An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics and Technical Drawing
Athenry, County Galway
Date of inspection: 20 and 21 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching inTechnical graphics, Design and communication graphics and technical drawing
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Presentation College, Athenry carried out as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics and Technical Drawing 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 deputy principal and subject teachers.
Technical Graphics (TG), Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Technical Drawing (TD) are optional subjects in Presentation College, Athenry. TG is studied as part of the Junior Certificate (JC) programme while DCG and TD are studied for Leaving Certificate (LC) or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Transition year (TY) students study a DCG module as part of their programme.
First year students study TG as part of a year-long 'taster' programme and make their final optional subject choices for Junior Certificate at the end of first year. An information evening for parents is organised at this stage in order to ensure that students make informed subject choices. Students entering fifth year are similarly supported and are offered an open choice of available optional subjects with option bands based on students' choices being subsequently developed. This arrangement is commended.
The school has an optional TY programme and in previous years students took a combined TD and Construction Studies (CS) module as part of this. Currently TY students study DCG as a separate subject. While it is commended it was noted that current TY students and fifth year DCG students form a single class group for timetabling purposes and follow the same programme. It is recommended that this practice be discontinued and that a separate TY module, with separate aims and objectives, be developed by the subject department and implemented by the school as a priority.
All TG, DCG and TD classes are of mixed ability and teachers of the subjects liaise with the school's learning-support team when planning for students with additional educational needs and this is commended.
In junior cycle, with the exception of first year where all students study TG as part of the 'taster' programme, TG classes are comprised mainly of boys. Similarly, all TY, fifth and sixth year students currently studying DCG and TD are boys. In light of this gender imbalance in the uptake of the subjects after first year, it is recommended that the school examine ways to encourage and enable more girls to study them.
Time allocation for TG in second and third year, for drawing in TY and for DCG and TD in fifth and sixth years respectively is appropriate and the allocation of double and single class periods to the subjects also reflects good practice. Because of the duration and nature of the first year 'taster' programme the overall time allocation to TG over the three years of junior cycle is not adequate and it is recommended therefore, that arrangements to address the shortfall in time allocation should be examined as a priority.
It is recommended that an examination of the school's staffing requirements in the technology subject areas be undertaken immediately and that an appropriate number of suitably qualified teachers be appointed to meet these requirements at the earliest practicable time. Following the introduction of the new DCG syllabus in September 2007 and the imminent introduction of the new Architectural Technology syllabus, it is further recommended that, where possible, these teachers should be timetabled for their subjects in both junior and senior cycle in future years in order to ensure that they develop and maintain their specialist teaching skills and are in a position to contribute meaningfully to subject department discussion of all the technology subjects.
The school's two qualified TG, DCG and TD teachers have attended in-service related to the new DCG syllabus provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) over the last two years and this is commended.
Facilities for the teaching of the technology subjects in the school have improved greatly since the last inspection of the subjects, carried out in October 2004. These developments reflect the school's commitment to the technology subjects and are highly commended.
Presentation College, Athenry has a technology subjects department and the TG/DCG /TD department is a sub-group of it. A co-ordinator has been appointed and the subject department meets formally at least once per term. Records of meetings are kept and reports are made to the senior management team on subject-related issues when necessary. Formal meetings are supplemented by frequent informal meetings. These arrangements are commended.
Teachers have developed TG, DCG and TD subject planning documentation and work completed to date is commended. In order to build on this it is recommended that descriptors for the first year 'taster' and TY drawing programmes be included and that strategies to promote the subjects, especially among girls, be developed and implemented. Planning for the changing circumstances in senior cycle should also be included.
A comprehensive range of TG, DCG and TD resources have been developed by teachers in the school and is used to support teaching and learning. An annual budget for the subjects is prepared by the subject department at the end of each school year and provision for additional resources is made in this budget.
Planning for the development of the school's information and communication technologies (ICT) facilities for DCG has been undertaken and the installation work will be completed during the course of the current school year. When this work has been completed all DCG students, and students of the other technology subjects available in the school, will then have access to appropriate computer hardware and software.
Good teaching of TG and TD was observed during the inspection.
Planning for the lessons observed over the course of the evaluation was of a high standard and all lessons had clear aims and objectives, were suitable for the stage of the programme being delivered and included appropriately challenging activities. Lessons were structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses and all activities were well-managed ensuring that an appropriately ordered learning environment was created during all lessons. This practice is commended.
Class groups in TG, DCG and TD are mixed ability and teachers differentiated lesson aims and objectives to meet the needs of individual students. This practice is commended.
Teachers employed suitable methodologies during the lessons observed and a range of strategies was used. The problem-solving nature of TG, DCG and TD was emphasised and high standards of draughtsmanship were also being promoted in tandem. This approach is commended.
An integrated approach to lesson presentation that emphasised the visual nature of the subject was adopted and teachers made excellent use of whiteboards and chalkboards to support students' learning. When ICT was used in teaching it was particularly impressive in reflecting the technological nature of the subjects. This approach is commended.
Teachers demonstrated TG, DCG and TD principles and skills incrementally to whole class groups, to smaller groups, and to individual students. Freehand and ruled whiteboard and chalkboard work by teachers was of a high standard and this served to model the standard of draughting required in the subjects. Scaffolding of students' learning in this manner is commended as good practice.
Teachers used and emphasised the terminology associated with the subjects when they spoke during lessons and this allowed students to listen to instructions concerning the development of diagrams and assimilate subject-specific terminology while working on their own drawings. This practice enhanced both teaching and learning and is highly commended.
A variety of individual and group questions, including higher order questions, was used during lessons and this is commended.
Examination techniques were discussed and tips were given in examination classes and key principles that would assist students during examinations were outlined. This practice is commended.
Progress charts, detailing work to be covered in the various programmes and that which had already been completed, were prominently displayed in the drawing rooms. During each lesson teachers also noted on the whiteboard or chalkboard aspects of the lesson that had been dealt with previously and they also specifically detailed new concepts to be addressed during the lesson. This practice is commended.
Three-dimensional teacher-made models, pictorial drawings, computer modelling and other stimulating materials related to the topics were used when best practice was observed during lessons and this presentational approach promoted students’ development from concrete experience to abstract representation. This is an essential element of the teaching and learning processes in TG, DCG and TD and the practice observed is highly commended. It is recommended however, that additional geometric models be added to the existing range over time in order to enhance the current level of provision.
Textbooks are prescribed in junior cycle but these were not overly relied upon during the lessons observed. Rather, texts are used as a resource for students in the completion of class and homework tasks. Examination workbooks and other handout materials were also used and were integrated effectively into lessons. It is recommended that a technology library be developed in the school and that this resource be made readily accessible to students and teachers of the subjects.
During lessons teachers moved around the drawing rooms and engaged with individual students. Progress in the completion of classroom tasks was assessed during interactions with students and teachers also provided assistance to individual students when this was required. This practice is commended.
The drawing rooms were very well organised and classroom routines were evident during all lessons evaluated. These routines promoted responsibility for creating an ordered learning among students and are commended.
Students’ displayed the quality of their understanding of topics in the competencies exhibited during the completion of drawing tasks and in their ability to ask and answer questions during lessons.
Students’ used conventional 450 and 600 set squares, protractors, compasses and pencils at the drawing board when making drawings and these were of a standard consistent with the range of abilities in the classes. In an effort to enhance the quality of students' draughting and it is recommended that adjustable set squares and micro-pencils be used with all year groups in future.
Homework was a feature of all lessons and this helped to ensure continuity with previous and future lessons. This practice is commended.
Students' TG, DCG and TD portfolios are retained in the classrooms. The content of these portfolios was appropriate and drawings already completed displayed the appropriate competencies that are associated with syllabus topics. This is commended.
Opportunities for independent and collaborative learning were included in all lessons observed and this practice is commended.
Students communicated effectively with their peers and teachers using TG, DCG and TD terminology. This is commended.
An excellent teacher-student rapport was evident during all lessons evaluated. This created an atmosphere where students’ enthusiastically engaged with lesson activities and received appropriate affirmation.
The school has a formal homework and assessment policy and the implementation of this is monitored by senior management, the subject co-ordinator and the subject teachers. This is commended.
A system of self and peer assessment was being operated for class work and homework and this was monitored by teachers. Students' drawings, completed during lessons or as homework assignments, were routinely marked, graded and commented on by teachers and this is commended.
The results of assessments are recorded systematically and used to identify trends in students' achievement, to inform future teaching strategies and to address the needs of individual learners. These practices are commended.
Students' drawings are retained in portfolios in the school. In order to promote and enhance the current standards of draughting and problem-solving among students it is recommended that a percentage of marks in end-of-term and end-of-year assignments be allocated to these drawing portfolios.
Students displayed a high level of enthusiasm for the subjects during the inspection and their subject-specific knowledge and skills, relative to age and ability, were appropriate.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school has a TG, DCG and TD department and a co-ordinator of the subjects has been appointed.
· TG, TD and DCG subject planning documentation has been developed and is being implemented.
· Provision for TG, DCG and TD in the school is generally good.
· Good teaching was observed during the evaluation.
· Problem-solving and draughting were being promoted in tandem.
· Excellent use was made of ICT during some lessons.
· Students exhibited a range of levels of subject-specific knowledge and skills consistent with the range of abilities in classes visited during the evaluation.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· An examination of the school's staffing requirements in the technology subjects area should be undertaken immediately and the appropriate number of suitably qualified teachers should be appointed to meet these requirements at the earliest practicable time.
· The overall time allocation for TG in junior cycle should be examined in light of the year-long 'taster' programme in first year.
· A TY DCG module descriptor should be developed and TY drawing should be timetabled separately from fifth year DCG.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics and Technical Drawing and with the deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.