An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Loreto Secondary School
Balbriggan, County Dublin
Roll number: 60010P
Date of inspection: 3 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Art and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject 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 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 principal and subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Art is a very well established subject in Loreto Secondary School. Numbers of students taking the subject at both junior and senior levels are very robust. Management reports that Art makes a very positive contribution to school life throughout the year and the art department is very willing, helpful and competent in terms of collaboration with other departments.
The provision of physical resources and equipment in the school is excellent. Three dedicated rooms are provided for the delivery of Art. In addition to this, a converted designated room is provided for Art lessons in when the other rooms are fully in use. These dedicated rooms with lockable storage spaces are very well maintained and organised, and every effort is made to ensure that these spaces are hospitable and practical working environments.
The art department is well resourced in terms of both fixed and consumable equipment and materials. Resources are purchased from a budget provided by management and in addition to this students are asked to make a contribution each year. Students are also encouraged to obtain their own set of materials.
Timetabling is satisfactory and double periods are generally facilitated.
The art department is very much aware of the power of display to enhance and improve students learning in all aspects of Art. As a result the base classrooms are used to good effect; displaying both exemplars and images from art history as well as students on-going and finished work. The public areas in the school are also skilfully used as display areas with collections of high quality framed and unframed work decorating the halls. In particular the art department has a practice of holding specific art exhibitions dedicated to the display of students work during the year. On the day of the inspection, teachers and students were completing the curation of a large, high quality exhibition of students’ work. The curation of this exhibition was an excellent opportunity for students to experience at first hand how different types of 2D, 3D and craft pieces can be displayed to their best effect. Commendably, the exhibition also displayed some of the preparatory studies for finished pieces so that the audience could appreciate how some of the works evolved. The art department is complimented on the good practice of sharing and celebrating the work of the students in the art department with the rest of the school community.
Access to the subject is very well organised by management and all students have the option of studying the subject at both junior and senior cycle.
Links are regularly made by the staff of the art department to other art related agencies. This has benefited both the students and the staff of the art department in the school greatly. Most notably, links with the National College of Art and Design, the Museum of Modern Art and collaboration with a photographer have influenced some very good work. To add to the register of agencies available to support teaching and learning in the subject, it is recommended that membership of an appropriate support organisation for art teachers would be obtained.
There are four fully qualified teachers in the department, three of whom are full time. Commendably, collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, ideas and support is a major characteristic of the department’s work. It is reported that the department operates a shared responsibility with regard to decision-making, with an informally appointed subject co-ordinator. Whilst this method of structuring the department is working well to date, it should be reviewed regularly, so that if parties feel that they would like a change of role or commitment, such an option would be available. It is suggested that a rotating co-ordinator would be appointed in such a case. Members of the department have been engaged in art-related courses and programmes in their personal time. This commitment to improving the delivery of the subject and in remaining up to date with skills and knowledge is commended.
Department meetings are held on a regular basis. It is suggested that this good practice would be enhanced by setting an agenda for some formal meetings during the year. It is intended that these meetings would address particular topics in the teaching and learning of art other than procedural issues and that decisions would be recorded and action plans produced.
All of the programmes delivered in the department receive a high level of thought, planning and preparation. The department has a very ambitious vision for the subject and this is supported by attention to educational values and a high level of dedication to the delivery of skills. Appropriately a significant emphasis is placed on drawing. It is suggested that now may be an ideal time to consider how the work of the department might progress and develop in coming years, perhaps to encourage more working from life, or to introduce new disciplines such as embroidery or print.
High quality teacher-generated handouts are prepared so that students are aware of the particular topics that need extra attention. Notes are prepared for students to help them understand particular requirements and concepts such as how to choose a specific project from the list of themes given for the Junior Certificate project. Letters are sent to parents detailing the time constraints of projects especially in junior cycle. This is also used to familiarise parents with the structure of the project and the requirements of the examination.
A very commendable feature of the planning for Art in the school is the embracing of new ideas and opportunities for students. This approach to the subject encourages enquiry and investigation and ensures that engagement with the subject stays fresh. On the day of the visit, a display of photographs was observed which had been created by students in a workshop organised by the art department. This work is was of a very high standard and was an excellent learning opportunity for students.
Presently, Internet access is available in all three art rooms. There may also be scope in the future to investigate how digital technology may be used to display and present material.
Four class groups were visited as part of the inspection; two junior and two senior groups. A variety of topics was dealt with during these lessons including graphic work, the study of colour, history of art, and clay work. In all lessons observed classroom management was of a very high standard, classes started promptly, the pacing of lessons was excellent, and lessons were purposeful. Continuity with previous lessons was established in some cases by checking sketchbooks and in others by asking students to recall specific concepts from previous lessons and by looking at work created by other students. In particular the large exhibition of students work near the art room was used to evaluate methodologies and to inspire future work, this is very good practice. Commendably, reference was made to art history in a seamless fashion as students were asked to critically evaluate relevant works.
A variety of teaching methodologies is used, including, demonstration, discussion, specific questioning techniques and visual aids. All information is given in a clear and pleasant way and the delivery of topics often includes asides which are informative and insightful which keep students engaged and on task.
A history and appreciation lesson was observed which addressed a particular artist from art history. The level of knowledge imparted to students was very high and the lesson was delivered in a pleasant but didactic fashion. It is suggested that provision be made for more contributions from students by using targeted questioning. It is also suggested that the teaching methodology be varied by using the visual to elucidate information. Whilst this technique may be slower than telling students the information, its use outweighs disadvantages, as it shows students how to decipher a work, much as they would on their own in an examination situation. This technique is also useful in that it is engaging and teaches students skills for life.
A very good rapport exists between teacher and students, which made for a very pleasant learning atmosphere. Students in lessons were found to be informed, confident in talking about the various tasks and visually aware.
All of the teaching observed showed a high level of concern and regard for the potential of students at all levels as well as a healthy overall level of ambition for students. This level of ambition is made possible by the excellent teaching and learning practices of the teaching staff and by the enthusiasm for the subject shared throughout the department.
Examination of students’ work showed that there is a very high standard of learning taking place in a large range of skills and disciplines in the art department. This work is creative, expressive, and inventive and commendably is finished to a very high degree of presentation.
A commendably large number of students attend Art College and art-related courses subsequent to their education at Loreto Secondary School. This is in no small part due to the efforts of the staff at the school who imbue students with a respect for the subject and its career implications but also encourage, support and provide extra instruction for students to complete portfolios for submission and interview. During the inspection, documentation and plans for past and future extra and co-curricular activity show that the art department has given and continues to give very generous portions of personal time to add to the curricular provision of Art in the school. Such activities include the creation and production of fashion shows, exhibitions, art tours abroad to such places as Rome and New York, visits to galleries and museums in Ireland as well as providing extra tuition time for students needing extra help and tuition.
Homework is regularly given and monitored. This good practice reflects the needs and developmental stages of the students. Commendably both drawing and written homework is given. Homework is also given in cases where students have not completed work at school, emphasising the need for students to be aware of the importance of completing work. Written homework is given at senior cycle as a method of revising topics covered in class, as a way of creating notes for revision and also as a way of students to practice answering essay type questions.
Presently assessment takes the form of formative and summative assessment. This assessment takes place informally as work progresses and formally as tasks are completed. These records are then kept as part of a student profile, which can track the progress of the individual student. It is recommended to expand the levels of student profiling at all levels and to use a variety of assessment methods on a regular basis. It is also recommended that students would be instrumental in assessing their own and peers work. Presently, individual teachers operate slightly different assessment practices; it is suggested that formal collaboration by the department may allow for a focus on, and improvement of assessment practices as the department develops.
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 teachers of Art and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.