An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Ramsgrange Community School
Ramsgrange, New Ross, County Wexford
Roll number: 91431Q
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Ramsgrange Community School. 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 teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Ramsgrange Community School offers Metalwork to all junior cycle students. At senior cycle, students may choose Engineering as part of the established Leaving Certificate programme. The schoolís Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme does not offer Engineering as a vocational specialism or as an elective module. Similarly, Transition Year (TY) students do not have access to any technology subjects. School management should ensure that the schoolís senior cycle curriculum provides all students with potential access to an appropriate technology education. This could be achieved by devising a TY module that includes elements from the other technology subjects offered in the school.
The time allocated to the subjects in all year groups is appropriate and allows sufficient time to complete all aspects of the syllabus. First-year groups are allocated two class periods per week during their sampling programme. Second-year groups receive four class periods per week and third-year groups receive five class periods per week. At senior cycle, fifth and sixth-year groups are allocated five class periods per week. These allocations are distributed throughout the week in a combination of both double and single periods as is best practice.
All metalwork and engineering lessons take place in a spacious and well-resourced specialist room. Material and tool storage is adequate, however some consideration should be given to improving and modernising the storage systems that are currently in place in order to maximise space utilisation and ease of access. Once all decommissioned machinery has been removed, the floor space in the classroom will be significantly larger, allowing further improvement in the layout and organisation of the room.
School management has facilitated the subject departmentís attendance at a number of continuing professional development (CPD) courses, most notably the ongoing CPD courses provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (t4). This commitment to CPD, by both management and the subject department, is commended.
Students are given a wide range of optional subject choices in first year. Upon entry, they are asked to pick three optional subjects from a list of six. At the beginning of second year, students are asked to choose the subjects that they wish to continue studying for their Junior Certificate programme. This system allows students to gain a useful insight into a number of optional subjects prior to making their final subject choice.
Student uptake of Metalwork and Engineering is generally satisfactory, however school management in conjunction with the subject department should continue to explore further strategies to improve the gender balance in the subjects.
The schoolís safety statement has not been updated in over ten years and is in need of urgent review. However, health and safety awareness in the lessons observed was good. A number of standard safety signs are displayed in the room, safety zones are clearly identifiable around machines and personal protective equipment is readily available for student use. An inventory of first-aid supplies should also be maintained in order to ensure that adequate supplies are available when required.
The subject department has developed a comprehensive curricular plan detailing the delivery of the theoretical aspects of the syllabuses. These areas are listed by topic and are sequenced so that student knowledge is built in an incremental manner. To further develop these theoretical plans, specific learning outcomes could be developed for each topic.
The level of planning for the development of studentsí practical skills was less comprehensive. While there was evidence of a structured approach to project work, there was no clear identification of the skills being developed or reinforced through the completion of projects. This shortfall has been identified in the subject plan as an area for development and should be progressed without delay. Further consideration should be given to project choice in order to ensure that students acquire the required skills through the completion of visually stimulating, multi-material and interesting project work.
Good practice was observed in the identification of a number of short-term and long-term goals in the subject plan. These goals include: ongoing machine maintenance, increased access and use of information and communication technology (ICT) resources in the teaching and learning of the subjects, and the removal of material that is currently stored under studentsí desks. These priorities should be progressed without delay.
Subject teachers are made aware of students with special educational needs at the beginning of the year. This allows teachers to plan for the full integration and inclusion of such students in practical and theoretical lessons. These considerations, as described in the subject plan, mainly consist of outside interventions from the learning-support and resource departments. To further improve planning and support for students with special educational needs, subject specific in-class interventions should be listed in the subject documentation and practised in lessons.
The planning of all lessons observed was good and included the preparation of material blanks, worksheets, mind-maps and process sheets.
All lessons observed followed a clear structure. This included: registering student attendance, a brief introduction to the topic, student activity and teacher circulation, questioning and demonstration. This format helped to reinforce a positive atmosphere in lessons. While all lessons observed had clear learning outcomes for students, these learning outcomes were not shared with students from the beginning. This strategy could be adopted to help motivate students, by allowing them to set achievable goals that could be readily assessed by themselves, their peers or their teacher.
Teacher questioning was of a high standard in the lessons observed. Questioning should be further utilised at the end of lessons to recap and assess student learning. This strategy would help to inform teaching methodologies in relation to the future delivery of the topic.
Good practice was observed where practical lessons contained a significant portion of theoretical content. This was observed in a junior cycle lesson where basic shaping skills were being taught in conjunction with the relevant safety precautions. In a senior cycle lesson on thermal joining techniques and mechanical and non-destructive testing, the integration of practical and theoretical content was less pronounced. This had the effect of creating a very passive learning atmosphere, characterised by students taking dictated notes from the teacher. Every effort should be made to promote active learning in Metalwork and Engineering lessons. This could be achieved by utilising the wide variety of artefacts, tools and resources available in the specialist room and by incorporating teaching methodologies that engage students on a more regular basis.
In one lesson observed, students who were new to the subject were given very good individual attention. Key techniques were stressed and reinforced throughout the lesson, helping the students to internalise important skills. This technique helped students to become proficient in the use of a number of marking-out and shaping tools. The creation of such a positive and supportive learning environment is commended.
Some very good resources were prepared in advance of the lessons observed. However the implementation of these resources could have been more innovative. One example includes a mind-map that was prepared for a senior cycle lesson. This visual learning aid could have been developed in a very interactive manner using suggestions from the class to form the various strands of the map. While the development of such useful resources is commended, the use of graphic organisers and worksheets should be carefully planned in order to achieve maximum benefit for the learner.
Group demonstrations were used to explain key skills. These demonstrations were well planned and gave students a good opportunity to ask questions. Individual demonstrations to students were carried out on a needs basis, allowing studentsí techniques to be corrected before incorrect practices became ingrained.
In both lessons observed, student behaviour was exemplary. This was achieved through a very structured and organised approach to classes and the genuine rapport that has been developed over time.
Students in both lessons demonstrated a significant level of knowledge combined with good practical skills. Throughout the lessons observed, students demonstrated a positive work ethic and were purposeful in their activities.
Assigned homework was checked and recorded at the beginning of each lesson observed. However, studentsí copies showed little evidence of any form of written formative feedback or affirmation. Formative feedback should be given to students regularly, both orally and in their copybooks, to assist in identifying their strengths and any areas for possible development.
Students are formally assessed in end-of-term examinations. These examinations consist of a combination of both practical and theoretical assessments, as is best practice. This method allows students to gain recognition for the practical skills they have developed as well as the theoretical work they have completed.
The subject department maintains good records of student attendance. These records, combined with records of both theoretical and practical assessments, facilitate the communication of relevant and up-to-date information to parents via regular reports home and through use of the studentsí journal. Student achievement in state examinations is good at both junior and senior cycle and uptake of higher level at senior cycle is particularly good.†
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Students choose from a wide range of optional subjects and are supported in making their choices through the completion of a year-long subject sampling programme.
∑ A number of short-term and long-term goals have been identified to further develop the subjects in the school.
∑ The planning and preparation of resources and materials for individual lessons was good.
∑ The quality of teacher questioning was of a high standard and was used to good effect to include students, assess their understanding and develop topics.
∑ Classroom management was effective in all lessons observed.
∑ Student achievement in state examinations is good.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ School management should ensure that students in all programmes in the schoolís senior cycle curriculum are provided with the opportunity to access an appropriate technology education.
∑ Active teaching and learning strategies should be adopted in all lessons, especially those that contain significant quantities of theoretical content, in order to maximise student engagement and learning.
∑ School management should initiate a full review of the schoolís safety statement.
∑ The subject department should plan a schedule for studentsí skill development using a variety of visually stimulating, multi-material and interesting projects.
∑ Formative feedback should be given to students to affirm their strengths and to help them identify areas for further development.
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2010