An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Music
Saint Colmanís College
Fermoy, County Cork
Roll number: 62260C
Date of inspection: 28 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Music
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Saint Colmanís College.† It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Music 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 teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher.† The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís written preparation.† Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.† 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.
Music is available in St. Colmanís College to all students in junior cycle as an optional subject.††† All first-year students study Music for two periods per week and then choose at the end of first year between Art, Music and Technical Graphics for their Junior Certificate.† Although Music is not available in senior cycle, students wishing to take the subject are facilitated as much as is practicable.† Due to staffing changes, the Music module, which was previously offered in Transition Year (TY), is no longer available.† This is regrettable as modules introduced in TY could serve to heighten the awareness of Music at senior cycle and develop an interest in the subject to such an extent that viable class groups could be formed.†† It is recommended that as far as is practicable, the TY Music module be re-introduced with a view to providing the subject in senior cycle in the future.††
Timetable provision for Music is in line with departmental guidelines, with all classes having the required allocation.
As well as the curricular aspects of the subject and examination preparation, some musical activities take place during the school year.† These include the Christmas carol service, an instrumental ensemble comprising trumpet, trombone, clarinet and drums, awards night, Battle of the Bands and a talent competition.† Individual tuition is offered in piano and is available for all students including those with special educational needs.† In fact, evidence of the very positive results the latter students have achieved in recent Royal Irish Academy of Music examinations shows the support the school has for these students and is commendable.†† First-year students form a choir for the Christmas carol service and, as this was mentioned by the boys as being one of the highlights of their first-year Music experience, it may be worth researching ways in which school singing could be developed, initially at junior cycle, as a means of increasing participation in music-making activities.††
Saint Colmanís College has provided teacher-based classrooms for the first time this year.† Thus there is, in effect, a designated Music room.† Some development of resources has ensued, a new sound system has been purchased, there is a TV and VCR, electronic keyboard, a stock of audio and visual resources and a variety of sheet music, teacher notes and handouts.† The walls are adorned with some posters and charts.† These all contribute to a heightened awareness of the subject and are to be commended.† The room is laid out in a traditional classroom style but the type of furniture in the room allows for efficient flexible seating to be set up to deal with many different music-teaching settings.† It is recommended that future departmental planning would consider the development of resources to include the acquisition of classroom instruments, an overhead projector (OHP) and screen, DVD player and the replacement of the television with a larger one.† The small size of the TV screen and the fact that this resource is frequently utilised more than justifies its replacement. ††
Subject planning takes cognisance of the relevant curricular principles of performing, composing and listening.† Material outlining the course content for each programme was presented.† This was mostly relevant to the syllabus and the requirements of the Junior Certificate examination, and took into account the ability level of the students in question.
In all lessons observed, clear objectives were evident, there was continuity from previous lessons, and appropriate resources and stimuli were utilised.† In general, a good level of planning for all lessons was evident in the prior preparation of relevant materials such as worksheets, video clips and relevant audio resources etc.† This indicates that short term planning is at a satisfactory level.
In all lessons observed, a secure, work-orientated atmosphere prevailed.† Material was presented in a coherent manner and the purpose of each lesson was clearly established from the outset.† High expectations of attainment and behaviour were set.† A warm, friendly rapport prevailed between the students and the teacher at all times.† There was a good level of student engagement in lessons seen, and studentsí contributions to class discussions were valued, with praise used effectively to acknowledge their efforts.† Effective questioning to named students was employed to evaluate student prior learning and to reinforce recently learnt subject matter.† It was also successfully used to aid the introduction and subsequent broadening of new material with interesting snippets of information provided by the teacher.
The teaching observed employed many strategies to engage the students and include them in all aspects of the learning process.† Student performances and demonstrations abounded, were of a good standard, contributed to the collaborative learning environment evident in the classroom and ensured that students achieved successful outcomes.† Facilitating student contributions in this manner is to be applauded as it allows them to take responsibility for their own learning and increases understanding.† The student demonstrations on the uilleann pipes and French horn for example, were impressive and the subsequent heightened attention from the students was palpable.
Both curricular and cross-curricular links were established in a variety of ways.† When introducing Haydnís Trumpet Concerto as part of the repertoire for the choice listening category Orchestrally Accompanied Instrumental and Vocal Music, links were made with the performer on the video (Wynton Marsalis) with a recent iPod advert (Sparks), something that would have been familiar to the students.† Similarly when revising Smetanaís Vltava (Moldau River) a link with local rivers (Blackwater and Lee) and subsequent homework asking students to describe the type of music they would use to capture the course of either of these rivers was made.† This linking of activities and active participation by the students is commendable and does much to ensure a broad musical development rather than a narrow focus on examination material.† It would also be worthwhile to introduce a more aural approach to these tasks where the students could produce soundscapes of the rivers rather than just providing a verbal description.† This would allow further integration and synthesis of the three areas of performing, composing and listening.†
The performing elements seen focussed on playing the tin whistle.† The students play from their own transcription of tunes which they notate in their copybooks.† Although the practice of students writing music is acknowledged and commended, an inordinate amount of time is spent ruling staves; time which would be much better spent learning about notation for example.† Therefore the use of manuscripts to notate tunes is recommended.† Furthermore, to save teacher time in writing up every tune on the blackboard and ruling all staves, utilising an OHP is definitely worth considering.† Having the tunes on acetates would optimise the use of teacher time, which could then be spent monitoring the studentsí transcriptions, for example.† The standard of performing on the tin whistle is very good so optimising the time as suggested above would allow for more musically challenging opportunities to ensue.† In addition, the OHP could be used to produce more student-friendly resources and handouts.† This could enhance student engagement and allow for more appropriate student posture during ensemble performance, for example, as the required visual stimuli could be displayed in a more effective way.† Whilst the teacher acknowledges the need for such a resource, there is also an awareness of the need for training in this area and in ICT in general.† In this light, it is recommended that the Music teacher makes the most of any continuing professional development (CPD) currently available, networks with other Music teachers, and keeps abreast of any innovative Music methodologies.
The performing, listening and composing elements of the syllabus are well addressed and mostly linked and integrated in a balanced way.† Information was presented with a high degree of clarity and very skilful teacher explanation.† Shrewd examination techniques were also observed.† These varied activities and methods used to reinforce learning as well as the structured approach to the more examination-orientated aspects of the syllabus which allowed for suitably challenging situations and yet were accessible to all students, are to be commended.†
In all lessons observed, students were mostly confident and capable, and performed to an acceptable standard.† Some student folders and copybooks showed evidence of good organisation and were generally neat in appearance, while others were haphazard and contained loose sheets and handouts.† Careful monitoring of student materials is recommended especially with junior classes, as valuable supplementary information and work will invariably go astray if not documented and filed properly.†
In addition to the regular assessment at Christmas and summer, the mock examinations for Junior Certificate students, and progress reports at mid-term, formative assessment takes place in a variety of ways.†† Examples of this include questioning in class, regular homework, completion of worksheets and practical assessments.† These assessment structures are conducive to promoting student achievement.† From observation of lessons, examination of student work and interaction with students, it is evident that students of all abilities are being successfully challenged and reach satisfactory levels of achievement in Music.†
The school has an open communication policy for parents and in addition to reports issued after formal examinations at Christmas, spring and summer, regular parent-teacher meetings take place for all class groups.† Parents are also welcome anytime to discuss student progress.†
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 Music and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.