An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and
Design and Communication Graphics
Tullow Community School,
Tullow, County Carlow
Roll number: 91356F
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 Tullow Community School, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics 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 the teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers.
Tullow Community School offers graphics to its students as part of the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programmes. Technical Graphics (TG), Graphics and Construction and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) receive appropriate time allocations including a combination of double and single periods in line with best practice.
Currently no graphics module is offered to students who choose Transition Year (TY). It is recommended that the subject department develop a module containing a significant graphical element. This module could also contain elements from the other technology subjects offered at senior cycle in the school.
Students make their optional subject choices from pre-defined optional subject blocks prior to entering first and fifth year. Students and their parents are assisted in making informed decisions in a number of ways; for example, the school holds an information evening for incoming first-year students and also provides an information leaflet on optional subjects. In addition to this, students entering fifth year are given assistance from the guidance counsellor and from subject teachers in relation to the subjects that they are choosing and the implications of such choices. To further improve the optional subject choice procedures in the school, school management should consider all possible options including the introduction of a short subject sampling programme for first-year students and reconfiguring optional subject bands annually based on students’ preferences.
Student uptake of TG and DCG is appropriate with a number of girls choosing to continue to study graphics past junior cycle. This is a welcome development and could be further encouraged by the subject department’s promotion of the new information and communications technology (ICT) aspects of the DCG syllabus.
All teachers who teach a graphics subject are classroom based. These classrooms include one specialist DCG room, two Metalwork rooms and two Materials Technology Wood rooms. This system allows teachers to create an appropriate learning environment in their classroom. In some instances, considerable efforts have been made to display good quality student work and graphics posters. This has the affect of immersing students in a graphics technology environment helping them to recognise quality drafting and representation techniques, thereby helping them to recreate this standard in their own work. The DCG room has been fitted with appropriate networking facilities and all students have access to a laptop personal computer (PC) during the ICT elements of the syllabus.
School management encourages and facilitates staff to attend relevant continuous professional development (CPD) courses. Almost all members of the subject department have collectively and individually attended a number of courses focusing on the new DCG syllabus and on the use of parametric modelling software. This commitment to CPD at a time of significant change in the syllabus is commended. Due to the change in the syllabus, it is of utmost importance that teachers who are interested in teaching DCG should be given the opportunity to do so. This would help senior management in the deployment of teachers and would benefit the teachers’ own professional development. In addition to this, teachers would also benefit from a policy of regularly rotating teachers to teach the full range of programmes offered in the school, as they would acquire and hone the skills and methodologies required by a variety of syllabuses.
The technology subject teachers form a single subject department group in Tullow Community School. This year all five members of the subject department are teaching graphics subjects. Due to the enlargement of this subject department, collaborative planning is at an early stage. There is therefore significant scope for the development of the subject department plan with particular emphasis on the areas of: supports provided in the subject for students with special educational needs (SEN); the development of long-term plans for the raising of academic standards; and the further promotion of the subject among junior and senior cycle students.
Currently, agreed curricular plans are very broad and open to individual interpretation. The subject department should develop clear-cut curricular plans based on learning outcomes for students. These plans should define timeframes for the course but allow flexibility for teachers to cover material using their own methods and styles.
Teachers’ individual curricular planning varied from highly organised and methodical to less structured planning focusing on the textbook. Good practice was observed where topics were prepared and filed sequentially and where master drawing portfolios were used to plan a group’s course of study. These methods allow teachers to reflect on the success of their delivery and on students’ understanding of the various concepts enabling them to modify their strategies accordingly.
Teachers’ individual planning for lessons was generally very good. The preparation of numerous visual aids and resources included various household patterns, prepared worksheets for the LCA group, prepared sketches of solutions for students, partially completed questions, quality models to explain complex principles, specific lesson plans, a number of ICT resources and some geometric models. The preparation and integration of such resources into lessons adds to the students’ learning experiences and helps with the visualisation of complex concepts. The subject department should plan to pool as many resources as possible in order to develop a common departmental library including ICT and other useful resources.
All lessons observed began with a brief recap on previously covered material. This enabled students to consolidate their learning prior to being introduced to any new material. Lessons were observed to be most successful when this technique was accompanied with the practice of sharing the learning outcomes of the lesson with students. It is recommended that all teachers adopt this strategy to provide them and their students with a focus for each lesson. This focus can then be readily evaluated and assessed during and at the end of each lesson.
Teachers’ instructions were clear and in most cases graphical problems were developed in an incremental manner. This sequential approach allowed students to progress through questions at a steady pace, allowed for good teacher-student dialogue and provided students with ample opportunity to seek clarifications. In one instance, the desired solution was shown to students at the beginning and during the lesson. This had the effect of diminishing students’ opportunities to develop their own problem-solving abilities, causing them to arrive at the solution with very little cognitive input. It is suggested that all members of the subject department ensure that students’ experimental and problem-solving skills are nurtured and developed in order to equip them with the appropriate skills for the completion of the syllabus.
Questioning was most successful when teachers asked a question to the entire group followed by a pause and then chose an individual to respond. This was often followed by a clarification or a redirection if necessary. Student responses were affirmed and students were generally eager to become involved in the ensuing discussions. Another method of questioning involved a rota system where all students were questioned successively. This method ensured that all students were involved and had the opportunity to contribute.
The predominant teaching methodology employed in the lessons observed was teacher demonstration at the board followed by student work and teacher circulation. In some cases, teachers used partially completed solutions to help students to set-up their work and to model best practice. Teachers also used sketching on the blackboard and whiteboard to stress key concepts to students. This technique was further enhanced by the use of coloured chalk to distinguish various lines and surfaces. These methods were successful and students’ work benefited from their use.
Resources were incorporated into lessons regularly and these added to the teaching and learning experience. Some good use of geometrical models was observed in a lesson on truncated prisms. These models helped students to visualise the cut surfaces and to gain a fuller understanding of the two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional solids. ICT resources were also used in some TG lessons to aid demonstration and this initiative is most welcome. An example of this was observed in a junior cycle lesson where orthographic projection was being covered. In this instance, good use was made of coloured surfaces on parametric models especially when helping students to visualise the elevation, plan and end-view of objects.
Classroom management was effective in all instances. This was achieved through appropriate lesson content and pacing and, in some cases, through the use of seating plans for class groups. Where a lack of student discipline was encountered, teachers dealt with it appropriately and decisively. The advance supply of materials to students was an additional help in this regard as it enabled lessons to begin promptly and ensured students were prepared for class. Some lessons observed finished early. It is suggested that all members of the subject department plan for this eventuality and use time at the end of lessons to recap on previously learned material.
Teachers helped to develop a positive atmosphere in the lessons observed through their regular and appropriate use of student affirmation. Students were seen to be eager to learn and inquisitive and displayed a genuine enthusiasm for the subjects.
Students demonstrated a good level of knowledge and understanding of the concepts required to complete the various syllabuses at their chosen level. This was evident from the level of their class work and, in particular, from samples of DCG assignment work completed by the current sixth-year students.
Generally, a good number of students take higher level in the state examinations. However, there has been some fluctuation over the last number of years. It is recommended that the subject department develop a list of strategies with a view to raising student attainment at both junior cycle and senior cycle. Suggested strategies include, identifying areas for development such as the methodologies in use, developing assessment methods such as increasing the use of formative feedback, developing students’ examination techniques and developing students’ problem-solving skills. Increased departmental collaboration will support teachers in addressing these challenges. These strategies should be regularly reviewed and revised accordingly.
Formal assessments take place at Christmas and summer with ‘mock’ examinations for examination year groups in the spring term. Subject teachers correct the ‘mock’ examinations helping them to gain a full understanding of students’ strengths and weaknesses. This is commended as teachers can give constructive feedback to students thereby helping them to learn from their mistakes and improve their examination technique.
As curricular planning is at an early stage within the subject department, there is no common assessment policy in place. Once common curricular plans have been agreed and formalised the next progression would be the design and implementation of common assessments for class groups. These assessments would give teachers a clear indication of the level of progress of each class group in relation to their peers, thereby helping the identification of areas for intervention and improvement.
Teachers annotated students’ work in all lessons observed; this was achieved by circulating the class as students worked and by collecting completed work from students. In some instances, a combination of written and oral feedback was given to students on work submitted. Some teachers used a stamp to verify the completion of work and students only received this stamp on their work when their work had reached an acceptable standard. This ensures that students must complete their work but it should be used judiciously and also incorporate regular written and oral feedback.
At senior cycle, DCG coursework is included in the calculation of students end-of-term grades. This is good practice as it helps students to maintain high quality portfolio work and is in line with the assessment methods employed for the Leaving Certificate examination.
All teachers maintained good records of student attendance and achievement. These records allow teachers to profile students and to keep parents well informed through parent-teacher meetings, regular reports home and the student journal.
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 Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2009