An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
St Finianís Community College
Swords, County Dublin
Roll number: 70120F
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Finianís Community College, Swords, County Dublin, carried out as part of a whole-school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 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 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.
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Technical Graphics (TG) are offered as part of the Junior and Leaving Certificate programmes. At present there are no students studying DCG in sixth year and there will be no fifth-year class next year as not enough students have chosen the subject. Although the numbers of students studying the subject have dropped in recent years the numbers have started to increase again in junior cycle and there is a good uptake in fifth year currently. The significant investment in TG and DCG made by the Department of Education and Science and school management and the development of the room by the main subject teacher should help to raise the profile of the subject in the school.
All year groups receive an appropriate time allocation for TG and DCG. The subject periods are evenly spread throughout the week with an appropriate allocation of double-class periods.
Students are given an open choice of optional subjects for the Leaving Certificate. Subject bands are subsequently developed based on studentsí preferences. This is to be commended as best practice. For junior cycle, students choose optional subjects from pre-defined subject blocks upon admission to the school. However, all first-year students do not have the same subject choices. It is recommended that the approach to the selection of optional subjects for senior cycle should be introduced for junior cycle and that all students should have the same opportunities for access to junior cycle subjects.†
A designated TG and DCG room is used to deliver the subjects. School management is to be highly commended for the significant investment that has been made in the subject to supplement the grants for DCG received from the Department of Education and Science. The room is very well equipped to deliver the new DCG syllabus. The main TG and DCG teacher has developed excellent resources that are on display in the room to assist in the teaching of the subject.††
School management has facilitated the subject teachers in attending the in-service organised by the Department of Education and Science through the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) for the implementation of the new syllabus in DCG. The school management has also provided in-school continuing professional development (CPD) during staff days to assist teachers in teaching and learning.
The TG and DCG teachers work collaboratively and have met to discuss and plan their work. The subject teachers have developed a comprehensive subject plan. It clearly sets out the policies and practices of the subject department in relation to the organisation, provision, planning, teaching and learning and assessment of TG and DCG in the school. It is suggested that the section on student access to the subject at senior cycle should be reviewed to ensure that all students have access to the subject whether they have studied TG at junior cycle or not.
The TG and DCG teachers have developed long-term schemes of work that detail the topics that students in each year group cover. It is recommended that the subject teachers should develop medium-term schemes of work that detail the learning outcomes to be achieved by students in each unit of study. It is further recommended that the schemes of work should include sections for self-reflection and appraisal. The schemes of work should also be used for the evaluation of studentsí attainment of learning outcomes. This would help to identify class strengths and areas for development. The monitoring of class work, homework and studentsí portfolios should be further utilised for this purpose.
The level of short-term planning and preparation for most lessons observed was very good. Best practice was observed where teachers had prepared some or all of the following resources: models, demonstrations using information and communication technologies (ICT) and pre-prepared teacher solutions to drawing problems.
All lessons observed had a clear learning intention. This was usually, but not always, shared with the students at the beginning of the lessons. Most lessons observed had a clearly defined structure and students achieved the desired learning intentions. The subject matter and the pace of the lessons visited, in most instances, were appropriate to the particular group, and to the time of year. In one lesson where the majority of students were following the ordinary-level course all students were completing higher-level questions. It is recommended that when students are revising and preparing for the Certificate examinations they should work on problems appropriate to the level at which they are studying, particularly at this time of year.
A range of teaching methodologies was employed in the lessons observed. In most classes teachers used active learning methodologies to engage students in the subject matter and the underlying principle was explored with students before students were asked how to complete each step in the solving of problems. This approach is effective practice. It is recommended that all teachers should focus on the underlying principles of each problem before progressing to the mechanics of solving problems. This helps to develop their understanding of the subject matter as well as provide opportunities for the teacher to assess studentsí understanding. The use of teaching aids that included models (3-dimensional solid models and computer-generated models), teacher-technical drawings and board drawings to support studentsí understanding is highly commended. In most lessons observed, the TG and DCG modelled best practice by gathering students around a drawing or by producing pre-prepared teacher drawings. In some instances the teacher modelled best practice on the drawing board. In all lessons observed very good use was made of ICT and solid models to help student visualisation and understanding of the subject matter.
In all lessons visited the teachers offered individual support and direction where appropriate while students were completing assigned tasks. Classroom management was effective and was conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment.
Classroom discipline was supported by constant teacher movement around the classroom to ensure students were on task and engaged in lesson activities. There was an excellent rapport between teachers and students in all lessons observed. Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful. In all instances studentsí responses were affirmed. The TG and DCG room is a stimulating environment for learning and teaching with numerous wallcharts and some studentsí work on display.
The majority of students were able to complete the TG and DCG problems given to them in the lessons observed. In one lesson a large number of students made the same mistake in the completion of a drawing as they did not understand the underlying principle of the drawing. In such instances it is recommended that the class teacher should gain the attention of all students and explore with them the reasons for making the mistake.
The quality of studentsí portfolio work varied from student to student and year group to year group. In most instances appropriate levels of subject areas were covered and the quality of studentsí drawings was of a standard appropriate to the subject, year group and level of study.
The TG and DCG teachers employ a range of assessment techniques to assess studentsí competence and progress. These techniques include questioning in class, monitoring and checking of studentsí homework and, in some instances, portfolios and regular tests throughout the year. Written reports are sent to parents on a regular basis. There are additional systems in place to support communication between the school and parents and these include use of studentsí journals, parent-teacher meetings, and individual meetings with parents when required.
Feedback on studentsí work is given in oral form and there was some evidence of constructive feedback on drawings in portfolios for some class groups. Homework is given on an irregular basis for all year groups as students do not have drawing boards at home. The subject teachers and school management are in the process of supplying students with drawing boards for home use. It is recommended that every effort be made to ensure that homework in the form of full technical drawing problems is given on a regular basis to all year groups and in particular to examination classes. It is also recommended that all studentsí portfolios should be checked and formative feedback written on student drawings on a regular basis.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ There is an open choice of subjects for Leaving Certificate.
∑ The subject teachers are continually developing their professional expertise through attendance at in-service organised by the Technical Subjects Support Service (T4).
∑ The school has made a significant investment in the facilities and equipment for DCG.
∑ Teachers have developed a comprehensive subject plan and long-term schemes of work for each year group.
∑ There was excellent rapport among students and teachers in all lessons observed.
∑ A range of assessment modes is used to assess studentsí competence and progress.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ There should be an open choice of optional subjects for all students in junior cycle.
∑ The subject teachers should develop medium-term schemes of work that detail the learning outcomes to be achieved by students in each unit of study
∑ All studentsí portfolios should be checked on a regular basis and all students should be required to complete all drawings.
∑ All teachers should ensure that all tasks set for students are appropriate to the level being studied
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of TG and DCG and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.†
Published January 2009