An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Roll number: 91344V
Date of inspection: 4 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Pobalscoil Rosmini 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 two days 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 Art teachers. 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.
Pobalscoil Rosmini has earned a well-deserved reputation for the strength, appropriateness and quality of the provision that it makes for students with a wide variety spectrum of special educational and sight impairment needs. Such students are very inclusively treated and are totally integrated into the life of the school. Management and staff deserve praise for developing this fully inclusive approach to integrate all students into the educational and social environments of the school. While not a special school, Pobalscoil Rosmini plans and delivers particular and focused arrangements to facilitate special educational needs across all subjects offered. In this regard, the art department is a fine exemplar of the good practices that the school has developed. Classes in the school are mixed ability and are not streamed.
The art department has developed its own specific health and safety document. This document outlines in good detail the risks and dangers that are be associated with using tools and materials in art, design and craft and covers all eventualities that may arise in delivering these programmes. There is also a policy covering school trips included in this document.
The school should give consideration to extending the funding presently available to the art department as it caters for so many students with special educational needs. There is also potential for the art department and expertise available to further develop the range of crafts being currently taught. There are also several other crafts for which equipment already exists but are not being taught. This is largely due to the cost of re-commissioning some of the equipment and supplying essential associated materials. It is recommended that the school budget for Art should be reviewed to enable these crafts to be made available to students every year. This could enhance and augment the basic materials and equipment already being supplied to support students’ learning.
All first year students have a short taster course in Art. Thereafter, they may choose to study the subject for the three years of junior cycle. The subject options available to students entering fifth year in 2006-2007 have been singled out by the art department as not being optimal for Art. This is because less academically focused students usually tend to avoid choosing History and Geography for the Leaving Certificate and instead select Art which is the practical option available. This arrangement is likely to exclude academically-minded students who would like to balance their academic subjects with a creative element. It is recommended that the option strand that contains Art in senior cycle should be reviewed.
One full-time post is assigned to the art department. A job-sharing arrangement is in place that involves two teachers. Timetabled hours are adequate for the delivery of the subject. Students can take up Art ab initio in senior cycle. This is a positive aspect of the school’s arrangements for art and design
There is a department plan for Art that is detailed and comprehensive. It covers all the main areas including resources, student access, course outlines, option strands, level choice and approaches to assessment. All the contexts which the art and design programmes need to take into account to support the delivery of Art are present in the department plan. Aims and objectives for the subject are included.
Good documentation for the planning of learning activities was available during the inspection and a wide range of art and design activities were included.
There is reference in the curriculum section of the plan to students in second year taking on the task of ‘collecting their own support studies’. Support studies is the appreciation of art, design and architecture for junior cycle students that should be based on learning opportunities derived from historical and contemporary sources in these metiers. A strong emphasis should be placed on students’ own painting and drawing, that is based on a reaction to imagery and artefacts drawn from these metiers. The scrapbook collection approach to support studies does not support students’ visual learning in the way that is envisaged in the art, craft and design syllabus. It is recommended that from first year students should be given opportunities to develop the appreciation of art and design skills to empower them to engage more fully with the aesthetic and cultural side of the visual arts. It should be stressed here that research activities are only one part of what support studies correctly entails for students.
It is recommended that the curriculum section of the plan which lists areas to be covered in class during the six years of the students post-primary school life needs to be further developed. Aims and objectives for each activity and media should be added and a definition of minimum basic attainments for each year group also needs to be included. This would greatly enhance the usefulness of the plan as a working document and provide a basis for establishing good assessment criteria which can later be applied to students’ assignments, class work and projects.
There is good attention to detail in the delivery of the courses, balancing the students’ needs with the requirements of the curriculum. The art department operates in an inclusive and integrated teaching environment. Students with special educational needs were seen to really benefit from a very effective approach in the delivery of the various art and design programmes tailored to meet their needs. The delivery of courses was very professional, well informed and practical. Students of all abilities and motivational profiles were seen to derive great benefit from this effective approach. During classes students were affirmed, encouraged and advised and two-way communication was good. Assignments were monitored and commented upon and there was a sense of effective checks being kept on students’ class tasks and homework.
Very good work was seen in progress in all of the classes visited on the days of the inspection. There was an especially good learning atmosphere and students of all abilities and motivational levels were seen to acquire skill and competence. They participated well in the activities and discussions and answered questions in an informed and confident way. It is evident that approaches to course delivery had empowered their visual learning. There was evidence also among visually impaired students that the work of the art department had enhanced their artistic and expressive skills.
The school caters for students with a wide spectrum of special educational needs including visual impairment. A lot of time, effort and specialist techniques have been utilised to the advantage of these students. On several occasions on the days of the inspection it was noted that standard didactic approaches were effectively adapted to enrich and benefit the learning of the visually-impaired students. This is an example of very good practice. The development by the art department of these approaches to support the wide range of special educational needs present in the school is most highly commended. The techniques to emphasise and enrich certain dimensions of the material being taught did take a bit more time than the standard procedures of delivery. This extra time spent in explaining and developing the content was however, not notably to the detriment and even more so to the advantage of students with higher motivation and ability. It is recommended that in both the planning and delivery stages of the courses they are studying the needs of the effective and able students should also be given as much thought and special consideration by the art department as those with special educational needs, It is recommended that a programme of supports for the encouragement of independent learning for all highly motivated and able students should be made a priority in planning the subject in the medium term. This approach might productively be linked to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the art classroom and elsewhere in the school.
It is recommended that a review should be undertaken of the way that art history and art appreciation are delivered over the two years of the Leaving Certificate courses. By rescheduling the sequences in which the historical periods and their associated artistic styles are rolled out, the course components could be made to fit better with fifth year students’ previous experiences and their individual interests of Art. Currently, the history and appreciation components are presented to students in a more or less historical sequence. Instead, it would be more useful and more student friendly to begin with the appreciation section. This would empower students to develop essential skills and make it easier for them to engage with the historical material. By gradually including the historical material thereafter students, especially those who are challenged by the academic demands being made upon them, would at least have visual skills to support their learning in this area. It is also recommended that the history of art should be introduced by commencing with a painting and sculpture-rich period such as the Renaissance or Post-Impressionism. Students will have had some personal experience of seeing and working in these paint and sculpture media themselves and thus be able to find engagement a more natural thing, rather than in the history and archaeology laden earlier part of the course.
It would be beneficial if the appreciation of art skills was given a stronger profile in transition year to facilitate those students who have not taken Art for the Junior Certificate but who aspire to taking this subject for the Leaving Certificate. The provision of a basic grounding in the perceptual and cultural aspects of art and design and appreciation skills in transition year would provide a good foundation for further study.
Students had completed a visit to the Natural History Museum prior to the inspection visit where they had drawn directly from the exhibits viewed. This is extremely good practice as was the work that was being completed in the classroom based on the drawings they had made in the museum. All the students were stimulated and motivated by the visit and there was an apparent individuality about the ideas they were expressing in the development of their drawings. This was a positive and desirable outcome of the teaching and learning process in operation in the art department.
From the evidence of students’ work on display and in their portfolios, there is a too strong and ubiquitous reliance placed on secondary sources for the themes and subjects chosen for artefacts and projects. Primary sources should be the ever-present basis of drawing studies and expressive work in junior and senior cycles. The development of the secondary sources was often good but primary sources were not fully utilised. Widespread engagement with primary sources now needs to be developed from first year to leaving certificate. It is recommended that the basis of this engagement with primary sources should be drawing and painting from observation using a wide variety of media.
There is evidence in the students’ portfolios to suggest that they are introduced to a variety of drawing media and tools, but a heavy reliance on pencil as the default drawing media of choice was noted. This practice needs to be challenged and it is strongly recommended that the use of primary sources, and of the promotion of drawing skills in a wide variety of media should become the strong focus on a new planning and delivery initiative for the art department during the next academic year.
During classes, assignments are monitored and comments are made about students’ work. There is a sense that very effective checks are being kept on students’ class tasks and homework. It is recommended that assessment criteria should be developed from the learning aims and objectives outlined in the planning document and that these should be used to assess students’ attainments in both formal examinations and classroom tests. It is desirable that the assessment of history and appreciation of art examinations are always linked to visual reproductions of artefacts and buildings. This approach is good practice as it replicates the type of visual materials included in the Leaving Certificate examination itself.
A combination of assessment procedures are in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class work, mock projects and invigilated examinations. Continuous assessment is particularly suited to the long-term assignments and project work undertaken by students in art and design. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate programme. State Examinations Commission (SEC) assessment criteria are used to inform the work of the art department. There are systematic records of students’ progress during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessments and examination results. End-of-term and end-of-year results are communicated in writing to parents and guardians.
Regular parent–teacher meetings are held and the art department provides discussion, feedback and advice at these sessions.
The following are the main strengths 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.