An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Roll number: 65630B
Date of inspection: 3 April, 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Art. 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 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 teacher. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
A full-time teacher who comes from a subject background other than art and design is timetabled to take students through from first year to third year in the subject. There is no provision for senior cycle. This situation in relation to delivery of Art and Design has been in operation for many years. In employing teachers, other subjects have been favoured and the art department has not been developed, and this is to the disadvantage of the students. To alleviate this disadvantage in some way it would be desirable in the short term for management to try to make some contingency arrangements to better the provision of time and access to the subject in order to give students more opportunities than are available at present to study and take state examinations in Art. It might be possible, given that there are a number of post-primary schools in Tullamore which offer art, to liaise with these schools in order to share a part-time teacher, if only to increase current provision by a few hours.
Students receive much encouragement in Art up to junior certificate level and they benefit from their involvement with the art department, which is run in a very professional and student centred way. It would be to the educational advantage of the student would increase the vocational options open to them if Art and Design were offered as a senior cycle subject, both for TY and leaving certificate. Ideally, students should have the option to continue to study Art after investing time and effort in it at junior cycle.
The art room is very well designed for its particular purpose, with ample space, natural light, and storage. It is a pity that this costly facility has never been put fully at the disposal of the subject for which it has been custom designed. Some thought should be now be given in the context of School Development Planning to developing the subject in the interests of a broad and balanced education for the students, and of their vocational and self developmental opportunities, by offering it for leaving certificate. Part time hours would suffice initially to make provision for this enhancement of student opportunity.
Students should be encouraged to participate in the visual arts whilst in post primary school. The County Council for Offaly has an Arts Officer and this facility should be explored to see if the school could avail of some programme or initiative that might be on offer from that source. The Arts Council has a programme of Artists in Schools which might help the school to provide an intervention which enhances the existing art and design provision in the school, and adds to the cultural experiences of students, regardless of whether or not they are taking Art and Design as an examination subject.
It would be desirable and valuable for the art room to have at least one computer on which teacher and students could use CD-ROM material, of which there is now a great deal related to all aspects of art, design and the built environment. As part of bringing the subject up to date by focusing on real art and design objects reproduced on ICT, computer use is becoming less and less optional for teaching and learning, partly because it is the medium par excellence for accessing visual material, and also because it extends, through the internet, an opportunity for students to look at art and design from all the worlds great museums and galleries. In a rural context this can compensate for the lack of access to, and opportunity to engage with, art and design in the immediate hinterland. Serious consideration should now be given to putting basic ICT facilities into the art-room, as part of the recommended further development of the subject, when resources can be made available.
Documented planning was available on the day of the inspection. This should be extended in future. It is recommended that learning aims and objectives are integrated into all topics and media planned for in such documents. Some differentiation should be planned for in the mixed ability groupings. It is recommended that clear aims and objectives be devised for every class group so that the differing learning needs of highly motivated and less motivated students can be accommodated in the classroom.
Design and 3D activities should be developed through planning to ensure that variety and breadth and balance are available to students, especially those whose artistic potential needs to be challenged and extended.
Planning is recommended in order that appreciation of art and design skills is introduced at the beginning of first year so that students can develop these as part of practical assignments throughout their post-primary schooling.
Planning to include the use of computers in teaching and learning should be undertaken in the medium and long term
A limited range of activities and media are well done. The State Examinations Commission (SEC) requirements in relation to art, craft, and design inform and direct what is taught and learned and the manner in which activities are presented to students. Good work has been done in painting, composition, and in introducing the Art Elements.
In the 3D classes visited, students were working constructively on plaster sculptures. There was a variety of subject matter evident and personal interest and approaches were being very effectively encouraged by the teaching process. Classroom atmosphere was good, students were engaged with their work and there was a very positive approach to teaching and learning. In the classes visited there were good levels of student-teacher interaction. Students also worked well with one another, and there was a good learning atmosphere. Students had been motivated by the teaching process to work in a largely pro-active way on the sculptural task in hand, whatever their aptitude and motivation.
An increased focus on observational drawing and appreciation of art and design is recommended from the very beginning of first year. Reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the use of secondary sources as the basis of drawing assignments and lessons, and in project work, should be a priority in the next academic year. Furthermore, a wider range of drawing materials and tools (pastels, pen and ink, brush and wash, coloured pencils, bamboo pens, conté, crayons, and so on) should be used in the teaching and learning of drawing from the outset of first year onwards. At present, an over-reliance on hard ‘writing’ pencils as a drawing tool is evident in the students’ work. Economical as these may be, unsuitable pencils inhibit and constrict learning in this key course area.
There are reproductions of art and design artefacts on display in the art room. This educationally sound practice should be extended and developed. It is recommended that a small, dedicated budget be put at the disposal of the art department so that postcards and inexpensive art and design books, which can be cut up and displayed on the walls, can be purchased on an ongoing basis. These reproductions should include architecture and design as well as fine art and include both historical and contemporary artefacts. The reproductions displayed should be frequently changed, and constantly referred to, in day to day teaching and learning, to encourage looking and analytical skills to develop an engagement with art and design. The practical side of art and design should be balanced and complemented by the appreciation and theory sides.
The delivery of Support Studies can be problematic as students often do not have skills of visual appreciation. The use of wall displays is a part of helping students in this key skill area. Furthermore, the use of computers is advised in the area of teaching skills of appreciation of art and design. It is recommended that there be a computer in situ in the classroom which can be used by students and teacher to access CD-ROM discs. It is also recommended that the art teacher and/or the computer expert in the school instruct first years in the basics of using Paint-type computer programmes, which can be then used as a basis for homework assignments and in-school work.
It is recommended that the facilities for pottery and ceramic sculpture be further developed on a phased basis in the long term to enhance the study of 3D by students and to make possible a high standard of craftsmanship for the crafts element in the state examinations. It is also recommended that other crafts be added to those already available.
A new approach to the use of homework in the overall delivery of the junior cycle programme could improve the learning opportunities available to students. It needs to be re-conceptualised as a part of the year long process that allows skills and technical competence to be developed. It is recommended that in second year, and possibly first year, a craft skill such as calligraphy be made the focus of the home-work on a long-term time schedule. After the basic skills have been taught in class students are assigned calligraphy homework which takes a month or more to do. This practice would develop good, useful skills in this craft, which, if it were done in class would take too much time from the many other course components which must be covered. Graphic design, and other types of artwork can also be adapted to this scheme of long-term assignments. Homework in this mode should be recalled for checking at least once during the period assigned to it in order to monitor progress. A mark should always be given to such long-term homework that is later included as a percentage of the student’s end of term/end of year assessment. The Assessment for Learning research posted on www.ncca.ie should be referred to in relation to the use of assessment to provide information to students which enhances their day to day learning potential.
More thought should be given to the students’ artistic achievements independently of the requirements of the SEC. It is possible to bring students to the same, or to a better, point of exam-readiness by means which develop expressiveness and creativity and promote higher levels of artistic achievement among students.
As outlined earlier, aims and objectives for learning outcomes should be designed for the whole range of abilities and motivation levels of the students. These aims and objectives should be linked to appropriate assessment criteria. These criteria, when applied, should reflect accurately the attainment achieved by students.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
The art department provides a good learning environment for students
Students of all aptitudes and motivational profiles are supported in their visual arts learning
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Computer use should be developed in the art department as soon as resources become available for the necessary equipment to be put in situ in the art-room.
Planning is recommended in order that appreciation of art and design skills are introduced at the beginning of first year so that students can develop these as part of practical assignments throughout their post-primary schooling.
Consideration should now be given, as part of School Development Planning, to the inclusion of art as a senior cycle subject.
Clear learning aims and objectives should be devised for all class groups, focusing particularly on students of high motivation and ability and on students who are less able and less motivated.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher 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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The board of management broadly welcomes this report but wishes to make the following points.
We note that:
The art teacher has expressed concern that many of the positive points made by the inspector while in the classroom are not included in the report
The art teacher contends that the inspectors comment that there is an over reliance on hard writing pencils is inaccurate as the use of soft drawing pencils is insisted on in the classroom as well as the use of a wide range of drawing materials.
The board is satisfied that students are very well prepared for their examination in art and this fact is borne out by the excellent results achieved by students across a wide range of abilities over a number of years.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
As a first step towards introducing Art at senior level, art has been introduced in T.Y for 2006/2007 school year.
We are committed to providing IT facilities in the Art room as soon as the Department of Education and Science provides resources for same.