planning was based on key student learning outcomes. This planning was broken down into manageable timeframes with essential resources and materials listed. It is suggested that this curricular plan forms the basis of any future agreed curricular plan.
A subject action plan has also been devised. This plan identifies two priorities to be addressed; namely the development of information and communication technology (ICT) within the department and the improvement of studentsí design skills. A number of tasks have been identified with agreed monitoring and evaluation procedures listed. This medium to long-term planning is commended. In order to further develop this planning, two additional priorities should be included; firstly, making the subjects more attractive options for girls and secondly, identifying and incorporating strategies to help students with additional educational needs in practical and theoretical lessons. Possible examples could include highlighting keywords, developing word search and crossword puzzles based on subject specific terminology and the development of process sheets for each project that reiterate the key skills required and the correct sequence of manufacture.
Planning for all lessons was appropriate. Where a demonstration was used to supplement student learning all appropriate equipment and resources had been prepared and the demonstration was well thought out and executed. This level of lesson planning is commended. However, in one lesson observed teacher-prepared working drawings were not distributed to all students. This represented a lost opportunity to develop studentsí understanding of drawing conventions and to foster a cross-curricular link with Technical Graphics, Technology and Materials Technology Wood.
The predominant teaching strategies employed throughout the evaluation were teacher demonstrations followed by student participation in the activity and independent and experiential student learning. These strategies were generally successful as they allowed for maximum teacher circulation. Teacher circulation was most beneficial to students when they received significant individual guidance, support and advice. It is important that, when moving around the classroom, teachers actively monitor student processing techniques and correct students when they use hand tools incorrectly or while seated. This is particularly important with junior cycle students, as it is during these initial formative years that the correct practices and procedures associated with the subject are internalised.
Group demonstrations were carried out at an appropriate demonstration area allowing for the required tools, equipment and resources to be prepared prior to the lesson. Demonstrations were clear and effective and, in some cases, students were questioned throughout.
In a senior cycle lesson observed, there was an integrated approach to the delivery of practical and theoretical content. Students were introduced to thermal joining techniques during a practical lesson on the design and manufacture of an electro-mechanically controlled bridge. This had the effect of varying the studentsí experiences and maintaining their attention. This approach should be extended to all year groups by including an element of theoretical content in all practical lessons. An opportunity to incorporate some theory was missed in a junior cycle lesson where students were manufacturing a small puzzle. Students could have been introduced to a number of subject specific terms thus improving their technological literacy. In order to provide a more consistent approach to the teaching of the subjects the subject department should consider developing a mentoring system by promoting strategies such as peer-observation of lessons and the sharing of best practice among teachers.
In a senior cycle lesson observed, students were required to engage in the design process fully in order to manufacture the most suitable design solution. This was achieved by the teacherís use of a clear and concise design brief. Students displayed good knowledge and understanding when questioned and demonstrated some innovative and interesting solutions to the problems encountered. This approach challenges students, but also prepares them to encounter successfully the similar design problems to be faced during the completion of their Leaving Certificate project.
Students, in all lessons observed, had a number of duties such as the cleaning of workbenches and the storing of tools. These responsibilities gave students a sense of ownership of the classroom and promoted good practice. In all lessons, students actively engaged in their learning and a high work ethic was evident. Teacher-student interactions were pleasant and mutually respectful at all times.
The subject department has been instrumental in the introduction of ICT resources into the metalwork and engineering rooms and into the technologies computer suite. This will allow teachers to develop their ICT skills and to incorporate them into the teaching and learning of the subjects. It will also allow students to access online resources and to research possible design solutions. This commitment to ICT in the technology subjects is commended.
Studentsí participation in lessons was very good and their enthusiasm for the subject was apparent. The quality of studentsí practical work was commensurate with the expected skill level of the students concerned and, in some cases, significantly higher. The practice of encouraging students in third year to complete a previous State Examinations Commission (SEC) project prior to the commencement of their own project is commended and should be maintained.
Student uptake at higher level at both Junior and Leaving Certificate is very high and their Certificate Examination results reflect the subject departmentís commitment to high standards and its encouragement of students to reach their full potential. This is commended.
A number of assessment techniques are used to ascertain student progress in Metalwork and Engineering. These methods include: formal end-of-term examinations; in-class questioning; monitoring and evaluation of studentsí practical work, homework, worksheets and end-of-term class tests. Where results of these assessments were reviewed, they demonstrated good student progress.
The end-of-term examinations for all year groups consist of written examinations combined with a practical element. This is congruent with the aims and objectives of the subjectsí syllabuses and is very good practice as it gives recognition to the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out. Where appropriate, common examinations are given to class groups of similar ability. This practice is commended.
The projects used to develop and assess student skills are attractive and educationally worthwhile. The practice of displaying quality projects from all year groups in one of the classrooms helps to raise the standard of future projects and maintains the profile of the subject within the school.
There is a common homework policy within the subject department and homework was administered where appropriate during the evaluation. All project and practical work is corrected and feedback is given to students orally. This feedback was generally formative and affirmative. The results of assessments are recorded and sent to parents three times during the school year. Parents are also kept informed through parent-teacher meetings and through the student journal.
Engineering students in Malahide Community School have been successful at both regional and national competition level. The participation and success in these competitions is commended.
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