REPORT INFORMATION ON THE INSPECTION ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN FRENCH

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1 An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna Department of Education and Skills Subject Inspection of French REPORT Virginia College Virginia, County Cavan Roll number: 70390L Date of inspection: 17 October 2014

2 REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN FRENCH INFORMATION ON THE INSPECTION Dates of inspection 16 and 17 October 2014 Inspection activities undertaken Review of relevant documents Discussion with principal and teachers Interaction with students Observation of teaching and learning during eight class periods Examination of students work Feedback to principal and teachers MAIN FINDINGS The overall quality of teaching and learning was good with a number of very good practices noted in some lessons. There was varied use of French as the language of instruction. A range of methodologies was observed and they were used to good effect in most lessons. Most lessons were well structured and teachers endeavoured to engage the students through the use of pair or group work. There is good whole-school provision for French in the allocation of time and timetabling and the provision of resources. MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS Teachers should reduce the dependency on translation and afford students more opportunities to develop their oral skills for the purpose of authentic interactions. Teachers should integrate aspects of assessment for learning (AfL) strategies into their work to support more active and independent student learning. 2

3 INTRODUCTION Virginia College is a co-educational secondary school under the auspices of the Cavan-Monaghan Educational Training Board. It has 697 students and serves the town of Virginia and its hinterland. The study of a modern European language is mandatory in junior cycle and optional in senior cycle. TEACHING AND LEARNING The quality of teaching and learning was good in the majority of lessons with examples of very good practice noted in some lessons. There was one lesson where there was significant scope for development in the use of the target language and active methodologies. French was used consistently as the language of instruction by the teachers in some lessons, while in others the teacher began in French, but reverted back to English or translated automatically as the lesson progressed. There was one lesson where there was very limited use of French as the language of instruction. It is essential that all teachers use strategies that support the ongoing use of French in the classroom Students should also be encouraged to interact more in French. They should be given the necessary expressions to request information, explain difficulties and make requests in simple French. Greater opportunities should also be afforded to them to interact in the target language. There was one lesson where all students were asked to put a verb into the correct tense prior to sitting down for the lesson. This simple, but effective, strategy should be extended to all lessons and further enhanced by asking students to give a sentence or comment in French. All teachers began by communicating the lesson objectives to the students. To enhance this good practice, teachers should articulate these objectives in terms of what the students should know by the end of the lesson. Good practice was also noted in lessons where the teacher concluded by referring back to the learning objectives. However, the summary focused more on what the teacher did than on what the students had learnt. Revisiting the learning objectives should be primarily for the purpose of assessing students progress. Most teachers endeavoured to teach the full range of language skills. Very good practice was noted in one instance where the work of the lesson was progressed in a manner that supported the use of an examination question to assess students, learning rather than to dictate it. However, there were some lessons where the work was carried out using translation as the main methodology. In these instances, strategies which provide maximum exposure to French during the lesson should replace the use of translation. Relevant grammar points were explained clearly within a given context. This good practice should be further extended by using aural and oral skills activities to embed the learning. There was a strong emphasis on teaching vocabulary in most lessons. However, in most instances, it was taught in isolation rather than as a component of sentences or paragraphs. Teachers should focus more on building up families of words, linking nouns to associated verbs and adjectives and giving students the opportunity to apply their learning across contexts. There were a small number of lessons where the texts or materials used were not sufficiently challenging for the students and this needs to be addressed. PowerPoint presentations were used in all lessons to support learning. In one instance, a text downloaded from a French website served to enhance cultural awareness. Teachers should further exploit the use of information and communication technology with downloads of relevant songs, video clips, real-life texts and news items from relevant French websites. 3

4 Students were very well behaved in all lessons and there was very good classroom management throughout. They were receptive to learning and applied themselves to their work. When engaging in pair or group activities, they carried out their work diligently. However, the purpose of some of the pair-work activities was unclear and, while intended for oral skills development, the tasks assigned did not facilitate such communication. It is important that teachers do not confuse the use of pair or group work for the purpose of oral skills development with tasks that can be completed individually, but where students can seek the help of their peers. It is recommended that all lessons include at least one pair or group task for the purpose of oral skills development. Some students indicated good willingness and capacity to communicate with the inspector, but most were somewhat reticent. Some were able to answer what they had rote learned, but their answers did not always relate to the question asked. In lessons where the work did not challenge the students sufficiently, there were some good responses to the more challenging questions of the inspector, thereby indicating students capacity for more challenging work. Greater opportunities should be provided for students to build up their confidence and to interact more spontaneously. To achieve this, teachers should integrate some of the assessment for learning (AfL) strategies in their lessons, which promote greater student participation and engage them more as active partners in the teaching and learning process. Homework was given and corrected and there were some good examples of formative feedback in some of the copybooks examined. This good practice should be further developed by giving students more opportunities to manipulate language both orally and in writing. SUBJECT PROVISION AND WHOLE SCHOOL SUPPORT There is good whole-school provision in the allocation of time and timetabling and the provision of resources. However, the class formation for French in Transition Year does not facilitate appropriate learning opportunities for students who wish to continue French to Leaving Certificate; this needs to be addressed. School management should also endeavour to ensure continuity of teachers between fifth and sixth year. Classrooms are predominantly teacher-based and a very attractive language learning environment was provided for students in most of the classrooms visited. Most teachers demonstrated good commitment to continuing professional development. To further support them in their work, they should consider applying for the various scholarships available for teachers of French, in addition to accessing the courses and resources provided by the Professional Development Service for Teachers and the French Teachers Association. The school is working currently to develop links with the French school and this is welcomed as a means of promoting the exchange of materials and intercultural dialogue. PLANNING AND PREPARATION The minutes of subject-planning meetings indicate evidence of discussion regarding the French Department s strengths and areas for further development and this is good practice. There was evidence to suggest that teachers have developed individual schemes of work rather than working as a collaborative body. It is recommended that they develop unified schemes of work for each year group that will better support consistency and continuity. Schemes of work should include the topic, learning outcomes, methodologies, resources and assessment protocols and focus on skills development and transfer. 4

5 The current Transition Year plan, while laudable, is difficult to implement given the current class formation. Good efforts were made to improve students cultural awareness, but there were limited opportunities to develop their language skills to an appropriate level. This should be addressed. As part of subject planning, teachers should introduce an oral assessment for all year groups. The draft findings and recommendations arising out of this evaluation were discussed with the principal and subject teachers at the conclusion of the evaluation. 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. Published March

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