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Experience of Junior Cycle Short Courses in Portmarnock Community School
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Experience of Junior Cycle Short Courses in Portmarnock Community School


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  • A practice based presentation
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    • 1. Portmarnock Community School Donal O’ Mahony
    • 2. Our experience – over three phases...  Autumn 2012  2013 / 2014  2014 / 2015
    • 3. Portmarnock Community School  850 pupils approximately, co-educational  Wide catchment-area across North County Dublin  Strong academic and extra-curricular focus
    • 4. Some history  Portmarnock Community School became an NCCA Junior Cycle Network School in May 2012  I am the Link-teacher  Very supportive Principal, Pat O’ Riordan  I presented about the possibilities involved with Junior Cycle reform to my colleagues in September 2012 N.S.P.I
    • 5. A new vocabulary             Framework document Short Courses Subject specifications Toolkits Key Skills Statements of Learning Assessment for Learning Moderation Priority Learning Units Portfolios Level Two learning programmes (L2LP’s) 2014: J.C.S.A. – Junior Cycle Student Award
    • 6. Keep in mind – the student experience is central
    • 7.  In Portmarnock there seemed to be a lot of interest in Short Course development
    • 8. Why this interest?  A strong history of innovation in Transition-year e.g. Photography, Heritage, Film, Animation, English, History...  A confidence and capacity to introduce new and innovative methods of teaching  Junior Cycle reform – an opportunity to mainstream from Transition-year to the Junior Cycle
    • 9. NCCA support from 2012  Online space – J.C. 2.0  Many teachers from Network Schools were very active in this during 2012/2013  Lots of ideas
    • 10.
    • 11.  Noticed that many Link schools were working with their strengths, whether Short-courses, Assessment for Learning, Key-skills etc
    • 12. We promised  Support to teachers  November 2012:  In-house staff-development particularly in the area of Key Skills (used a cross-subject approach)  Denise Kelly from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) presented in the school to about fifteen teachers (who volunteered) on Short Course development  Very well received – learned a lot
    • 13. We lead...  Management and I are very supportive of the move from product to process in relation to learning  Want to develop the students appreciation of the “how” and “why” of learning over a period of time  This is a rationale we bring to the table at all meetings
    • 14. We asked...  Teachers to volunteer to develop their own Short Courses  This was at a time when the NCCA had subject titles for their for Short Courses but no developed ones as such (not the case now)  The NCCA had a template however which was (is) what the teachers worked off
    • 15. Areas to be covered Title 1. Introduction to Junior Cycle: Standard for all short courses 2. Rationale: Setting the course in the broader context 3. Aim 4. Links: Statements of Learning / Literacy and Numeracy / Key Skills 5. Course Overview 6. Expectations for Students 7. Assessment and Certification 8. Resources
    • 16.  Some teachers worked as a group  Some alone and then consulted each other  Denise Kelly (NCCA) was available for advice via email. I was the conduit, as the Link-teacher  Three Short Courses emerged – Media literacy (David Clarke and Aileen Bradley), Animation (Karen Tynan), Robotics (Michael Sweeney and Danny Murphy).
    • 17. Decisions...  December 2012 and January 2013  Principal, Deputy Principal, Link-teacher and our Time-tabler  Go with two Short-courses? Yes  Which ones? Animation and Media Literacy
    • 18. Why these two?  The Robotics Short Course was not fully finished  Animation had been highly developed in Transition-year  Animation and Media Literacy very much complemented each other - Good mix of ideas – teachers saw possibilities between the subjects  Attractive to boys and girls
    • 19. Caveat about using pre-existing courses  Material must be re-modelled for the younger students, taking into account the principles of the Junior Cycle Framework
    • 20. Where on the timetable?  Within an existing option-block  No change to the structure of the timetable as such  Treading slowly...  Students have to do both Media Literacy and Animation  One double each – for three years (c. 120 hours each)
    • 21.  Block with Materials Technology (Wood), Home- Economics and Technology  An option block that allowed corresponding subjects to be taken in 4th / 5th Year  Banding meant two class groups – offered it to one class in the band  Twenty-four students
    • 22.  School certificate at end of Third-year (2016)  Assessment focus in Second and Third-year
    • 23.  There was a very strong presentation to the parents and guardians of the incoming Sixth-class (January 2013)  Covered a lot of positives about Junior Cycle reform and education in general  Our choice of Animation and Media Literacy reflects what is relevant to real-world needs and expertise
    • 24. Digital Animation and Media
    • 25.  Minimised the use of the phrase Short Course and looked at it as the introduction of a new subject
    • 26. A digression!  I think the term Short-course was unfortunate  “You mean I’m going to replace my subject with a short- course”  “I’ll be a short-course teacher...”  There is the potential of short-courses to promote and develop subjects, and indeed to define the identity of a school over time
    • 27. Back to Portmarnock!  A draw from the hat if oversubscribed...  67 students applied
    • 28. Lessons learned  A lot of work (time) developing in-house short courses – teachers found the Short Course Template a challenge, but fulfilling when completed  Reliance on one teacher – what if our animator leaves?  Don’t become a hostage to one teachers specialism...  Implications for numbers in the other subjects in the block
    • 29. Lessons Learned  Need for some updated training in Animation – speed of change of applications  The need for technical backup – in our case relying on a technically literate teacher to manage software updates for the animation teacher  Need for digital resources – Broadband and Wi-Fi  NCCA in discussions on ICT infrastructure
    • 30. ICT Infrastructure
    • 31. Lessons Learned  Need for time for conversation with fellow Short Course teachers
    • 32. Lessons learned  Using First-year to establish the Group-work and other skills – no assessment focus is of great value  Its insights like this that give an idea as to how First- year might be re-imagined...
    • 33. Lessons Learned  Don’t presume that because students opt for a course that they have certain competencies  Don’t underestimate students either – confidence built during First-year is now becoming obvious
    • 34.  Hard work to establish the course identity  Keep trying to establish the Short Course / New- subject identity – do things to highlight the course – at Assemblies, on the website etc.
    • 35. 2014 / 2015 Context is changing  NCCA has drafts of eight Short Courses for incoming 2014 First-years – consultation process in place
    • 36. 2014 / 2015 Context changed in/for Portmarnock  Two teachers have been involved with the NCCA, examining aspects of teaching and learning from the Short Course in Coding  Two P.E. teachers have been exploring possibilities with the Physical Education Association of Ireland and the draft Physical Education Short Course  One P.E. Teacher had developed a Sports Science module in Transition Year
    • 37. 2014 / 2015  Decided to introduce two new short courses / subjects  To spread the load amongst a variety of teachers / subject areas  In the same block  Offered to both bands  A minimum of 48 students
    • 38. 2013 / 2014  Coding – as per the NCCA draft short course specification – two teachers  Sports Science – at the request of a member of the P.E. Department, who has developed his own Sports Science course in Transition Year – two teachers
    • 39. Current teacher concerns  Sports Science – to develop a separate identity from the existing Junior Cycle P.E. classes  Timetabling needs around Sports Science  Assessment in general, assessing our own students in particular and exploring moderation
    • 40. Other Concerns  Costs associated with these courses – can students asked to pay for swimming? Buses for external trips...  Any formal funding for running Short Courses from the NCCA or others?..... Saving money one way, so give us money another way  Do we need to look for sponsorship?  Do we need to develop linkages with a University who will work with us as a local-school?
    • 41. Other concerns  Started to collect feedback from current First-year parents / guardians  Students were telling them about the subjects  Concern about feedback to date
    • 42. Other concerns  If we go with Robotics in 2015 / 2016, what subject would we place with it so as to attract the balance of boys and girls?  What do parents think of the changing of the Short Course subjects each year?  What are the implications for Transition Year?
    • 43. Assessment / Moderation  We are conscious we have got the Short Courses off the ground in a creative way – now want to get the Assessment right  Support for Short Course Assessment / Moderation training for teachers  We would like Portmarnock to get support from the NCCA in developing this, not alone for the Short Course teachers, but for all teachers in the school
    • 44.  Website  Twitter @JCforTeachers
    • 45. Thank you!  Twitter @domaho  Website