An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of German
Cashel Community School,
Cashel, Co Tipperary
Roll number: 91497A
Date of inspection: 24 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in German
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Cashel Community School, Cashel, Co Tipperary. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in German 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 teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacherís written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and relevant staff.
French and German are the modern languages on the curriculum in Cashel Community School. German is offered at all levels and in all programmes in the school. In first year a module of German (along with eight other modules) is taken by students for half of the academic year. French however is core in first year and students take this language for the entire year. In second year students can opt to study one, two or no modern language(s). While it is commendable that students in first year have the option of studying many subjects, it is recommended that the provision for German be reviewed in light of the fact that French is core in first year. Ideally German should be offered in the same manner as other modern languages. A review of the curriculum in junior cycle should take place. It is commendable that students have the possibility of studying two modern languages throughout junior and senior cycle but in reality very few students take up this possibility.
In Transition Year students are offered a choice of doing German or French. Inevitably students are choosing the language they will continue to Leaving Certificate at the beginning of Transition Year. Students who do not choose a language in TY remain in the language classes. Alternatives should be sought for these students who do not take French or German. The possibility of a modern language ab initio should be investigated by the management authorities if resources permit.
The uptake of modern languages in the school is in line with national norms in junior cycle. In first year after a few weeks attendance in modern language classes, students who have exemptions from Irish or psychological reports are withdrawn from modern language lessons. This practice needs to be reviewed and the criteria by which students no longer study modern languages should be clearly drawn up. In addition, students going into second year do not have to choose a modern language. It was stated in the course of the evaluation that every effort is made to ensure that students and parents are made fully aware of the restrictions placed on students regarding access to third-level courses when they do not study a language in their Leaving Certificate. School documentation such as presentations given to parents and the subject choice information booklet reflect this. This is praiseworthy.
The school has a large amount of excellent resources, such as text books, class sets of short novels, films and CDs to support the teaching and learning of German. Particularly impressive is the large amount of resources such as power point presentations and work sheets made out by the teachers. A huge amount of work has gone into building up a bank of highly effective resources for the teaching of German. The information and communication technology (ICT) installed in the German base classrooms which supports the teaching and learning of German is also impressive. Management is to be commended on the support offered to the subject in the acquisition of these resources.
There is a good time allocation for the subject. This is praiseworthy. In first year three lessons are provided in German. In the remainder of the junior cycle students have four class periods of German. In senior cycle the allocation for German rotates between five class periods in fifth year and six class periods in sixth year or six class periods in fifth year and five in sixth year depending on which option block German is assigned to. The distribution of lessons in two of the first year classes needs to be reviewed as German is held on the first three days of the week only. This distribution is not optimal.
German is taught in base classrooms. These rooms are very well decorated. Posters, maps, photographs and brochures relating to Germany and Austria were on display. Highly commendable was the excellent student work on display. This is very good practice and enhances the learning environment
The German department holds membership of the German teachersí association, Gesellschaft der Deutschlehrer Irlands (GDI). In addition members of the German department are actively involved in a local branch of this association and attend meetings regularly. It is commendable that the teachers of German have very regular contact with the countries of the target language.† The teachers are very committed to continuous professional development and have up-skilled in ICT and areas related to educational management. This is most laudable.
School trips to the countries of the target language have been organised to support the teaching and learning of German. Students are entered for competitions and trips to films in German have been organised. The German department is to be commended for organising co-curricular activities.
The school is engaged in development planning.† Formal meetings of the German department are held between three and four times a year and usually as part of full staff meetings. Very good minutes of planning meetings are kept. These form a clear record of decisions taken. This is most commendable.
Long-term planning documentation was presented in the course of the evaluation. This included information on curricular content in all years. A theme-based approach to planning was evident and this is good practice. To build on the work already done it is recommended that the plans be developed to include details of intended student learning outcomes.† It is recommended that the student learning outcomes be specified in terms of the skills of language acquisition i.e. what is expected of the learner in terms of aural and reading comprehension and in terms of written and oral production.
Planning for German in TY revolves around the teaching of themes through film. This is most laudable. To build on this good practice it is recommended that more formal cross-curricular links be established with other subjects in line with the ethos of the TY programme. It is recommended that links to the overall TY calendar of events be created in the planning for German in TY. For example a module on the world of work could be done around the time TY students are preparing for and or returning from work experience. Creating links with the lives of the learners in a realistic fashion helps motivate students and reinforces learning.
It is evident that ICT is used to plan for the delivery of German and is used frequently in the classroom by teachers. However students of German have not yet had German lessons in the computer rooms in the school. It is recommended strongly that planning documentation include plans for student access to these ICT facilities in the school. ICT is a proven way to motivate language learners and it aids learner autonomy.
All German class groups are mixed ability. It is recommended that strategies for differentiation to meet the individual needs of learners be included in the long term plan for German.
Individual lessons were well planned. Handouts, overheads and PowerPoint presentations were prepared for all lessons. These were well made out and showed evidence of good advance planning. This is most laudable. Lesson content was generally good and always theme based. This is very good practice. Themes such as hobbies, school and immigration were discussed in different lessons.
A variety of methodologies were used in the lessons observed. Pair work and reading tasks were used to good effect. It is recommended that in all lessons more time be devoted to consolidation of learning. This can be done by giving students plenty of opportunities to repeat new vocabulary or expressions.
Teacher use of the target language was excellent in the majority of lessons. In interaction with students the inspector noted a good level of aural comprehension among some students. It is recommended that students be given increased opportunities to use the target language themselves. It is recommended that all lessons begin with short general conversations which might include the school day, the weather and current events in school life or in the town. One of the key advantages of this practice is that students gain confidence in speaking in the target language.
In lessons observed student mispronunciation of German words was dealt with in different ways. In some lessons it was ignored and not referred to, while in other lessons the students were corrected immediately. It is recommended that in line with best practice dedicated pronunciation exercises which focus on key sounds in German should be done in the global class setting and that all students be given plenty of opportunity to repeat these sounds. Given the high standard of linguistic competence of the teachers, accurate pronunciation among students is achievable with the aforementioned activities.
Teacher movement around the classroom was excellent in the course of some lessons. Students were thus afforded the opportunity to ask for and receive individual help. This level of differentiation and attending to the individual needs of the students is highly commendable. It is recommended that further strategies that will help address individual learnersí needs be developed.
The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was good. Mutual respect between students and teacher was evident. Students were called on by name and were affirmed in their efforts in the classroom.† The nature of student-teacher interactions was positive. Classroom management was excellent and students remained on task.
Formal and informal assessment takes place regularly in the school. Members of the German department keep very good records of assessment. All skills of language acquisition are tested formally in senior cycle. In junior cycle reading, writing and listening skills are tested. It is recommended that formal oral assessment of studentsí progress take place. In TY students are assessed by means of project work. This is good practice and in keeping with the spirit of the TY programme. Reports containing the formal assessment grades, marks for studentsí efforts and teachersí comments are given to parents twice a year.
A sample of studentsí journals was examined on the day of the inspection. The majority of students are recording homework in German on a regular basis. Homework was assigned in all lessons observed. In one case the homework assigned was too difficult for the class group in question. It is recommended that care be taken when assigning homework that the level of the students be taken into account. Assigning homework which is at too high a level has a negative impact on studentsí self esteem and is demotivating.
A sample of studentsí copybooks was also viewed. There was evidence of homework being monitored and corrected regularly. It is recommended that all class groups be given short paragraphs to write in German.† The correct version of words should not always be written into studentsí work. Students should be required to come with some of the corrections themselves and they should follow up on errors made. It is recommended that the German department become familiar with the principles of assessment for learning (AfL). Further information about AfL can be found on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie
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 German and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, November 2009