An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
St. Columba’s Comprehensive School
Glenties, Co. Donegal.
Roll number: 81010J
Date of inspection: 26 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 St. Columba’s Comprehensive Secondary 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 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 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.
St. Columba’s Comprehensive Secondary School currently enrols 229 boys and 228 girls. The Art Department is very well established in the school and is operated by two members of staff, one of whom is shared with another department. Both members of staff are qualified Art teachers. Management considers the subject a very vital part of school life and is very supportive of the subject in terms of timetabling, budgeting and provision of rooms. A high degree of professional development is regularly undertaken by members of the Art department, which reflects the wholehearted commitment and dedication to the delivery of Art in the school. Commendably, both teachers are members of the relevant subject association. It is reported that a large degree of collaboration takes place in the department and that both members are focussed on the needs of the students and a desire to help students achieve a broad and balanced Art Education. To date this collaboration has resulted in a very high quality Art department plan.
There are two Art rooms in the school; one designed as an Art room and one general classroom converted into an Art room. A new Art room is to be provided as part of a proposed school extension. The rooms, although relatively old, are kept meticulously organised, clean and tidy which contributes to the smooth running of lessons. To aid the presentation of students work and to add to the display potential of rooms it is recommended that the auxiliary Art room be repainted and that the main Art room also be repainted in due course. In the auxiliary room there is an issue over storage space, it is suggested to investigate if shelving or storage units can aid in the storage of students’ work.
Presently, there are three computers shared between the two Art rooms, which are being used to their fullest potential. The department would benefit greatly from access to broadband in both classrooms and the use of a dedicated laptop for the department; it was indicated on the day of the visit that these facilities would be obtained in the near future.
There is no formal budgeting system; however, it is reported that all requests for materials are met. On the day of the visit there was a very good array of consumable materials on hand for student use. Students are also encouraged to obtain a pack of approved materials, which help students gain a better respect for materials and also facilitate homework.
Students, parents and teachers collaborate very effectively in arrangements for student subject choice. Subject banding is varied each year based on students’ subject choice. Presently, the choice of subjects includes Music and Art in the same band. It is reported that often students would like to pursue both Music and Art, in light of this it is recommended that this banding be reviewed so that students may take both subjects. Most commendably, junior cycle Art lessons are offered to a ‘float’ class group who would like to study Art outside of timetabled class time to ensure that all students seeking to study Art are facilitated.
All students study Art in first year, at the end of which they decide whether to study Art for Junior Certificate. Commendably, Art is a core subject in Transition Year (TY) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). Numbers of students taking the subject at junior and senior cycle are very encouraging. All class groups are of mixed ability.
It is obvious from the excellent planning observed on the day of the visit that planning and preparation takes very high priority in the Art department. Planning is collaborative, intelligent and based on the spirit and letter of the various syllabuses; in addition a very rounded approach is taken to all planning in that students are encouraged to learn, work hard and enjoy their work. The overarching vision of Art Education as lived out by the department ensures that the learning is not merely classroom based but is also applied to daily life and the real world. Every opportunity is taken to contextualise learning and to encourage students to apply skills in various areas and disciplines. The nature of the delivery of the subject encourages students to be confident in their decision-making and to be independent learners. Art Education is seen by the department in a wider sense as helping to develop ‘initiative, sensitivity, perseverance and self-reliance’. Commendably, this is enshrined in the Art department’s own mission statement, which was observed to be lived out in all of the interactions observed on the day of the visit.
The ideas and concepts outlined in the Art department plan are the framework from which all individual planning takes place. The plan is well organised and different sections of the plan show that due consideration has been given to all of the factors and elements affecting the delivery of Art in the school. Topics such as curriculum organisation, special needs provision, in-career development and Health and Safety are addressed here. An array of very relevant policies and procedures for the effective delivery of the subject have been established and published in this document. The document is punctuated with elements of reflection and review, which indicate that practice and procedures are constantly being examined and improved.
The lesson schemes for class groups prepared by individual teachers are of a very high standard. The topics explore a wide range of disciplines, are given adequate time, yet are paced such that students do not experience fatigue. Commendably, a plethora of very high quality visual documentation is also available to students.
Energy and enthusiasm characterised the atmosphere of all lessons visited in the Art Department. A sense of exploration and fun was evident and students were observed to be fully engaged, enjoying themselves and content whilst always focussed on the tasks in hand. Lessons are delivered in a very pleasant manner. Good planning, based on stimulating aspects of the various syllabuses tempered with student interest, is used to hold student attention. Humour is used in a very pleasant way to engage students and develop rapport. The obvious enthusiasm shared by both teachers for the subject is communicated clearly, which has led to the student population in the Art department having a very high regard for the subject. Discipline is maintained in a natural and courteous manner and in practice is exercised by ensuring that all students are engaged in meaningful learning.
Three lessons were visited on the day of the visit; one junior and two senior class groups. Excellent classroom management in addition to clear objectives were used to maintain pace and to ensure progress.
Students are encouraged at all times to be responsible for their learning. A drawing lesson was observed in which students organised themselves and their materials at the outset, exemplars were used to set the aims and composition was discussed and used as the focus of the lesson. Students worked well; all were very keen to achieve as much as possible. The resulting work was of a very high standard.
Another drawing lesson was observed in which the students were practising life drawing for the State Examinations. As the students were weak and finding the time constraints of the examination very worrying the teacher used humour to alleviate the worries of the students and then proceeded to time their drawing to encourage them to speed up; this worked very well. Commendably, great concern was felt for all students, which helped them to be more relaxed and to proceed effectively.
As part of the TY programme the Art department examined the school environment to identify an area in need of improvement, which could be developed by the students. The resulting idea was to design and create a garden situated at the centre of the school building. This project used Art and co-curricular links in a very imaginative and useful way; a combination of drawing, design, research and planning as well as interpersonal skills, horticulture, finance, budgeting and presentation is used to form a very high quality learning experience. Students showed great enthusiasm for the project, which was reflected in the creation of a very high quality presentation documenting the development of the garden. Drawings of the completed garden were incorporated into this presentation, as were quotes from appropriate poetry, a model of the garden as well as a history of its creation. The methodologies used in this lesson where students play to their strengths in contributing to the various elements of the project are to be complimented. The resulting garden itself is a most positive addition to the school’s built environment and a tribute to all involved.
Evidence observed on the day of the visit would suggest that students are exposed to a high quality learning environment and are reaching their potential. Interaction with students found them to be confident and knowledgeable.
Formative and summative assessment is used to monitor student effort to good effect. It is recommended that these levels of recorded assessment be increased to create student profiles in order to be able to accurately monitor student progress over time. Commendably, student achievement is analysed by the department as a diagnostic tool for future planning.
Accurate records of student attendance and absences are being maintained. Contact with parents on student progress is maintained using bi-annual reports, parent-teacher meetings and the student’s homework diary.
A wide range of extra and co-curricular activities is offered to the students, adding to the provision made in formal class time. These activities have included: Form and Fusion, animation, regional and national competitions and exhibiting in a number of galleries and other spaces. Galleries, museums and other centres are visited as appropriate. The activities chosen are very well suited to the needs and interests of the students and also give students a very good impression of how skills learnt in the classroom can be developed and used in a wider context. This approach, which encourages students to see Art as a professional endeavour, is aided by bringing in speakers to present their work; commendably some of these students are past pupils of the school.
The work observed is of a very high standard, indicating the high levels of teaching and learning in the school. Commendably, this work is based on the ideal of drawing and colour studies from primary sources, and as a result high quality observation work is being carried out at all levels of ability. There is also a variety of media being used in each discipline, which extends the range of experiences available to students. The finish of the work is of a very high quality and is considered to be very important.
Both product and process is analysed by the department so as to identify how the delivery of the subject can be improved to enhance the students’ potential for success. Presently, the department are very successfully meeting the particular needs of the students in their care.
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 principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.