An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Music
Kinsale Community School
Kinsale, County Cork
Roll number: 91499E
Date of inspection: 2 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Music
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Kinsale Community School.† It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Music 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher.† The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís 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; a response was not received from the board.
Music has a high profile in Kinsale Community School and is available to all students in all years as an optional subject.† In first year, students choose three subjects from Metalwork, Materials Technology(Wood), Art, Music, Home Economics and Technical Graphics, with Science and Business Studies being compulsory.† In second year, students then choose three from these eight subjects, which has some implications for the uptake of Music for Junior Certificate.†† Students have an open choice in senior cycle and choose three subjects from a list of seventeen.† The school then forms blocks which give the Ďbest fití based on student preference and mindful of timetable and staffing constraints.† In senior cycle there are viable Music class groups in both fifth and sixth year, and as part of their programme, all Transition Year (TY) students take a Music module which is rotated on a ten-week timeslot. †The uptake for Music in both junior and senior cycles is generally healthy with a good gender balance.† Timetable provision for Music is in line with departmental guidelines, with all classes having the required allocation.†
The Music mission statement in Kinsale Community School includes the following aims for musical activity to be ďaccessible to and enjoyable for a wide range of students from different backgrounds; cater for a wide variety of studentsí musical and diverse interests including personal development; incorporate modern trends in musical education.Ē† Thus, in addition to the curricular aspects of the subject and examination preparation, a wide variety of musical activities takes place during the school year.† The school has a choir which rehearses during one lunchtime per week, and a mini-orchestra which comes together on a needs basis.† The school produces a musical every second year, alternating with the local community group which stages a pantomime.† As the local theatre group uses the schoolís facilities to stage the pantomime, both it and the musical produced by the school are effectively whole-school activities.† The pantomime or musical normally takes place at the end of the first term and involves a significant proportion of the school community.† Past school shows have included The Wizard of Oz, Oliver, The Sound of Music, and Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.† This event constitutes one of the highlights of the Music departmentís programme and serves as a useful resource which links into the curriculum studied by the Music students in the school and into a range of other co-curricular activities.† The school also facilitates a variety of different music-related events throughout the academic year, which are very popular with the students.† These include performances at awards night, open day, the school mass, visits to the local hospital at Christmas, youth masses in the local parish church and singing and playing with the local folk group for the Christmas celebration.† In addition, the studentsí musical experiences are regularly enriched by trips to concerts and visits to the school from outside musicians and performers.† Examples of these include drum workshops for TY and visits by professional musicians such as the Callino String Quartet.† The students have also been involved in the Composer in the Classroom project which is organised by the Cork International Choral Festival.† This impressive range of activities is commendable and does much to raise the profile of Music as a subject in Kinsale Community School.†† The Music departmentís commitment to these events and the schoolís support in facilitating such activities are deserving of the highest praise.†
Kinsale Community School has a dedicated Music room which is bright and acoustically satisfactory.† A good stock of resources is available, including classroom instruments, a piano, a computer, audio resources, sheet music, television and video recorder.† The walls are adorned with posters and charts and examples of studentsí project work.† These all contribute to a heightened awareness of the subject and are to be commended.† Although this facility is designated as the Music room, it is used for other classes also, which makes planning and preparation of lessons difficult as all resources are stored in this room.† In order to allow for a more efficient coordination of the work in this department, the exploration of ways in which its use for other lessons can be minimised is recommended.††
A few shortcomings were immediately noticeable in relation to resources.† Space is at a premium and consequently few opportunities to move or adapt the furniture arrangements to suit different music-teaching settings exist.† The piano is situated at the back of the room, which is fine for small groups as students can gather around the piano, but can be problematic with larger numbers.† The teacher has access to an overhead projector (OHP) but as the whiteboard is completely and permanently covered in staves and there is no space around the teacherís desk, a portable screen has to be brought in and placed at the far right of the room making the projection area and visibility questionable.† A screen attached over the whiteboard and lowered as required would do much to rectify this situation.† Another shortcoming pertains to the speakers for the sound system, which are positioned incorrectly.† The positioning of these speakers (on a table on either side of the sound system) militates against quality aural development as all audio sources come from the left of the room from the studentsí point of view, and from an incorrect height.† It is recommended that the speakers be positioned on the wall, on both sides of the whiteboard as it would, in this case, improve the situation considerably and allow for appropriate aural stimulation for all students.
There exists a good level of planning for the development of Music in this school.† This planning takes cognisance of the relevant curricular principles of performing, composing and listening.† Detailed documentation outlining the running of the Music department was presented, along with comprehensive programmes of work scheduling the topics to be covered.† These were relevant to the syllabuses and the requirements of the examinations, and took into account the level of ability of the students in question.† There is a range of collaborative planning evident in the variety of extra- and cross-curricular activities which occur throughout the school year.† Frequently teachers from the art, religion, engineering and building construction departments come together to organise and plan for among other things, the school show, TY graduation night and liturgical services.
Subject planning outlined the broad plan for each class group, included a summary of work completed and a stock of support material suitable for all levels.† In all lessons observed, clear objectives were evident, there was continuity from previous lessons and appropriate resources and stimuli were utilised.† In general a good level of planning for performing was evident in the prior preparation of relevant materials such as sheet music, accompaniments, worksheets, audio and visual resources etc.† This indicates that short-term planning is at a satisfactory level.
The Music teacher is a member of the Post-Primary Music Teachersí Association (PPMTA) and attendance at its meetings affords her the opportunity to keep abreast of all information pertaining to Music education at second level, to keep up to date with ongoing curricular innovation and to network with other Music teachers.† In addition, the teacher avails of any ongoing training courses which contribute to overall continuing professional development (CPD).† This is commendable and it is hoped that management will continue to support and facilitate any opportunities for CPD in Music education that arise in the future.
In all lessons observed, a comfortable, secure and work-orientated atmosphere prevailed.† High expectations of attainment and behaviour were set.† There was a warm, friendly rapport between the students and their teacher at all times.† A high level of student engagement in lessons was seen, with a good emphasis on music-making activities.† Students responded very well to this positive climate for learning and participated with enthusiasm wherever challenging opportunities were presented.†
A variety of methodologies were seen in the lessons observed.† In the main, lessons were well structured and paced accordingly, although at times a more appropriate ordering of activities, with some aspects being kept until the end of the lesson when concentration levels tend to be a little lower, would do much to optimise the learning outcomes.† This is especially true when it concerns the pacing of double periods for junior-cycle students, for example.†
Many strategies were employed to engage the students and include them in all aspects of the learning process.† A collaborative learning environment allowing constructive and productive peer-peer interaction and purposeful groupwork was observed, where the teacher guided students through various stages and facilitated a stimulating and challenging music-learning environment.† Student knowledge and experience were used to support learning wherever possible, with some notable examples including a student playing a variety of dance tunes on the fiddle as an aid to understanding the differences between a jig, reel and hornpipe, a strong singer holding a line on her own in a four-part chorale, and Irelandís youngest ever winner of the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition giving clear and interesting explanations on the nature of sound.† This atmosphere of autonomous learning with the teacher as facilitator and enabler is highly commendable and contributes to students taking responsibility for their own learning.
Understandably, given the time of the year, the main focus in all lessons was on revision and preparation for the impending examinations.† A variety of approaches ensuring that students were actively engaged in the lessons was observed, whether the revision was focussing on recall, review or test questions.† Differentiation was observed where students at different levels of attainment were assigned work at levels appropriate to their ability.† A mix of individually-directed and general questions was employed, with the teacher providing support through subtle hints and gentle encouragement for the more reticent students.† Most of the questions were of a recall type, though some use was made of more probing or open-ended questions.† Revision of melody writing involved close scrutiny of student work accompanied by a systematic review and sound guidelines for the examination.† These varied activities and methods used to reinforce learning, as well as the structured and methodical approach to the more examination-orientated aspects of the syllabus are to be commended.† They allowed for suitably challenging situations and yet were accessible to all students.
The resources available in the Music room are used to good effect and were used appropriately and effectively in the teaching and learning of Music.† Suitable short video clips were used to consolidate information given during the lessons, students gathered around the piano when appropriate and when small numbers allowed it, and classroom instruments were played enthusiastically and constructively.† When the shortcomings relating to the resources outlined above are addressed, the effectiveness of these methodologies will be considerably enhanced.† In addition, further development of information and communication technology (ICT) is recommended with consideration given to exploring ways in which suitable software could be utilised within the classroom setting.† Acquisition of appropriate resources in the Music room to include this further development of ICT is thus recommended, along with attendance at any suitable music technology courses for the teacher.
The subject knowledge and skills evident in the Music teaching observed impact well on studentsí musical thinking, attitudes and skills, and when these were utilised, a wide range of interesting musical activities was introduced.† In the main, a positive learning environment was evident in all lessons observed, and it contributed to an enjoyment of Music for the students.† This environment, the use of varied revision methods, and strategies which were used to increase and develop their aural awareness, understanding and appreciation of Music, are commendable.†
In all lessons observed, students were generally confident and capable, and performed to a good standard.† Studentsí folders, workbooks and manuscripts showed evidence of good organisation, and were generally neat in appearance.
In addition to regular assessments at Christmas and summer, and the mock examinations for Junior and Leaving Certificate students in the spring, formative assessment takes place in a variety of ways.† Homework, which includes written, aural and practical work, is given on a regular basis and mostly corrected the following day.† Other examples include questioning in class, completion of worksheets and projects, and practical assessments.† These assessment structures are conducive to promoting student achievement.† From observation of lessons, examination of student work and interaction with students, it is evident that these students are being successfully challenged and reach satisfactory levels of achievement in Music.†
The school has an open communication policy for parents and in addition to reports issued after formal examinations at Christmas, spring and summer, regular parent-teacher meetings take place for all class groups.† There is also a willingness on the part of staff to meet parents at any stage if they have concerns about their childrenís progress.† The school also has a well-designed student journal.† This allows for careful monitoring of a studentís progress, and is indicative of the commitment of the whole school staff to helping all students achieve their potential.
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 teacher of Music and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.