An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of History
Maynooth Post Primary School
Maynooth, Co. Kildare
Roll number: 70700A
Dates of inspection: 27th November 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in History
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Maynooth Post Primary School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in History 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 deputy 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.
In Maynooth Post Primary School, History is a core subject in junior cycle. History becomes an optional subject at senior cycle. At this level, students are offered an open-access system of subject selection from which subject option bands are created, thus maximising student choice. Students are well supported when choosing their optional subjects. This student-centred approach is commendable. At present, there are two classes studying History in each of the Leaving Certificate year groups. This is a testament to the high profile History has in the school.
History is well provided for in terms of curricular provision. The time allocation to History in both cycles is in line with syllabus requirements. As part of the Transition Year (TY) programme, History is offered as a module for half of the year and is allocated a double period each week. This is satisfactory. It is commendable that the Irish sraith in the school is given the opportunity to study this subject as Gaeilge. Timetabling is good in most instances, with a good spread of classes across the week and between morning and afternoon classes. It is recommended that an occasional tendency to timetable junior cycle History on three successive days be avoided if at all possible.
There is very good whole-school support for the organisation, teaching and learning for History. Teachers, in the main, have base classrooms. This facilitates the storage of resources. Resources are also stored in a history resource press. It is laudable that these resources have been catalogued and the inventory included in the subject plan for History. A print-rich learning environment was evident in all classrooms visited during the course of the inspection, with history posters and student project work evident throughout. This is praiseworthy. The provision of two history notice boards in the school, one of which is used to display student project work on a rota basis, is commended as a good support to the subject.
There is good provision of information and communications technology (ICT) resources. It is laudable that every teacher has been provided with a laptop and that a media player has recently been purchased for the department. A desktop computer with internet access has been made available in every classroom. Data projectors, both wall-mounted and mobile, are available to teachers. This is commendable.
All seven history teachers are qualified in the subject. School management is supportive of teachersí professional development and has facilitated teachersí attendance at in-service for the revised Leaving Certificate history syllabus. There is good support in the school for extracurricular and co-curricular activities. This is praiseworthy.
Very good departmental planning is in evidence in the school. There is a co-ordinator in place. This position rotates among team members, which is good practice. Frequent departmental meetings are held and minutes are available. It is laudable that the agenda of department meetings indicates that the department has discussed the promotion of the subject to prospective Leaving Certificate students. It is recommended that the department trials some of the strategies discussed in coming years and reviews as appropriate. Very good collegiate and collaborative practices are in place, including the sharing of resources on the schoolís intranet. It is to be commended that the history department plans for the commemoration of days of historical significance, for example the commemoration of twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This helps raise the profile of History in the school.
Good work has gone into the preparation of a departmental plan. The department folder includes organisational details, data on certificate examinations results, lists of resources and information on extracurricular and cross-curricular activities. There is evidence of collaborative working on the development of schemes of work for different year groups. These schemes of work match resources and suggested methodologies with subject content. This is commended.
Good levels of individual planning were seen in the course of the inspection, including planning for resources. Good planning for differentiation, to support students having difficulty accessing the subject, was seen in some instances. It is recommended that planning for differentiation is put on the agenda for departmental meetings and that the good practice already in evidence in the department is disseminated among team members, adopted as department policy and documented in the subject plan. It is further recommended that the history department consult with the learning-support and resource department to determine and implement best practice in this area.
Very good individual planning for TY was seen in the course of the inspection. It is recommended that the very good practice in evidence in relation to planning for TY History is documented in the TY history plan and that the plan be expanded to include details of resources and methodologies used for different sections of the module, the timescale involved, as well as the assessment procedures associated with the module.
Very good quality teaching and learning were seen in the majority of lessons observed during the course of the inspection. In every lesson observed, students settled quickly to work and were co-operative with their teachers. In some classrooms visited, the teachers shared the learning objective of the lesson with students in writing at the start. It is recommended that this good practice is extended to all lessons.
A good range of teaching methodologies was observed in the lessons inspected. Questioning was a feature of all lessons observed and was used well to facilitate active student engagement with the learning process and, in some instances, to support and challenge students in the development of higher-order thinking skills. This is good practice. It is recommended that teachers, when planning their lessons, be mindful to use an appropriate spread of questions, both targeted and global, and to give students adequate time to frame their answers. In many classrooms visited, students were given independent opportunities to reflect on their learning individually or in pairs or groups. This is commendable. For example, in one junior cycle class, well-organised group work gave students an opportunity to reflect on the Economic War in Ireland. In another senior cycle lesson, students were invited in pairs to discuss US domestic problems in the post-war era. It is recommended that, to promote self-directed learning and to give students the opportunity to reflect on their learning, independent learning opportunities are integrated into lessons at all available opportunities.
Very good pace and timing were seen in the majority of lessons observed. Resource materials, prepared in advance, were well integrated into the development of the lessons and effectively supported studentsí learning. Very good use of ICT was seen in the course of the inspection. Data projectors were used to show PowerPoint presentations and film clips. For example, in one senior cycle classroom visited, two short film clips on Nazi Germany were used to support studentsí learning. This brought a visual content to the lesson which added greatly to student engagement and enjoyment. This is commendable. Very good use was made of the history departmentís media player in another lesson observed to show both a slide-show and documentary clip. Teachers, in many instances, had prepared work-sheets and visuals to support their teaching. Teachers are to be applauded for preparing such a wide and relevant range of resources.
Good differentiation strategies were seen in some classrooms visited. Effective use of visuals was seen in many classrooms to support learning. For example, in one first-year classroom a composite set of visuals on life in Celtic times was a very good support to teaching and learning. In another classroom visited, differentiated worksheets were provided for some students who worked quietly and diligently with the help of a special needs assistant. In some lessons observed, good use was made of the board to emphasise key words. This good strategy could have been enhanced further if the students had been asked to write down the key words in their copybooks as the lesson progressed. It is recommended that the approaches to differentiation adopted in lesson delivery in history classes reflect the good practice already evident in some lessons.† Furthermore it is recommended that, where difficulties are identified, greater emphasis is placed on the use of visual media, key words, differentiated teaching and active teaching methodologies.
The quality of learning was, in all cases, very good. High expectations were communicated to students, commensurate with their abilities. Students were encouraged to organise their own learning. It was noted that students in many classrooms visited were encouraged to take their own notes as the lesson progressed. This strategy is worthy of the highest commendation. The use of note-taking from PowerPoint presentations and acetates was in evidence in some studentsí copybooks. It is recommended that, where note-taking is used as a classroom strategy, it be time-limited and balanced with other activities to maintain student interest and engagement. Good attention to the acquisition of subject-specific vocabulary was seen in some classrooms visited and in the Irish sraith. There was an appropriate focus on the development of historical skills in many classrooms visited.
A positive learning environment was in place in all lessons observed and mutual respect between teachers and students was evident.
A good range of assessment modes is in use in the school, including questioning, homework, end-of-topic tests and formal examinations. The use of student projects and quizzes, as effective alternative forms of assessment, is noted and applauded. Student achievement is recognised by means of a commendation sheet, which is sent to studentsí homes.
A commendable level of preparation for certificate examinations, with frequent written assignments given and corrected, was evident in the range of Leaving Certificate copybooks examined. In senior cycle classrooms, students are encouraged to keep their work in hardback copybooks from year to year. It is recommended that this good practice is extended to all classes.
Homework was given regularly in many of the classrooms visited and it was frequently monitored in some instances.† In some junior cycle copybooks inspected, it was evident that drawing tasks, for example labelled diagrams, as well as written tasks are used as a mode of assessment. This is commendable and is a good aid for visual learners. It is recommended that this good strategy is extended to all junior cycle classrooms. Good use of Assessment for Learning strategies, where students are given helpful comments as to how to improve their work, was seen in many copybooks examined during the course of the inspection. It is recommended that homework, including the use of extended writing tasks, is given regularly and is frequently monitored at all levels. Furthermore, it is recommended that the good practice evident in some classes in relation to Assessment for Learning strategies is extended to all classrooms.†
Teachers keep very good records of class tests and term examinations, building a profile of student progress. Common examinations are set at junior cycle. The examination papers are modelled on certificate examinations and are appropriate for the relevant year group. There is a very good awareness in the school of studentsí achievements in certificate examinations. The analysis of this data contributes to team planning and review. This is highly commended.
Parents are kept informed of student progress by means of the student journal, reports sent home twice a year and parent teacher meetings.
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 principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, May 2010