An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
Dromcollogher, County Limerick
Roll number: 71850B
Date of inspection: 26-27 September 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies
SUBJECT INSPECTION REPORT
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Hazelwood College, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and subject teachers.
Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are offered as Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate optional subjects respectively in this co-educational vocational school. Senior-cycle students study CS as part of the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC) or as one of a combination of optional subjects for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students study Graphics & Construction Studies (G&CS) as a vocational specialism. The school has a Transition Year (TY) programme but a module related to MTW/CS is not currently included and it is recommended therefore, that such a module be designed and introduced to the programme in future years.
Students entering first year in Hazelwood College are given an open choice of available optional subjects and option bands based on students' choices are then developed. This practice is commended. Students entering senior cycle in the school select their optional subjects from fixed bands but concerted efforts are made to ensure that all students' choices are facilitated. This is achieved by including additional subjects in the fixed bands in a particular year in order to ensure that all possible students' choice combinations are accommodated.
Students and parents are informed in relation to optional subject choice at the important transition points and the school's senior management team and guidance counsellor are centrally involved in this process and this is commended.
While it is recognised that the school provides the opportunity for girls to study MTW and CS it is noteworthy that the level of take-up of CS by girls in senior cycle does not match the level of MTW take-up in junior cycle. It is recommended therefore, that the school examine ways to encourage and enable more girls, especially those who have studied MTW in junior cycle, to take CS in senior cycle.
All junior-cycle MTW classes receive an appropriate time allocation. CS in senior cycle receives a generous allocation, as does G&CS in LCA. These allocations include double and single class periods that allow adequate time for practical work, project work and theory to be accommodated and are commended.
Both MTW/CS rooms, the second of which was originally a Technical Graphics/Drawing (TG/TD) room, are well appointed, equipped, maintained, decorated with charts related to wood and construction technology and examples of students work, and are suitable for the delivery of the MTW and CS programmes.
MTW/CS teachers and students have access when required to the school's computer suites, where computers are equipped with appropriate drawing software and shared folders of subject-specific resources. This level of provision and access is highly commended.
The school is engaged in ongoing development planning, a formal subject department structure is in place, and the MTW/CS teachers form a discrete subject department within the school's overall planning structure. This system is operating very effectively and is commended.
A collaborative approach to planning is adopted by the MTW/CS teachers. A high level of cooperation and peer-group support was evident during the inspection. Teachers meet formally on a regular basis during the year, discuss subject-related issues, keep formal records, and discuss issues with the principal when appropriate. Additional informal meetings of the MTW/CS teachers occur on a daily basis. These arrangements work very effectively in the school.
Comprehensive MTW/CS subject planning documentation has been developed. Documentation includes programmes of work in line with curricular requirements for each year group in each subject area, all of which are being implemented. This is highly commended.
There have not been any opportunities for in-career development in the subjects in recent years and it is recommended therefore, that teachers engage in the professional development opportunities to be provided during the current school year by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4).
MTW and CS students sit examinations at the level appropriate to their abilities. MTW/CS teachers liaise with the school's learning-support team when planning for students with special educational needs in their classes and this is commended. Excellent IT resources that address the differentiated needs of students and emphasise the salient communication skills associated with the subjects have been developed by the MTW/CS teachers and these resources are available to all students on the school's networked computer system. MTW/CS teachers work in developing and disseminating these excellent resources is highly commended.
The budget provision for the subjects falls within the overall annual allocation for the school provided by the Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and is designed to cover the cost of materials and items of equipment identified by the MTW/CS teachers. Requests for additional resources, if required, can be made through the principal. This arrangement works very well in the school.
Health and safety issues are addressed at appropriate times during all lessons and there is an ongoing emphasis on safe practices in the MTW/CS rooms. Procedures for dealing with accidents in the specialist rooms are in place. It is recommended however, that each MTW/CS room should have a well-stocked first aid kit that is prominently positioned and easily accessible. Wall charts and safety signage related to machine safety are prominently displayed in the main MTW/CS room and this is commended but it is recommended that supplementary wall charts relating to the appropriate and safe use of hand tools should also be displayed in both MTW/CS rooms.
An agreed code of behaviour for MTW/CS students is displayed in both specialist classrooms and an appropriately ordered learning environment was created and maintained during all lessons evaluated. This is commended. All learning activities were very well managed and students were motivated and challenged by them. All lessons were coherent, had clear aims and objectives, were well structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses, and were appropriately paced in terms of the class groups observed. Lessons were suitable for the time of year and took account of the differentiated needs of students. This is commended as good practice.
Teachers employed appropriate methodologies in terms of students’ abilities, needs and interests and a range of effective strategies was used. During practical lessons in MTW and CS for example, teacher demonstrations of a high standard were observed. Formal demonstrations to whole class groups and individual students together with impromptu demonstrations to highlight salient points were used. Junior Certificate MTW students were being excellently guided through the design process prior to the arrival of the project brief from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and a variety of Leaving Certificate CS project work was being undertaken for State examination purposes. Teachers are to be highly commended for their organisation, management and safe conduct of all practical activities and project work. Efforts should continually be made however, to further enhance standards of students’ design and practical skills.
Global and directed questions, including higher order questions, were used effectively to revise material covered in previous lessons, to introduce new topics, to direct student attention and to summarise at the end of lessons. This approach to questioning is commended.
Chalkboard and multi-media projector presentations were used very effectively during lessons to focus student attention, to support their learning, and to summarise at the end of lessons. This practice is highly commended.
The wood and construction technology principles demonstrated during practical and theory lessons were presented incrementally and teachers scaffolded student development in the topics covered during lessons. This practice is commended.
The technological terminology associated with MTW and CS was used continually by teachers during lessons and students communicated effectively using this terminology. Familiarity with and appropriate use of this terminology is an important part of the technological process and the approach adopted by the teachers is commended.
Classroom routines were evidenced during all lessons observed. These are particularly important in specialist rooms and when practical lessons are being undertaken as they ensure the learning environment is well organised, managed and safe during activities. These practices are highly commended.
Textbooks are used for MTW and CS theory lessons but were not heavily relied upon during lessons observed. A wide variety of resources has been identified and/or developed by the teachers and is used effectively to complement texts, for reference purposes, to supplement lesson content, and for homework. This approach is commended.
Teachers moved easily around the classrooms and engaged with individual students, assessing their progress in the completion of classroom tasks. This is commended as very good practice.
The quality of students’ understanding was reflected in their ability to ask and answer questions and in the competencies exhibited in their individual and group work during practical and theory lessons and was commendable. Their written and drawn classwork and homework was of a standard consistent with the range of abilities and was commendable. The content of junior- and senior-cycle student notebooks and portfolios in MTW and CS was appropriate and freehand and ruled drawings were of a standard that displayed a mastery of the knowledge and competencies associated with a wide variety of syllabus topics and was commendable. Efforts should continually be made however, to enhance standards of freehand and ruled drawings and information-rich concise note-making in notebooks or at the drawing board in order to emphasise the importance of these forms of technological communication.
Ample opportunities for students to engage in independent and collaborative learning were built into all lessons evaluated and this practice is commended.
An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident in all classrooms visited. This promoted an atmosphere where students contributions to and participation in lessons were being encouraged and welcomed by teachers. Students readily engaged with all classroom activities and their purposeful work and contributions were appropriately affirmed by all teachers. This ensured that students derived maximum benefit from all proceedings. As a result, students in all classes evaluated were enthusiastic, motivated, displayed their understanding of the concepts associated with lessons and worked to the best of their abilities in an atmosphere that was conducive to learning.
All classes sit formal house examinations at Christmas and again prior to the summer holiday and different year groups are assessed at different times throughout the year. Concurrent testing for all year groups in the subjects is used where practicable and this is commended. Junior and Leaving Certificate students sit a mock examination during the second term. These examinations are employed to monitor student attainment in MTW and CS and to inform teacher planning.
A range of other assessment modes related to subject-specific objectives is also employed. Practical, project, written and drawn classwork is routinely assessed, commented on, graded and recorded. Homework is also routinely assigned in MTW and CS and progress is checked during lessons. These practices are commended. It is recommended however, that a proportion of the marks awarded for Christmas and end of year examinations should be allocated for the quality of students' notebooks and drawing portfolios. This will serve to further highlight the importance of communication skills in the subjects.
The quality of record keeping of student attendance is of a high standard and the results of student assessments are recorded systematically. The results of students’ achievements are communicated to parents by means of twice-yearly school reports. Parent-teacher meetings for each year group are organised each year and this allows parents to meet subject teachers and discuss students' progress. Further contact with parents may be organised within school systems, for example using the students' journal.
An analysis of the schools Junior and Leaving Certificate examination results is undertaken each year by subject teachers and this analysis informs subject planning for the following year. This practice 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 teachers of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and with the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.