An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
St Patrickís Community College
Naas, County Kildare
Roll number: 70710D
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN METALWORK AND ENGINEERING
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Patrickís Community College, Naas. 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.† 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.
St Patrickís Community College offers Metalwork to students in both the Junior Certificate and Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and offers Engineering to senior cycle students in the optional Transition Year, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the established Leaving Certificate programmes. The provision of technology subjects in the schoolís various curricular programmes is commended.
The time allocated to Metalwork and Engineering in all programmes is appropriate and is distributed in double periods at junior cycle and in a combination of both double and single periods at senior cycle. These class periods are dispersed evenly throughout the week which is good practice. At junior cycle, there are two class groups in each year, a Junior Certificate group and a JCSP group. It was reported that the majority of JCSP students who continue to senior cycle choose the LCA programme while students in the Junior Certificate programme generally enrol in the established Leaving Certificate programme.
School management has been very supportive in providing information and communication technology (ICT) resources for the subject departmentís use. This is commended.
Prior to entry, first-year students attend an open night and an options information night with their parents. At the information night, subject options are discussed with the guidance counsellor and a formal consultation process begins. This consultation process continues and provisional optional subject bands are circulated among parents. Upon enrolment these bands are formalised and students make their final decisions. This method helps to ensure that optional subject bands are generated to suit each particular cohort of students. To further enhance this system, school management should consider all possible methods of providing students with information to assist them in making the best optional subject choices to suit their skills and needs. One possible method could be the introduction of a short subject sampling period for first-year students.
There are very good procedures in place in the school to identify students with special educational needs (SEN). A comprehensive list of SEN and English as an Additional Language (EAL) students is circulated among all teachers. This list and the accompanying supporting documentation is a valuable resource for subject department planning and for teachersí individual lesson planning.
The uptake of Metalwork and Engineering among both boys and girls is very good. The school and the subject department are to be commended for this achievement. School management in conjunction with the subject department should explore further strategies to continue this success, especially among girls at senior cycle.
There are two Metalwork and Engineering rooms in the school. These rooms are very well equipped but do require additional standard safety signage to complement the student-made signs at various machines. Both rooms have been recently upgraded to ensure that all equipment and machines in use in the room are in accordance with those outlined on the current equipment list as specified on the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. As the school is due to move to a new location later this year, the new machinery purchased should be installed in the Metalwork and Engineering rooms in the schoolís new location.
Members of the subject department have attended a number of continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This engagement in CPD is commended.
Regular planning meetings are facilitated by school management. The subject coordinator, a position that rotates between both members of the subject department, convenes these meetings and records the proceedings. It is suggested that the records of these meetings be appended to the overall subject department plan.
The subject department has developed curricular plans for each year group. These plans are content based. The subject department should further develop these plans in order to identify the required practical skills and theoretical learning outcomes for each year group. These plans should identify suitable resources and methodologies for each area of the syllabus and the appropriate project work to help students gain the key practical skills required. These curricular plans should form part of a subject department plan. Within this document, the subject department should consolidate all of its planning and outline its policies and practices in a coherent and useful manner. To assist in the initial formation of such a plan the subject department should use the subject department planning template available on the School Development Planning Initiativeís (SDPI) website www.sdpi.ie.
In order for students to benefit fully from the systems in place to identify SEN and EAL students, the subject department should review its planning for students with additional educational needs. To carry out this task effectively the subject department should liaise closely with the schoolís educational support teams and identify suitable strategies to further include SEN and EAL students in lessons.
As the college is due to relocate to a new site in the new academic year, considerable planning is required for the relocation and layout of equipment and machinery from the existing rooms to the rooms in the new building. To ensure that this occurs in an orderly manner with minimum disruption to studentsí tuition, the subject department should be proactive in the development of an action plan to assist with this transition.
The planning and preparation for each lesson observed was very good. A wide variety of process sheets, worksheets, ICT resources, material blanks and design workbooks were prepared in advance and these resources were introduced to lessons to enhance studentsí learning at appropriate times during lessons. This level of quality planning is commended.
All lessons observed were introduced by recapping on previous lessons through revision type questions. This had the effect of helping students to put the lesson into context and also consolidating previous learning. This was most effective when the assessment criteria for studentsí work were explained and students were made fully aware of the teachersí expectations. It is suggested, however, that teachers should carefully consider the correct sequencing for the introduction of material to ensure that students have the fundamental knowledge required to progress onto more difficult topics.
All lessons observed were suitably structured to allow for the topic to be introduced and developed prior to students applying their practical skills or their design capabilities. It is recommended, once students have been suitably instructed by the teacher in the appropriate use of machinery and due care is taken to ensure that a safe learning environment exists, that excessive teacher instruction and supervision should be avoided in order to promote studentsí opportunities to learn in an active and experiential environment.
Appropriate and good quality resources were incorporated into the lessons observed. These resources were used to highlight particular aspects of the lesson and to reinforce important points. One such example was the use of a web-based resource that made it possible to demonstrate oxy-acetylene welding techniques in a theoretical lesson.
Questioning was used to ascertain student understanding throughout the lessons observed. This questioning, used in both practical and theoretical lessons, was varied to include students of all abilities. The use of worksheets in a practical lesson observed provided a good opportunity for relevant theoretical content to be introduced and integrated into the lesson. This strategy is commended.
Both classrooms used to deliver Metalwork and Engineering lessons are not conducive to theoretical lessons, however, through good classroom management and the use of suitable teaching strategies, teachersí dealt with this challenge admirably.
Students were given very clear instructions throughout the lessons observed. These instructions were sometimes aided through the use of various accompanying documents and worksheets. One such document was a design booklet used to scaffold studentsí design ideas into a usable outcome. This strategy was most useful and is commended.
In practical lessons, students were regularly divided into groups to facilitate demonstrations. These group demonstrations were well planned and gave students a good opportunity to ask questions and to view the process being demonstrated. Individual demonstrations were used on occasion to reinforce studentsí shaping techniques and all students received very good individual attention throughout the lessons observed.
ICT was integrated into lessons appropriately and students were facilitated with opportunities to research design ideas independently. The subject departmentís ICT and parametric modelling skills, currently being developed through the CPD courses, will provide the opportunity to incorporate additional ICT resources in a meaningful way into practical lessons through assemblies, exploded views, animations and photo-realistic images of studentsí projects.
Lessons were well managed and transitions between group, individual and practical work were seamless. Generally students were very well-behaved in the lessons observed. Where ill-discipline was encountered it was dealt with decisively. In order to avoid confrontations with disruptive students, engagement in practical tasks should be maximised and affirmed in order to promote a positive association with the subject among these students.
A positive atmosphere was evident in lessons observed and this was achieved through the genuine rapport that has developed between students and teachers. This rapport is supported by the positive relationships and personable interactions that were apparent in all lessons. Student project work was also displayed and progress charts helped students to plot their development from simple introductory projects to more complex items.
Students were motivated in all lessons observed and their questions and answers demonstrated good understanding of the various topics. Studentsí practical skills were good and appropriate to their level of ability. At junior cycle, student attainment in the state examinations is appropriate within the schoolís context. At senior cycle, an overwhelming majority of students take the higher-level course for their Leaving Certificate examination and a large number achieve well in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.†
Students are formally assessed in end-of-term examinations at Christmas and summer. Studentsí end-of-term examinations consist of a combination of their cumulative results of practical exercises and their terminal theoretical assessment scores. This is a positive method of assessment as it provides students with the opportunity to accumulate credit for their coursework prior to the end-of-term written assessment. This method also reflects the assessment objectives of the syllabuses.
Homework was assigned to all students and the student journal was utilised to record assigned homework and to communicate with parents. Teachersí records of student achievement, attendance and homework were made available during the inspection and these records enable them to report accurate information relating to individual studentsí progress, behaviour and attendance to parents at the various parent-teacher meetings that occur periodically.
Studentsí copies received very good levels of written formative and constructive feedback. A positive system where studentsí work is profiled and monitored using large progress charts is being developed with some class groups and was proving to be popular and successful. The subject departmentís openness to this system is commended. Good formative feedback was also given to students during lessons thereby helping them to identify their strengths and areas for development.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ All students in St Patrickís Community College are given the opportunity to choose Metalwork and Engineering.
∑ The subject department has received very good ICT resources and incorporated these resources into lesson appropriately.
∑ There are good structures in place to identify students with additional educational needs.
∑ Regular planning meetings are facilitated by school management.
∑ All lessons were well organised and suitably prepared for in advance.
∑ Questioning was used to good effect to monitor and assess student understanding during lessons.
∑ A wide variety of strategies was utilised and lessons were well managed to promote maximum student engagement especially in theoretical lessons.
∑ Student work is profiled and monitored using large progress charts that provide students with affirmation and recognition for their achievements.
∑ The majority of students follow the higher-level course in the Leaving Certificate programme.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ School management should consider all possible methods of offering optional subjects to first-year students to ensure that they make fully informed subject choices.
∑ The new machinery purchased for the upgrading of the Metalwork and Engineering rooms should be installed in the new school building prior to the purchase of any additional equipment.
∑ Curricular planning should identify the practical skills required and the desired theoretical learning outcomes for students over specified timeframes.
∑ The subject department should consolidate its planning into one coherent subject department plan.
∑ The subject department should further develop its planning for students with additional educational needs by clearly listing the strategies employed to further include
students with specific learning difficulties.
∑ Long-term targets for the subject department should be determined and action plans should be devised to achieve these goals. One such target could be the relocation of
the recently purchased equipment and machinery to the new school site.
∑ The subject department must promote active and experiential learning in practical lessons.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers 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 December 2009