An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Lanesborough Community College
Roll number: 71720L
Date of inspection: 5 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Lanesborough Vocational School. 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 teacher, 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 deputy principal and subject teacher. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
One art teacher who is engaged on a part-time basis in the school has responsibility for the delivery of all the educational programmes facilitated by the art department. The Art room was formerly a Home Economics room and although it has not been customised for the change of use that being an art-room entails, the presence of sinks and worktops, adequate space, and two large en-suite store-rooms make it possible to conduct visual arts teaching and learning comfortably.
There is little high-grade specialist equipment, such as a pottery kiln, available, and this sets limits on the opportunities available to the students in their visual arts education. However, provision for crafts currently allows for an adequate range and basis for SEC examination submissions. The Art room has the potential to be developed as an effective space for visual arts learning activities because of the cubic area and storerooms now available to it. One storeroom has large sinks and should ideally be customised into a practical and effective clay modelling/pottery/3D work area. It is recommended that if in the future any customisation of the room were to take place as part of Summer Works or other development initiatives, the sinks should be retained and incorporated into creating a 3D work area which would keep wet materials separate from the seating areas of the main classroom.
The Art department has great potential for development because of the skills and expertise available and the space allocated, and because of the positive attitude of school management to the academic and self-developmental outcomes available to students. It is recommended that this potential for development is acted on through planning as part of the School Development planning process, and that management and the VEC collaborate with the Art department to create better learning opportunities in visual art for the student body.
The Art room is well ordered and storage of completed artefacts and the management of work in progress is good, allowing full usage, on a daily basis, of available space and worktops; this facilitates efficient working by students on the practical aspects of their course.
Funding for materials for day-to-day use is provided for the Art department when required, on request. On the day of the inspection there was evidence that a range of materials and tools is available to facilitate students’ learning, and these are very well managed.
Timetabled access to the subject is satisfactory. Subject choices to students followed traditional gender lines until recently; this year all students were allowed to take all available subjects until Christmas, and had the option of their final choice thereafter. This is commendable. However, there are too few boys taking Art. This needs attention, and careful placing of the subject on the timetable, so that students of both genders can access the subject without displacing themselves from the more traditional choices. It is recommended that, as the teacher is part-time and thus could be timetabled in a way that is decoupled from the timetabling of other ‘practical’ subjects, ways of arranging for easy access to the subject are explored. It would be educationally more valuable if Art were offered to first years for the whole year, and choice given thereafter. This is likely to help with better balance of uptake and: it is recommended that it be considered seriously by management. The VEC might enable such an arrangement by providing resources to extend students’ learning opportunities in this way, as artistic and cultural education is currently seen as a central part of the educational spectrum for all young people. At present it is peripheral to the schooling pattern of boys in Lanesborough VS, and while it recognised that some effort is being made to redress this, a more effective policy needs to be envisaged and implemented.
The Arts Council offers outreach programmes, and these should be explored to see if any of the initiatives they promote could be dovetailed into the school programme. The Longford County Council Arts Officer/ Library service should be similarly targeted to provide an input to the school’s visual arts provision. Whoever is in charge of curricular programmes in the school should liaise with the Art department in getting these agencies to input to the school, either in or outside class time.
It is also recommended that ICT facilities be made available as soon as resources permit in order that teaching and learning in support studies for junior cycle and in History and Appreciation of Art for senior cycle are brought up to date.
History and Appreciation of Art is discussed under teaching and learning below and it is recommended that, for this course segment, a review of current practice takes place and new planning be undertaken in the light of suggested approaches made there.
Planning for the use of ICT is also recommended in the strongest possible way, as it has much to offer for the modernisation of the Art department both in the delivery of courses and the self-directed learning opportunities of students.
It is recommended that a clear and practical policy be formulated, with day-to-day strategies included in it, to extend and develop students’ skills in the use of varied tools and materials for drawing.
Good, large-brush planning has been developed for the programmes delivered. . Planning documents that include a useful level of detail were available for first and second year. There were also assessment criteria available. It is recommended that these are extended and developed as part of the teaching and learning process
A good range of learning activities is made available by the Art department. The way that these are presented to students is effective and clearly motivating to the majority of those that elect to study Art and Design. There is a good atmosphere for learning. An orderly approach to delivering the learning activities combined with good organisation of the classroom and the learning materials makes it a secure environment in which students can progress in visual Art. Discipline was understated yet effective and the work of the day proceeded in a very purposeful way, with no waste of time or resources. Student teacher relations were cordial and the level and quality of individual attention given to students was high. Classroom methodologies were varied according to the class group. The class groups are of mixed ability. The development of different methodologies for correcting shortfall in student attainment or motivation should be considered as part of any review of current practices that may take place in the Art department in the future as part of school development planning.
A good range of art design and architectural images in reproduction was displayed in the Art room. Included, impressively, were some artworks from the teacher’s own hand. This can often be a route to motivating students by example. Particularly useful was a woodcut, revealing that an expertise in this craft is available; it is recommended that this should be put to use in the Art department in the next academic year. To this end, suitable tools, desk vice grips, papers and inks could be procured so that over the next few years this craft is developed to full potential, according as the needs, capabilities and ages of the students allow.
Student portfolios and artefacts displayed in the room revealed that a wide range of activities is covered in teaching and learning, showing good colour work, imaginative image making and charts/diagrams related to colour theory and paint mixing. There was a reliance on the use of standard ‘writing’ pencils for drawing and a lack of variety in the choice of drawing mediums and tools. This over-adherence to traditional pencil drawing needs to be addressed in all classes. From the earliest stages in first year and throughout all of the years during which students have Art and Design lessons, a wide range of drawing tools and materials should be used.
The portfolios themselves were decorated with Celtic motifs, itself a graphic design task. It is recommended that a broad range of design activities in 2D and 3D are developed in the long term, to balance the excellent attention given to fine-art activities. To promote design thinking and the design process from first year onwards is a desirable enrichment, with the learning outcome for students of more confidence and autonomy in the generation of visual ideas and the development of imagery.
Students had earlier in the year made drawings from a model skeleton, lent by the school’s science department. This is an instance of excellent practice both in artistic education terms and in making a connection with other areas of knowledge.
Students are given some voice in determining their work assignments. A class vote is often taken in order to decide among alternatives what the subject of the drawing lesson will be. Such input encourages pro-active learning. A still life/observational drawing lesson was observed. There was an impressive range of objects available to students for this observational drawing and still life work, commendably providing them with variety and choice. Individual attention and group instruction were adroitly combined, and good feedback was given throughout the lesson. Students worked at their own pace, and all were impressively engaged.
Good vocabulary was used in the still life/observational exercise seen and also throughout the other classes. It is recommended that charts of Art and design-specific words are made up on an ongoing basis. These should be constantly added to as the work of the day requires usage of new words and terminology, displayed in the classroom and frequently referred to. This method of constant referral to concepts and terminology is also recommended for the History and Appreciation of Art course component of leaving certificate which can cause problems of motivation for students. Several additional strategies might usefully be employed to remedy this lack of openness to the History and Appreciation of Art. Firstly, a lead into it from first year and throughout Junior Cycle which emphasises encounter and appreciation of Art, design, craft and the built environment would be useful. Secondly, at senior cycle, there should be a strong visual focus on appreciating artefacts as the primary gateway for learning about the historical aspects of Art culture. Thirdly, development of discussion and finding aspects of personal interest in the material ultimately empowers students to write with understanding about Art history. Action learning is already well established in the Art department of Lanesborough VS; and to allow further extension and development of this approach it is recommended that an up-to-date computer is put into the art-room so that CD_ROM materials can be accessed for teaching and learning. Computers could be valuably used to help in the teaching of History and Appreciation of Art and also in support studies.
Students are marked in the course of the academic year on assignments, and good records are kept of these. There are assessment criteria to guide this process. These could be further developed and refined and articulated more expansively to cater for the needs of individuals and groups of differing motivation and aptitude, and to help with the assessment for learning dimension of the teaching and learning process in the Art department. The NCCA has information on its website about specific techniques of assessment for learning and it is recommended that this should be referred to in the process of developing the assessment procedures of the Art department over the next few years.
Assessment criteria should ideally be shared with students during the course of class tasks, projects and assignments. This is being done to some extent at present, and is good practice: It would lead to greater motivation of students if the practice were be extended.
Every Friday, first years have to have an Art homework assignment prepared and brought to school. These are assessed during class, while students proceed with a new task. Feedback on the homework is immediate and effective.
On the day of the inspection, the Leaving Certificate Art practical papers from SEC were available, and students were being given a communal read-through of the examination paper, by the Art teacher prior to beginning their assessment assignments. This took the form of a reading of the papers, which were in the ‘descriptive passage’ mode familiar to all students of Art and design at second level, and a discussion about possible starting points. Individuals were asked to outline their individual reactions and to suggest what they might do. Some of the students present showed that they had a well-developed approach to this task and could define their own personal task brief from the general purpose descriptive passage. Others were less assured and proactive, initially at least, in response to the challenge of the task. While it is of course accepted that the school year is busy and well accounted for already in terms of planned learning activities, it is both desirable and necessary for students to practise the skills of ideas generation/brief definition in order to be secure in their own capacity to perform under the pressure of the leaving certificate circumstances. Thus, it is recommended that students should be, as part of their year’s work, trained incrementally in those skills and behaviours necessary for developing ideas and briefs from a descriptive passage/text, which ideally should be sourced, developed and edited by the Art department with the artistic capabilities of the students in mind.
The way in which the assessment activities preparation was handled by the Art department was good and practical and was supportive of students in an appropriate way. For example, a student who was unsure needed to be talked through her choice of level, and her past attainment and performance were highlighted to her as being good enough to merit an examination submission at higher level. At all times the approach was student centred, and was both realistic and affirming.
With a further development of current assessment practice in the Art department, students can be made to build on present achievements in line with their ability and motivation.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the Art department, including continuous assessment based on classwork and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the History and Appreciation of Art component of the leaving certificate programme. Students show good levels of achievement in line with their ability and motivation.. A strong consciousness of SEC assessment criteria, and of the associated practical requirements, is evident, and this informs the work of the Art department. There are systematic records of students’ during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessment/examination results. End of term and end of year results are communicated to parents and guardians. Regular parent–teacher meetings are held and the art department provides discussion, feedback and advice at these meetings.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
The art department provides a good and balanced range of learning activities in visual art.
There is well-founded and practical approach to Art and design education, with appropriate attention to detail in the delivery of programmes.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
The provision of ICT in situ in the classroom should be a priority for management and fo the VEC.
Planning should be reviewed and existing practices developed and extended.
When resources become available, the scullery area annexed to the Art room should be developed for pottery and 3D.
Timetabling to expedite access to the subject for boys should be undertaken as a matter of urgency as gender balance in the uptake of the subject is poor.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of and with the principal and at the conclusion of the evaluation with the Art teacher and the deputy principal when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.