An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Strokestown, County Roscommon.
Roll number: 65100S
Date of inspection: 25 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Scoil Mhuire Strokestown. 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 acting 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.
Scoil Mhuire is situated in the town of Strokestown and is the only second level school in the immediate area. In light of the fact that the school is a relatively small, the school is to be commended on offering Art to Leaving Certificate level. Presently the Art department is staffed by two people, one of whose responsibilities includes Art Education and another member of staff whose responsibilities are mainly in other subject areas. However, it was noted that despite commitments to other areas, all lessons were delivered with enthusiasm and energy and that genuine interest in the subject was communicated. It was apparent that collaboration takes place in the department and that knowledge, skills and experience are shared. Collaboration also takes place with other departments most notably to support liturgical and musical activities as well as Home Economics. Commendably, membership of the relevant subject association is availed of and to further support the delivery of Art in the school personal and community Art work is also engaged with.
There is no formal budget arrangement in place; however, materials are requested as necessary and on the day of the visit there was an array of materials available. Each student contributes a fee to fund the purchase of consumable Art materials in the school. In addition to this students are encouraged to obtain their own Art material, which aids homework and also allows students to gain a respect for materials.
Commendably, a taster module is provided for all first years in their first term of school in Scoil Mhuire to ensure that each student can make an informed decision about their choice to study Art. Students make their decision at the end of September which is useful as this ensures that the students can study their subject of choice as early as possible. At senior cycle students have a free choice of the subjects that they would like to study, on which subject groupings are based; it was reported that this system was satisfactory. Numbers dictate that Leaving Certificate students in years one and two are accommodated in the same lesson group, which is not ideal. However, as this facilitates the study of Art up to Leaving Certificate level this is a reasonable solution to the management of the numbers involved.
Timetabling is satisfactory, as is the provision of double periods when possible, and all lessons are of mixed ability.
A bright room is made available for the delivery of Art and commendably this room is managed in a very orderly and methodical fashion. A lockable store room off the main room is also provided. Facilities also include; a kiln, loom, screen printer, laminator and a drying press. Presently the kiln is housed in the Art room itself; however, it is desirable that this facility be housed outside of the main Art room in order to facilitate fume extraction. It was suggested on the day of the visit that there was a suitable space available convenient to the Art room to house the kiln. It is recommended that the positioning of the kiln be rectified as soon as is practicable and that firing of the kiln be avoided whilst students are present in the Art room.
The Art Department has the use of a laptop which is a very useful resource. It is recommended that, as funding and opportunity present, this resource would be expanded to include a digital projector and dedicated Art related software. A store of Art books is available to the department and is a very useful teaching tool.
A display of students work was on show in the Art room on the day of the visit. It is recommended to expand on this good practice and to encourage all students to display their work in order to promote the subject itself and student confidence. It is also recommended that this display space be used to exhibit exemplars of appropriate work as well as a time line to encourage and inspire students.
Some good individual planning was observed on the day of the visit. These plans incorporated a range of topics and skills forming a broad and balanced art education. Some of the more detailed plans included topics such as: objectives, starting points, key concepts, learning experiences, support for learning, study exercises, sketchbook work and evaluation. Such commendable practice should be extended to all planning for the department. Some plans for second year Art indicated a range of skills to be addressed within a project framework. To avoid students becoming overwhelmed, at this stage in their development, in dealing with a project perceived to last a whole year, it is recommended to teachers to proceed using a scheme of shorter term tasks. In addition, changing the themes will also ensure that the projects remain fresh, so that students in effect are progressing along a series of different projects while still developing the necessary skills for the State Examinations.
The plans submitted and procedures observed on the day show that a good deal of planning, foresight and dedication is incorporated into the operating of the Art department at Scoil Mhuire. To further this good work it is recommended that management make time available for the creation of an Art department plan which would expand on the practices of the Art department and also formalise existing plans. This plan would be an invaluable resource in the event of members of staff being unavailable for any period of time.
Presently there is no provision of Art in the Transition Year (TY) programme. It is suggested that Art would be considered for inclusion to the programme in the future.
Although no History of Art and Appreciation lessons were seen, students notebooks observed showed that this component of the syllabus is progressing satisfactorily. However, it was reported that the History of Art and Appreciation component of the Leaving Certificate Syllabus is perceived by students as being ‘difficult’. To avoid this perception and to encourage an interest in the subject, it is recommended to staff to review the delivery of History of Art and Appreciation to incorporate modules of appropriate eras from first year. It is suggested that these modules would be designed to encourage students to enjoy ‘looking’ and to be able to discuss the work using the appropriate Art terminology. This practice will help students with their support studies in junior cycle as well as encouraging students to enjoy Art History and Appreciation at senior level.
Commendably, a range of teacher-generated materials has been created to provide an effective teaching resource.
Three junior cycle classes were visited on the day of the inspection. All classes were characterised by a sense of respect for students, teacher and for the subject itself. Discipline was maintained in a firm and fair manner. During the lessons it was apparent that the students were motivated and interested in the tasks presented and were enjoying the experience.
Commendably, observations of class activities show that students are keen and motivated and are eager to be successful at the subject. However, some student work in the collections of student portfolios remains unfinished. To encourage students to finish and present their work to the best degree, it is recommended that special attention be paid to the presentation and finish of work by concentrating on the best use of materials. The use of exemplars and the critical acclaim of well-presented students’ work will be useful strategies in this area.
Group work was used very successfully as a strategy to encourage independent learning in one lesson observed. This allowed students to experience a variety of different methods and effects at their own pace; commendably students were expected to have produced a number of artefacts by the end of the lesson so that there was no room for deviation from the task. Time was taken at the end of the lesson to have a look at the work produced whereupon students were asked to discuss what went well. This was a very good practice and was a very appropriate way to complete the lesson.
It was noted in some cases that there was a possibility of students being over reliant on the teacher. To avoid teacher dependence a review of class management is suggested with a view to encouraging students’ independent learning. Strategies such as the one outlined above should be used from first year to promote individual students confidence and decision-making capabilities.
Each project is marked with a grade as the project is completed. Assessment should be built into each project both during and at the end of the project to form a combination of both summative and formative assessment. It is also important that students are encouraged to assess their own work to develop critical ability. Commendably, student profiles are already created in which assignments are assessed and recorded. To add to this good practice and to encourage and motivate students it is recommended that the system of assessment be reviewed and that teachers consider using a variety of assessment methods on a regular basis.
To add to the good work being carried out in senior cycle, it is suggested that a combination of both practical and academic project style work be included in fifth year to deliver Art History and Appreciation. It is also suggested that these projects be displayed in the Art room so that students become familiar with the information. It is further suggested to create and display a time line so that all students in the Art Department become familiar with the chronological order of historical facts and artefacts.
Student progress is generally satisfactory; however to add to the good work in existence the recommendations made above should be implemented as soon as is practicable. Formal reports of student progress are sent to parents twice per year. When necessary the journal system is used to communicate with parents to good effect.
There is a tradition in the school of students attending Art College, which is a tribute to the staff .
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 teachers of Art and with the acting principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.