An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Magh Éne College
Bundoran, County Donegal
Roll number: 76083J
Date of inspection: 13 May 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Magh Éne 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 teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s 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 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.
Magh Éne College has an enrolment of 168 boys and 160 girls. The school offers the following programmes: the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year (TY), the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme (LCAP). Art is an optional subject on all programmes other than the TY programme, which includes a compulsory Art course.
The art department is staffed by one fully qualified specialist art teacher who is very committed to providing a positive experience of art education for students. The art department is deeply involved in and very aware of current issues in contemporary art education in Ireland including subject-specific training in Art for teachers. The art department also benefits from the continuing professional development opportunities available through membership of the Art Teachers’ Association of Ireland.
Timetabling for Art is very good, with appropriate time periods being provided to facilitate practical lessons. Timetabling for students of Art in fifth year and sixth year is particularly good, with both groups being provided with a double period and four single periods each week. TY students are provided with a double period and a single period for Art for the duration of the TY programme ; this gives them a very good opportunity to experience the subject.
Access for students to the subject is good and the uptake of Art is healthy at both junior cycle and senior cycle. An eight-week subject sampling programme is provided for first-year students to inform their subject choice decisions. After the sampling programme, first-year students make their subject choices from an open menu. Senior-cycle students also choose their subject choices from an open menu of optional subjects. Arrangements are made by school management to ensure that students and their parents are fully informed of the consequences of subject choice decisions.
A large, bright, newly built classroom with a lockable store is provided for Art. At the time of the evaluation this room was well organised and appropriately stocked with relevant equipment. Requests for consumable materials are generally made one year in advance by the subject co-ordinator to senior management. This system appears to be working well. On the day of the evaluation a sufficient supply of consumable materials was available to students.
Due to pressure for accommodation the art room is timetabled for subjects other than Art each week. To avoid the problems this might cause, the art teacher carefully plans for the storage of materials and students’ work between lessons. This is very good practice.
This working environment for students of Art is good in the school. Well presented and up-to-date displays of high quality students’ work and relevant exemplars are exhibited in the art room. This is a worthwhile strategy as it helps students to have confidence in their abilities and to aspire to the quality evident in the work of their peers. The communal areas of the school are also used to display students’ work. This serves to maintain the high profile of the subject in the school and to celebrate the achievements of students.
Expertise in information and communications technology (ICT) is available to the art department. Senior management has invested in ICT in the art department to ensure that sufficient equipment is available to enhance teaching and learning in Art. The art department makes good use of the ICT facilities available.
Subject development planning in Art has been well developed. Evidence for this was found in the good work of students and in the subject department plan. This plan showed a good level of curricular planning which, in line with syllabus requirements, detailed a wide range of topics, crafts and skills in two dimensions and three dimensions for students. It is clear that craft skills such as weaving and batik are encouraged. A learning plan has been designed for each year group which is good practice, but the individual schemes were found not to have been allocated specific periods of time. Consideration should be given to inserting the learning plans into a timeframe so that the duration and number of projects to be addressed can be easily monitored; this can ensure that they do not become overly long. The art department has also developed its own homework policy and its health and safety statement. This is good work.
Considerable evidence was provided to show that the art department is committed to consistently developing its work to help students achieve to their potential. For example, at the time of the evaluation, the art department was developing a new approach to three-dimensional studies which incorporates a more abstract emphasis. Ongoing review of teaching and learning in Art, such as this, is very good practice.
The school has a written TY plan which is educationally sound. For example, the plan covers research skills in art history, sketching and painting skills, pottery skills and the skills required to plan, design and produce a piece of art work. It also includes mask-making and mural painting as well as visits to art-related events and sites. This is good work. To help TY students develop their independent learning skills, and to take optimum advantage of the opportunity to build on their interests and motivations, consideration should be given to consulting students regarding the content of the TY plan for Art each year.
The art department provides very good support for students outside of class time. This includes support for students who are experiencing difficulty with their learning in Art. For example, extra help is given to students to progress their projects. The art department also provides opportunities for students to engage in a wide variety of art-related co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Activities include poster-making, murals, the design and execution of props for school musicals and parades and the generation of artefacts for a wide variety of school activities. Such support for the subject is good practice as it extends the teaching and learning provided in the classroom and it allows students opportunities to pursue individual areas of interest in Art.
Two lessons were evaluated; one class group from junior cycle and one from senior cycle. The atmosphere in the lessons visited was purposeful and characterised by respectful interactions between all parties. Generally students were well behaved and diligent. A very small number of students in one group appeared uninterested at the outset of one of the lessons. The confident implementation of strategies such as the assignment of differentiated tasks and the communication of an expectation of an appropriate level of work ensured that these students became engaged in their learning. The pace of the lessons observed was good.
The structure of lessons was very good. Lessons were established with roll call and all of the learning activities provided were organised in an efficient and friendly manner. Students were obviously familiar with working at a swift pace and displayed good organisational skills. For example, students retrieved materials and work-in-progress quickly and effectively.
The students observed were in mixed-ability groups. There was a very broad range of ability and motivation evident in each class group. A commendably wide variety of methodologies was used to attract and maintain the attention of all students. In particular, the judicious choice of methodologies to teach a topic in art history and appreciation ensured that students had interesting and interactive ways of engaging with what for some students was a difficult topic. The methodologies used were changed at appropriate times during the lessons to ensure that the learning tasks set for students remained fresh and interesting. For example a combination of mind mapping, individual tasks and group work helped all students to stay focussed.
The delivery of information was pleasant and insightful. The board, ICT and relevant visual aids were used to enhance communication, this varied approach using complementary elements is a very good strategy. Descriptions of visual concepts were clear and pitched appropriately. These strategies successfully helped students to access information and develop concepts.
During the lessons observed, targeted questioning was used to good effect to help students focus on particular visual phenomenon and information. This worked very well and the nature of the language used by both students and teacher showed that students were familiar with and understood the relevant terminology. Targeted questioning was also used to help students to make linkages with existing knowledge, to elicit new information and to conclude with informed opinions. This is good work.
Senior-cycle notebooks and copies were examined during the evaluation. These showed that work in the history and appreciation of art was progressing at a good rate. It was also noted that very high quality handouts and work sheets were prepared by the teacher and distributed amongst students to help them revise. This helps students to stay focussed on important areas of study and also, to formulate high quality answers to examination questions.
A wide variety of students’ artefacts was examined which showed that the quality of learning was good relative to the abilities of students. Expressive work in a variety of media and dimensions showed that students had engaged in a very wide variety of disciplines.
Homework was given in both of the lessons observed. This homework was of appropriate duration and supportive of the topics being addressed in the lessons. During the lessons, previously completed homework exercises were returned to students. Comments written on the homework were informative for students and very affirming of their efforts.
The art department has a good policy with regard to homework. Junior cycle homework mainly consists of visual research whilst senior cycle students are assigned both written and practical homework.
During the school year, summative and formative assessments take place in the art department. Formative assessment during practical assignments is used to encourage students to find routes to improving their work and performance. Formal summative tests take place at mid-term, Christmas, Easter and at the end of the summer term. Students are also assessed on their work throughout the year. To help senior students practise for their Leaving Certificate examination, full ‘mock’ examinations are provided in authentic conditions.
A variety of assessment methods is used, including assessment of practical work, portfolios and homework. Marking schemes modelled on those published by the State Examinations Commission are used with senior students for life drawing; this is good practice. It is recommended that this approach, which puts students at the centre of the assessment process, should be extended to all class groups from first year. As this approach to assessment develops it is further suggested that senior cycle students should be encouraged occasionally to mark their peers’ work. This would help these students to better understand how marking schemes are applied.
Record keeping in the art department is accurate and regular. Good profiling of students’ work including homework ensures the accurate tracking of students’ progress. Students are informed of their progress through school reports, comments on two-dimensional and written work and regular oral feedback. Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress through the students’ journal, school reports and parent-teacher meetings.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Art has a high profile in the school and it is very well supported by school management.
· Subject development planning in Art has been well-developed.
· The atmosphere in the lessons visited was purposeful and characterised by respectful interactions between all parties.
· The structure of the lessons observed was very good and a commendably wide variety of methodologies was used to attract and maintain the attention of all students.
· The delivery of information in lessons was pleasant and insightful and descriptions of visual concepts were clear and accessible for students.
· The wide variety of students’ artefacts examined during the evaluation showed that the quality of learning was good relative to the abilities of students.
· A variety of assessment methods is used; record-keeping in the art department is accurate and regular.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· When devising the plan for Art in TY, the students concerned should be consulted and their requests should be reflected in the plan.
· The use of marking schemes modelled on those published by the State Examinations Commission should be extended to all year groups.
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.
Published February 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Magh Éne College wishes to acknowledge the comprehensive and detailed report of the Department of Education and Science regarding the Art Inspection.
The Board welcomes the recognition in the subject report of the strengths in the teaching and learning of Art in the college with the subject having a high profile. The Board also welcomes the observation of a very good relationship between the Art teacher and students and of excellent planning by the Art Department.
The Board appreciates the hard work being done by the Art teacher and by the School Development Planning Team.
The inspection report finds that the Board of Management provides excellent access to audio-visual and ICT equipment to support teaching and learning.
Finally, the Board of Management thanks the inspectorate for the courtesy and professionalism shown during the inspection process.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection