An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Fairview, Dublin 3
Roll number: 70250S
Date of inspection: 8 December 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Marino College. 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí 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 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.
Marino College offers Art as a subject within its post-primary curriculum and also, as part of its further education programme. Currently, 628 students are enrolled in the college. This subject inspection focuses on teaching and learning in Art for junior and senior cycle students. Art is offered on the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programmes.
Four teachers staff the post-primary art department at Marino College. These teachers have engaged in a variety of continuing professional development courses which enhance their ability to inform teaching and learning in Art at the school. Senior management has also facilitated a number of more general courses for the benefit of all teachers, for example, a seminar on Solutions Oriented Schools has been held. This provision is noted as an important source of support for teachers.
The co-ordination of the work of the art department is rotated amongst all of the staff in the department. Time is allocated by management for termly meetings and informal meetings take place frequently. The subject co-ordinator meets with the principal and school development planning co-ordinator to discuss progress and achievement. The school development planning co-ordinator leads subject department planning so that all subject departments progress along a similar path while making the necessary allowances for essential differences. This is very good practice. New teachers are mentored by more senior teachers. In addition, the principal and senior teachers provide a support session for new teachers each week.
Timetabling provision for Art at the school is very good. All class groups have access to double periods to facilitate practical work.
All students in junior cycle take Art. Students may choose to study Art in senior cycle. The number of students taking Art at both junior cycle and senior cycle is good.
There are two dedicated rooms provided for the teaching of Art. †These rooms, although relatively small, are well-organised and good use is being made of the space. One of the store rooms was in the process of being cleared out at the time of the evaluation. This tidying of facilities is very good practice and the systematic maintenance of facilities should be included in the departmentís plan as an on-going project. Consideration should also be given to painting the art rooms white to enhance the light available and also to display studentsí work to better effect. It was reported during the evaluation that the kiln was in need of a timer. It is desirable from a health and safety aspect that this piece of equipment be obtained as soon as funding presents. The budget for Art is reported to be adequate and, at the time of the evaluation, there appeared to be a sufficiency of materials available.
The school has a health and safety statement which, it was reported, had been reviewed in the three months prior to the evaluation. The section relevant to the art department was made available to the inspector during the evaluation. It is suggested that this document should be scheduled for periodic up-dating in the art department plan to ensure that it fully reflects the realities of the department.
It was reported that the art rooms were used for activities other than Art. Whilst it is noted that the school must use all resources available to provide accommodation for class groups, such use of the art rooms does cause problems for teachers who of necessity must use the space to dry artefacts and also to display †studentsí work. This arrangement also limits the time when the room is free and available for teachers to prepare materials for lessons. Consideration should be given to avoiding non-specialist use of the art rooms whenever possible.
The art department plan was made available during the evaluation. In addition to the overarching aims of the school and the art department, this plan outlines the procedural and organisational structures governing the department. This is a very useful document. Minutes were also available of art department meetings.
The school has prepared a mission statement which is positive and inclusive. Consistent with this, the art department has developed its own mission statement which recognises that building self-confidence and self-esteem in students through their work in Art is central to promoting studentsí success.
The art department plan also outlines the curricular plans for all class groups according to topic. It is now time for the art department at Marino College to develop these curricular plans further. It is recommended that statements of learning outcomes be developed for all lesson plans for all year groups. This would help to identify criteria for assessment. Given that Art is taught to students of very diverse abilities, as an aid to planning, it is further suggested that contact be made with the Second Level Support Service for information on differentiated methodologies for the teaching of Art to enhance the existing good practice in dealing with the needs of students. Using differentiated learning outcomes for students would help to ensure that all students are being challenged at the appropriate level. Planning should also include timeframes for the various topics and should prioritise shorter and once-off projects. This would support student achievement in a short period of time and also facilitate those students for whom irregular attendance at school is an issue. In this way students would achieve examination readiness whilst maximising the benefits of addressing new material. Ideally these lessons should be designed with an emphasis on ease of success for students. Examples of these types of lessons include monoprinting using studentsí own drawings and tonal paintings of famous paintings and popular icons. Three-dimensional lessons could include making figures, for example, gargoyles by following instructions from the teacher thus avoiding the need for preliminary drawing. As planning is an on-going process, it is suggested that this planning should start with first-year and fifth-year lesson plans and develop accordingly. Lesson plans should be of sufficient detail to enable another teacher to take lessons in the event of a class teacher in Art being unavailable for any length of time.
Seating plans are used by some teachers for some classes. Consideration should be given to the use of seating plans for all class groups from first year. These can be developed as students progress through the school so that they gradually become familiar with this method of using the facilities. This would enable particular issues to be addressed by using approaches such as pairing students of differing ability and strategically positioning students with language difficulties.
To help students progress through the support studies and history and appreciation aspects of the various art syllabuses, it is suggested that timelines depicting significant works and periods be displayed in both art rooms. This would help all students but can be particularly beneficial to those with added learning difficulties and those for whom English is not their first language. Consideration should also be given to specific lessons on the history and appreciation of art from first year. These lessons should encourage studentsí familiarity with important works of art and also help students form confident and informed opinions from the outset of junior cycle.
The art department makes available a wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities to promote student engagement and learning in Art. These include a variety of trips to museums, galleries, heritage sites and art college open days. The art department has engaged a photography tutor to work with students on particular projects and introduces new ideas to the department by facilitating student teachers of art each year. The art department also supports the general endeavours of the school by holding exhibitions to celebrate and display studentsí achievement in Art. All of this work helps to promote the subject in the school and to engage, motivate and increase confidence in students. The schoolís mission statement is given expression by the art department in that arrangements are made so that every student has a piece of work to display in these exhibitions.
The art department makes use of the syllabuses in Art to plan lessons appropriate for a culturally diverse society. This includes the use of international motifs and using cultural markers as source material for projects. This is good work.
Lessons to two class groups in the junior cycle and to two in the senior cycle were visited in the course of the evaluation. During these lessons, teachersí commitment to the welfare of students was evident from their interactions with students. In particular it was noted that when individual students needed support and were unsure of themselves, teachers responses were kind, calm and nurturing.
This awareness of the need to support individual students has led to a style of class management which emphasises the care of the individual. For example, where studentsí behaviour was challenging, teacher responses focused on helping the individual students concerned. To further help support performance, pace and progress, it is suggested that some other approaches should be considered to emphasise the group nature of the class. For example, when an individual student is in need of a demonstration, good use can be made of this opportunity by sharing the demonstration with others in the class group who are at a similar point in the learning process.
A variety of topics and tasks was observed during the various lessons. These included aspects of print making, painting and individual project work, in addition to some students looking at the history and appreciation of art. A variety of studentsí work was displayed at the time of the evaluation including observational work, graphic design, life drawing, block printmaking, still-life and three-dimensional work.
All of the lessons had logical and sequential structures, with roll call used at the outset to help settle students. In one lesson observed, students found settling down to work difficult and the teacher involved is commended for the manner in which the issue was resolved. It is suggested that whole-class instruction should be delivered from the top of the classroom only, so that students come to recognise that when the teacher is talking from this point the message is directed to the whole class group.
Ideally, students of Art should be encouraged to use the art room as a practical workshop. This involves movement around the room whilst students start work by organising their materials and work space. In Marino College, this happens at times, but there are times when the number of students using the space provided precludes this approach. To help these students settle into work quickly, it is suggested that materials should be on desks and ready for studentsí use when possible. Clean-up was well-handled in all lessons and students were very helpful in contributing to the clean-up process.
A range of methodologies was used during the evaluation including good quality digital presentations, demonstrations, questioning techniques, and instruction. This is good practice. It was noted in one lesson that special materials were chosen in order to make a particular task easier for students. Whilst this is a good strategy for some weaker students, not all students need to be restricted in this way. The use of alternative materials may provide an approximation of a particular experience or craft, but care must be taken to ensure that materials are appropriate to the requirements and regulations of the certificate examinations and that students are given sufficient opportunity to practise with them. The appropriate materials must always be promoted as the ideal, in order to give students the best possible chance of achieving well in the examinations.
As mentioned in previous paragraphs, those students who exhibited learning difficulties and behaviours not conducive to learning were well supported by their teachers. It is important however, that teachers maintain a sense of balance between meeting the needs of these students and ensuring that all the students in the class group reach their potential. To help effect this balance it is recommended that an emphasis on the finish of work be promoted so that students who are more capable are challenged to produce work commensurate with their potential.
In the lessons visited, there were a number of students for whom English was not their first language. It is suggested that an illustrated set of key words be displayed in the art rooms to help these students to better communicate their ideas and questions about the subject. It is also suggested that specifically targeted questioning be used to help students gain confidence in their language skills. Even students who have very little English language should be encouraged to use their skills.
The art department assesses students at points throughout the year. Pre-certificate examinations are provided for those students who intend to become candidates for the certificate examinations.
The art department reported that a variety of assessment methods is used, including oral feedback, peer-assessment, practical assessment, self assessment, and assessment of portfolios. Students are informed of their progress using oral feedback, school reports, grades and formative comments on studentsí work. The student diary is also used to communicate with parents as are letters and postcards home and parent-teacher meetings.
The school has developed an assessment policy which recommends regular assessment. From the evidence observed during the evaluation, it was clear that the frequency of assessment varied from teacher to teacher. Some students were assessed regularly whilst other students were assessed on a very limited basis. It is essential that all students are assessed regularly, that student profiles of progress be compiled and that students are central to this process. Students should be made aware that their efforts are being continually monitored. It is also recommended that the Assessment For Learning section of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website (www.ncca.ie) should be accessed for information about how individualsí learning can be enhanced through the assessment process. It is suggested that this area for development might best be addressed through subject planning in the art department.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Art is a very well established subject at Marino College.
∑ The staff of the art department and other teachers have engaged in a variety of continuing professional development activities designed to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.
∑ A very good subject department structure exists and senior management provides direct support for subject development planning.
∑ Timetabling for Art is very good.
∑ Good use is being made of the room space provided for Art.
∑ The art departmentís planning documentation includes a positive mission statement which focuses on building studentsí self-confidence and self-esteem.
∑ The art department provides a wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities to support teaching and learning in Art.
∑ Teachersí commitment to the welfare of students was very evident in all lessons evaluated.
∑ The structure of the lessons observed was logical and sequential.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ Every effort should be made to avoid non-specialist activities taking place in the art rooms so as to ensure that adequate access to facilities is available for art purposes.
∑ Curricular plans for Art should now be developed further using statements of learning outcomes for all lesson plans. Lesson plans should prioritise shorter and once-off projects. The history and appreciation of art
should be taught as a discrete topic from first year.
∑ Whilst the need for using alternative materials is noted, the use of appropriate materials for crafts should be promoted amongst students. The importance of the finish of work should be emphasised so that those
students who are most capable are challenged to produce better work.
∑ Illustrated key words should be displayed to help students for whom English is not their first language. These students should be appropriately targeted during periods of questioning to help them gain confidence
in their use of the English language.
∑ All students should be assessed regularly using assessment for learning principles. The procedures for this should be agreed using the well-established subject department structures in place.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1:† Observations on the content of the inspection report
Area 2:†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the†† inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
All of the key recommendations have been adopted and implemented.