An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Home Economics
Carrickmacross, County Monaghan
Roll number: 72180K
Date of inspection: 26 November 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Inver College, conducted as part of a whole-school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject 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 the subject teachers.
Inver College provides a very broad range of programmes to meet the educational needs of its students. In addition to the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate, the school provides the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Transition Year programme (TY), the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). There are currently 527 students in the school: 321 males and 206 females.
Provision for Home Economics on the curriculum of Inver College is very good. Home Economics is one of a wide range of optional subjects offered to students taking the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate. Uptake of the subject in junior cycle is very healthy and the proportion of male to female students is very good in each of the three years of this cycle. However, the number of students who are currently taking Home Economics for the Leaving Certificate in Inver College is relatively low. It is recommended that the home economics department in conjunction with management should explore strategies to promote the subject for students taking the Leaving Certificate. A home economics module, for half the year, is taken by all students following the optional TY programme. All those following the LCA take Hotel, Catering and Tourism as one of the modules for that programme.
The time allocation for all home economics classes is adequate. Timetabled class periods are well spread throughout the week. Where two double periods are allocated to classes in junior cycle and senior cycle, consideration should be given to splitting one of the double periods into two single periods on different days. This would create an additional opportunity for students each week for class contact time with the subject.
While students achieve very good outcomes in Home Economics in the certification examinations at both higher level and ordinary level, participation rates at higher level are relatively low. It is recommended that the subject department in collaboration with management should explore how participation rates at higher level could be improved, thus raising studentsí expectations. This issue might be addressed at whole school level as part of school development planning. Opportunities to involve parents in this process should be considered.
There are two qualified and experienced teachers of Home Economics in Inver College. They are committed and enthusiastic in their approach to the delivery of the subject. In the current school year, one of the teachers is teaching almost all junior-cycle classes, while the other teacher has been allocated the majority of the senior-cycle classes. Consideration should be given in future timetabling to spreading the allocation of junior-cycle and senior-cycle classes more evenly between the two teachers.
The home economics facilities comprise a kitchen and a sewing room. Due to a scarcity of general-purpose classrooms the sewing room is used for lessons in other subject areas for almost half of the available time each week. This restricts access for some home economics classes and as a result some lessons in the practical coursework areas of textiles and design and craftwork take place in the kitchen. This is not satisfactory from a health and safety perspective for a number of reasons. These reasons include the potential dangers of pins, needles and threads in areas of food preparation, the challenges involved in lifting the sewing machines onto high worktops and the unsuitability of the height of these worktops for using the sewing machines. The limited access to the sewing room also means that all the necessary equipment has to be carried to and from the kitchen each time it is needed, and equipment such as the sewing machines cannot be left set up in the sewing room. Whilst acknowledging the challenges that the school faces with regard to space, it is recommended that school management should seriously consider how access to the sewing room could be prioritised for home economics classes.
The school is updating its information and communications technology (ICT) equipment on a phased basis. As part of this project it is good that a data projector has been installed in the sewing room. As resources become available management should consider the provision of a data projector in the kitchen.
There is evidence of a well-organised and reflective approach to planning and preparation for Home Economics in this school. It is a good practice that the position of subject co-ordinator is rotated annually amongst the two teachers. To date a good deal of progress has been made in subject planning. During this evaluation a subject planning folder was presented. This folder contained clear details on the organisational aspects of the subject. It also contained programmes of work for Home Economics throughout the school. Good use has been made of ICT in the development of the subject plan and the programmes of work. This approach makes it easier to amend and update these documents as necessary.
The programme of work for each year group includes a list of topics based on the syllabuses. In the case of each topic the content is outlined as well as the suggested number of class periods allocated for each section. There are also references to the relevant pages of the syllabuses and to the textbooks. Commendably the content of the programme of work for Hotel, Catering and Tourism in the LCA is presented in the form of learning outcomes.
In order to further enhance the good work that has begun in planning, it is recommended that the programmes of work would benefit from further development so that the focus is on learning as much as on teaching. In order to achieve this, the lists of topics and content should be expressed as learning outcomes in terms of what students should know or be able to do at the end of a topic or practical activity. The programmes should reflect the integration of relevant syllabus areas and the integration of theory with the relevant practical coursework. The inclusion of resources and methodologies, which would help students achieve the planned learning outcomes, should be considered. The programmes should also indicate how studentsí progress will be assessed. This process could be carried out on a phased basis.
The programmes of work, even in the developmental phase, should be used as everyday working documents. This would facilitate the ongoing development and review of the programmes of work and it would ensure that the written planning documents are in line with some of the very good practices that are already operating in the home economics department.
It is noted that as part of the subject planning process, teachers have already identified what is working well in the home economics department and what needs further attention. The work that has begun in this area has the potential to inform long-term planning and the development of the subject. The publication Looking at Home Economics, copies of which were provided during the evaluation, could also provide a framework to further develop the planning process for Home Economics in Inver College.
The good practice of planning for and training students in the procedures of the design brief process, in both food and culinary skills and design and craftwork, from an early stage in junior cycle is commended.
The home economics teachers have developed a range of resources to support teaching and learning. Good use has been made of ICT in this process.
Teachers had planned and prepared thoroughly for all of the lessons observed. This resulted in some very high quality teaching and learning. Lessons had a clear aim and there was evidence of good continuity with previous lessons by linking with, and building on, studentsí prior knowledge and experience. Lessons were well structured and generally well paced. At the beginning of all lessons teachers shared the planned learning outcomes with the students. These were generally expressed in terms of what students should know and be able to do, including the new skills to be learned. This is very good practice as it provides students with a framework in which they can check their own learning.
Instruction was clear and teachers worked very hard to ensure that students understood the key concepts and processes of the lessons. The very good focus on the correct use of, and studentsí understanding of, key terminology was noted in all lessons. Textbooks and the whiteboard were used effectively. A variety of methodologies and resources was used to support teaching and learning. The methodologies were most effective when students were actively engaged in the learning process. In some instances students were passive for much of the lesson while the teacher worked very hard. There is scope to further develop the use of active methodologies. In doing so consideration should be given to the rationale for choosing a particular methodology and how the methodology could be used most effectively to stimulate and engage all students in the lesson.
In keeping with the objectives of the syllabuses, the core principles of integration and application of knowledge permeated the teaching and learning processes in all lessons.
In the practical lessons observed there was very good emphasis on the development of skills and on building on the skills that students had already acquired. Students were well trained in the correct procedures for the operation of a practical lesson. Appropriate emphasis was placed on ensuring high standards in health and safety. The development of skills was facilitated by a staged approach where clear instructions and the explanation and demonstration of key processes occurred at appropriate stages in the lessons. The practical processes were also explained in the context of the relevant theory thus helping students to relate and apply the theory to the practical work.
Students were purposeful throughout the practical activities and some of them demonstrated a high level of proficiency in culinary skills. In a practical lesson involving students from the JCSP, there was a very good focus on the process as well as on the product. The students had completed the relevant stages of the design brief in advance and this was used as the lesson progressed. These students worked individually and while the teacher supported and guided them throughout, opportunities were well used to foster creativity and individual responsibility. An in-class competition for the best-decorated cake resulted in students rising successfully to the challenge. In another practical lesson senior-cycle students were completing the practical aspects of one of the food studies practical coursework assignments for the Leaving Certificate. In line with good practice, the students had completed the relevant written work in the coursework journal in advance. During the lesson, the teacher reminded students of the necessary assessment criteria for the completion of the written work.
Observation of a selection of practical work in design and craftwork indicated that students have attained a good level of competence and skill in these areas.
In all cases, classroom management was excellent. Teaching and learning took place in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere and students were affirmed for their efforts. There was a very good rapport and a high level of mutual respect between students and their teachers. There is scope to build on the good working relations and the positive approach adopted by the teachers in order to further raise the expectations for the students in terms of their learning. Consideration should also be given to how the home economics lessons could be used to help some students develop more confidence in their own abilities.
A range of assessment modes, that includes the assessment of some practical work, is used to appraise student achievement and progress in Home Economics. The practice of assessing the different components of the subject should be extended and used more regularly throughout the year. An assessment mark that includes all components of the syllabus is a more accurate indicator of a studentís achievement in the subject.
During the practical lessons observed, studentsí work was assessed through the provision of oral feedback on the development of their skills. Students responded positively to this approach. Activities such as this provide good opportunities to help students realise the progress that they are making. The subject department should consider how such activities could help students track their achievements, initially over short periods of time, thus focusing on the development of confidence as suggested in the previous section of this report.
Questioning was used effectively throughout lessons to check on understanding, learning and studentsí previous knowledge. The use of a range of higher-order questions provided them with opportunities to think, to form opinions and to apply their knowledge. There is scope to further develop this practice.
Studentsí folders contained lots of notes and handouts and most of these were well organised. The good practice of assigning questions from past examination papers for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students is well established. Students are also given relevant sections of marking schemes from past certificate examination papers. These practices help them prepare for the examination by developing proficiency in the interpretation and answering of various styles of examination questions.
Good attention is given to the setting and monitoring of homework. There were some examples of the careful monitoring of homework and of providing students with feedback in relation to their progress. Teachers record the results of studentsí assessments and progress in homework systematically. It is recommended that teachers should explore and consider how the principles of assessment for learning could complement the assessment of studentsí work. Further information on assessment for learning is available on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (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:
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the teachers of Home Economics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2010