An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics
Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School
Ozanam Street, Waterford
Roll number: 64971W
Date of inspection: 09 April 2008
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 Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Waterford. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 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 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 teacher.
Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School provides education for girls in Waterford and its surrounding towns and countryside. The technologies are represented in the curriculum of the school by TG in junior cycle and DCG in senior cycle. The school is affirmed for providing this level of balance in its curriculum.
The allocation of two single periods and a double period for TG in each year of junior cycle provides sufficient time for the teaching of the syllabus, while the double period facilitates the completion of practical drawing work in each year. In senior cycle, the teaching of the DCG syllabus is similarly well supported by the allocation of three single periods and a double period.
Management is commended for the provision of the required teaching resources and materials in response to the requests of the subject department. The resources provided by the Department of Education and Science (DES) in the recent past for the introduction of the DCG syllabus have been deployed with care and foresight. The interest and thoroughness of the subject department in the deployment of these resources in the existing drawing room is highly commended. The specialist drawing room, while compact, is bright and inviting. Provision is made for nine students at individual computer-aided design (CAD) workstations which are suitably placed to take full advantage of the data projector and screen. The workstations have SolidWorks, the parametric computer-aided design software in use for the teaching and assessment of DCG, installed. The room was neat, tidy and very well maintained at the time of the inspection. In addition to the information and communication technology (ICT) facilities available in the specialist drawing room, the school computer room is available for use through a booking system. It is recommended that the feasibility of installing SolidWorks on the computers in this room be investigated with a view to increasing the availability of this application for students. The enhanced ICT facilities could be used during timetabled TG or DCG classes, when it is desired to teach a larger group of students, and also at other times when they could be used, for instance, for project work in other subjects by students who had been introduced to SolidWorks.
First-year students choose their junior cycle subjects prior to entry. Students are supported in making choices by means of an open night at which the choices are presented and discussed. Access to TG is provided for all students who wish to study the subject and this is commended. Given the quality of support for subject choice that would be provided by some familiarity with the subjects to be chosen, it is recommended that giving all students experience of TG before they choose their options be examined. Students make subject choices for senior cycle towards the end of third year or Transition Year (TY) as applicable. Subject-option blocks are devised to meet, as far as practicable, the preferences of students, who choose initially from the full range of optional subjects. Students are supported in making their choices by means of open nights, as in junior cycle, and by means of their experience of optional subjects in TY. However, DCG is not offered as part of the TY programme. It is recommended that DCG be included as a module in TY to support students in making their subject choices. All classes in both cycles are of mixed ability, with students studying at both higher level and ordinary level. Arrangements for providing studentsí with the choice of level follow best practice. The decision is based on consultation involving teacher, students, and their parents towards the end of second year or fifth year.
While provision for collaborative planning in the school is good, including subject department planning meetings held on school planning days, the TG and DCG subject department is particularly commended for engaging with colleagues in the broader community of teachers of the technologies. This collaborative practice, facilitated in part by the continuous professional development provided through the Technology Subjects Support Service, T4, www.t4.ie, for the introduction of the DCG syllabus, has been very effectively used to inform development of the subjects in the school and this is commended. It is recommended that the possibility of forming a subject department planning group representing those subjects which involve a practical element, such as Art and Science, be examined to enhance planning of teaching and learning in these subjects. Each of the subjects could benefit from such an approach by sharing best practice between them.
The written Technical Drawing subject development plan is broad-ranging and includes statements of the aims and objectives of the subjects in both cycles and the programmes of work being followed, together with sections on meeting the educational needs of all students, procedures for subject choice, record keeping and assessment. The subject department is commended for the work done in developing this plan. It is recommended, as a means of further development of the plan, that consideration be given to the teaching methodologies found to be most effective in teaching specific areas of the subjects and that detailed reference to these be included in the plan. Collaboration with related subject areas could be mutually helpful in considering teaching methodologies in this context. It is commended that a policy of annual review is stated in the plan and that changes flowing from the introduction of the new DCG syllabus are currently being included. It is recommended that a section of the plan be devoted to the long-term development of the subjects in the school, including areas such as the introduction of a TY module and the identification of new opportunities, such as more co-curricular work involving ICT.
Planning and preparation for each of the lessons observed were of a high standard, particularly in a second-year class where students were divided into three groups. Effective preparation of the material to be covered by each group ensured that students made very good progress. The planning of programmes of work was also very effective and each programme was in line with the requirements of the respective syllabus. Meeting studentsí extra educational needs is included in the subject department plan where procedures at the whole-school level are stated, while such needs are met at a subject level by careful differentiation both of the work being undertaken and the strategies and teaching methodologies adopted. It is recommended that the experience and planning at subject department level be included in the subject department plan.† †
Junior cycle TG students in Mercy Secondary School, as well as those who study DCG, have been introduced to SolidWorks and undertake drawing tasks on the computers in the drawing room. This full use of the ICT facilities is to be praised. By means of efficient planning and by organising students to work in groups, the practice is to provide instruction in ICT for students in rotation. The work done in acquiring further resources to facilitate the teaching of SolidWorks is applauded. The identification and installation of a network control software package, which has significantly enhanced the teacherís control over the learning environment, is indicative of the subject departmentís constant interest in improving teaching resources. Such software packages are a valuable resource for ICT use in the classroom.
Very good practice was observed in teaching and learning in the lessons visited during the inspection. The very effective use of group work allowed resources, including the teacherís time, to be used efficiently, while collaboration among students was supported and encouraged. Students in one lesson were encouraged to consult with members of another group seeking advice when undertaking a problem which that group had previously completed. The policy for such consultation was that answers could be given but completed drawings could not be passed on. This ensured that students benefited from the experiences of their fellow students while still having to engage with problem-solving, gaining educational benefit, without the possibility of copying. This is very good practice.
The practical and design aspects of TG and DCG were at the centre of each of the lessons. In a first-year lesson on development, the students moved on from drawing the development of an appropriate solid to cutting out and folding it. These students had previously made a collection of packaging found in the home for an earlier introductory lesson. Studentsí understanding and knowledge were very effectively supported by this approach. A next phase might be for the students to design and assemble a simple piece of packaging, perhaps working in groups on different design briefs, to apply their understanding and knowledge in a creative context.
Each of the lessons observed was very well structured, the purpose of the lesson being made explicit from the outset. Lessons were well paced, allowing all students to complete the work set for them while providing enough of an imperative to ensure that all stayed on task. The use of the chalkboard was balanced by the teacherís use of the drawing board and tee square to demonstrate to small groups. The latter approach was particularly effective as it allowed other groups to continue to work until it was time for the teacher to provide some input for them.
The atmosphere observed in each of the lessons visited was based on obvious mutual respect of teacher and students. Students were secure and content as they undertook their work. All interactions were pleasant and relaxed. The walls of the classroom displayed a range of subject-related materials including commercially produced posters and studentsí own work. It is commended that the studentsí work displayed was fully representative of that produced, giving equal credence to the best efforts of each student. These surroundings were visually stimulating and provided encouragement for learning.
The classroom was very effectively organised throughout. Students worked at their assigned places. The exclusive use of the specialist drawing room for this purpose meant that all equipment was ready to hand and a minimum of time was devoted to setting up for class. Such careful management of the drawing room is a credit to teacher and students alike. Affirmation of studentsí efforts by their teacher was consistent and meaningful. The atmosphere was at all times conducive to learning.
Students were purposeful and fully engaged in the activities of the lessons visited. Their interest in the respective subjects was clear and was matched by their knowledge and understanding of the related concepts and facts. When engaged in conversation by the inspector, the students were able to communicate effectively in terms of the subjects and were enthusiastic and interested in relation to the work in which they were engaged. Studentsí drafting skills displayed an impressive proficiency, relative to age and their experience of the subjects, and the subject department is commended for its focus on maintaining such high levels of neatness and accuracy in drawing. The progress made by students in their study of SolidWorks, in junior cycle as well as senior cycle, is also of a high standard.
In addition to the formal examinations at Christmas and in summer, which are part of the examination policy of the school, students in TG and DCG also sit examinations in these subjects at Easter. Continuous assessment, based on the work in the studentsí folders, is also conducted. Continuous assessment marks are combined with Christmas, Easter and summer examination marks. The assessment of studentsí folders takes the individual progress made by the student into account in line with best practice. To further improve the very good practice already in place for the continuous assessment of studentsí work, it is recommended that monthly assessment marks be awarded, which might also coincide with the completion of a topic or unit of learning. This will provide more regular feedback and will enhance studentsí opportunities to become more independent learners. It is further recommended that concise written feedback be given to students on the work assessed, to reinforce the oral feedback given at present. Such feedback might be written on stick-on notes to avoid marking the studentsí work. It is important that the assessment modes of the new DCG syllabus influence the modes adopted for assessment within the school. As students approach the end of the first year of DCG, it is urged that their end-of-year assessment include an element of project design work.†† ††††††
Homework is regularly set and carefully monitored in TG and DCG, in line with the homework policy of the school, often involving the completion of work begun in class. The checking of homework is usually done at the beginning of class. It is urged, whenever appropriate, that homework is annotated to reinforce feedback to students and to affirm their efforts.
Records of student attendance and attainment are kept carefully and systematically in roll books and assessment books. It is recommended that the use of standard teachersí diaries be considered, perhaps throughout the school, to further broaden the range of information being recorded, including notes of work covered, studentsí progress and the effectiveness of particular approaches and strategies, in a concise, easily managed way. Such information would be particularly valuable when reviewing the subject department plan at the end of the year.††
Studentsí progress is communicated to parents by means of school reports sent following Christmas and summer examinations. Progress in TG and DCG is also shared at parent-teacher meetings. It is recommended, in addition to the good channels of communication that are already in use, that monthly assessment marks be entered in the studentsí homework journals.
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 teacher of Design and Communication Graphics and Technical 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, September 2008