An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
The King’s Hospital,
Palmerstown, Dublin 20
Roll number: 60272W
Date of inspection: 17 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in The King’s Hospital. 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 deputy 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.
The art department is highly regarded by senior management for its contribution to the academic and cultural life of the school, and for the personal development opportunities it provides for students. There are two permanent members of staff and one part time teacher assigned to the art department, who work closely together; there is good co-operation between them. Art is a popular subject choice and classes are relatively large. There is a high degree of professionalism and a working atmosphere of enthusiasm and commitment in the department. Some team teaching is practised. Art is affirmed by senior management for its intrinsic educational contribution. There is a good gender balance in the art classes. The art department is well funded and the art rooms are spacious, well-equipped, furnished and maintained.
It is recommended that the excellent learning conditions that exist in the art department be further developed in a number of ways in the short to medium term. Crafts not at present practised should be introduced to allow students added choice, both for personal artistic development and State Examination Commission (SEC) examination candidature. ICT, as a learning and teaching facility, should be further integrated into the day-to-day work of art and design as practised in the department, in the medium and long term.
The school has artefacts by professional artists on display in the public areas of its buildings, side-by-side with well-presented artworks by students past and present, creating an emphasis on the visual arts that enhances students’ in-class learning.
Collaborative planning is practised in the art department and a subject co-ordinator role facilitates the overall planning process. Planning documentation is good, covering the academic year’s work for class and year groups. The effectiveness of the planning documents is due to a practical approach and to the sound pedagogical basis that underpins the content of the documents.
Planning meetings are scheduled several times a year. Collaborative planning also takes place informally very frequently. The effectiveness of the planning documented is due to its well-informed and practical approach to delivery of the junior and senior cycle programmes.
Planning for the specific classes observed was good. Preparation, always important in the practical dimension of a subject, is most effective and on the day of the inspection a range of necessary tools and materials was readily available.
Learning aims are stated in the planning documents seen during the inspection. It is recommended that these planning documents be developed further to include differentiated learning aims and outcomes for students, particularly those of high motivation and aptitude on one hand and on the other for their less engaged, motivated and capable peers, in order that these sub-groups are given suitable differentiation within the context of the mixed-ability class.
Some appreciation of art is taught in fifth year, focussed on visits to galleries and museums.
Planning for the history and appreciation of art in order to re-schedule the sequence in which the material is presented to students could yield dividends in their engagement and progress in this section of the senior cycle course. It is recommended that the Appreciation of Art course component of the Leaving Certificate be taught first, from very early in fifth year, so that students develop perceptual skills and aesthetic sensibilities that will later support learning of the historical material. Leading on from this, the European and Irish sections which deal with painting sculpture and architecture should be tackled next, leaving the archaeological and straight-history of the pre-historic Irish material until students have become enthused by and accomplished in the more strongly aesthetic and artistic content of painted, sculptured and built artefacts. Also, Support Studies should be strongly emphasised from the very earliest stages of first year so that students develop skills of perception and appreciation that complement their practical work from the outset.
All aspects of class delivery were excellently organised in the classes inspected. Clear explanations and helpful instructions were given to students throughout all classes. Communication between teachers and students was good and a pleasant and purposeful atmosphere, most conducive to learning, prevailed at all times. Students were kept on-task. Learning experiences are made interesting and engaging for students, who are encouraged and empowered to develop their visual creativity and an important outcome of this is that many do so, in line with their aptitude and motivation. Students were engaged in all classes and there were impressive levels of individuality, skill and expressiveness in the artefacts seen. Students have good opportunities to develop skills in crafts and 3D.
Pottery is a well-developed specialism of the art department, and it has its own separate premises in the school grounds. Very good pottery design sheets, which recorded second year students’ ideas, and the development of these, were seen. The thinking and pre-planning activities are being made a very significant part of the assignments that students undertake in pottery. This approach to design and research for artwork creation is commendable.
Students of pottery had been given a brief to create a ceramic sculpture to celebrate a member of the school staff who was shortly to retire. This was to be designed for possible placement in the school grounds. The design of the piece and the considerations of its placement were the basis of excellent learning experiences, which were delivered very well and appropriately and with due and careful attention to the needs of individuals and class groups alike.
In the pottery, the provision of electric pottery wheels would make it possible for the throwing of functional vessels and tableware to become a realistic option for older or very motivated students. Functional ware would bring ergonomic and practical considerations into the design and fabrication of pottery, providing a different range of learning experiences, in addition to the creative and expressive currently encapsulated in the pottery courses. It is recommended that when resources become available that consideration be given to providing some electric pottery wheels.
In the second year pottery lesson, a large group of students added to work on a project that was nearing completion. The group was lively and enthusiastic, and the not inconsiderable challenges that this presented in terms of crowd control, practical delivery of the class and moderation of noise levels were very professionally and effectively dealt with. These students had attained a lot in creative and technical terms and clearly had a very positive experience of what is a challenging 3D medium.
An example of raku glazing by a student was seen on display in the pottery classroom. This Japanese technique, traditionally used for glazing tea bowls, could valuably be used with TY students, and a larger assignment relating to Japan’s visual culture could flow naturally from it. It is recommended that some consideration be given to utilizing the capacity to do raku in the future with TY. A wide range of elective modules is offered to TY students and the art department provides some of these. TY students have benefited in both academic and personal ways from the good and interesting learning experiences provided by the art department and pottery for them. Boarding students also have good opportunities to develop artistic skills after school. Students have been successful in important national art and photography competitions and this leisure, non-curricular dimension is a valuable aspect of the way art design and craft have been developed by the art department over time.
In the second year craft class there was abundant evidence of students developing interests that were individualistic and personal. Although there were several crafts being practised side by side there was good attention paid to the different needs of the students in the various crafts. Appropriate tools, equipment and materials were available to the students. All the students had developed confidence in the medium they had chosen to work in. Many had developed the brief creatively and had attained good technical skills, particularly in printing and embroidery. It is recommended that other crafts be added over time to the range currently on offer, to draw on expertise available to the art department, which is not currently being used to the extent that it might, and to make other crafts choices available for examinations.
In a senior cycle lesson the students’ collective experience as a social unit was drawn upon for a particular project and this was a most valid and useful way of making visual art and design relevant to their lives, while remaining close to curricular expectations for the subject. This represented very good practice indeed and the students had made many personal and individual visual statements as a result. The skill and effort in didactic terms necessary to bring students to this grade of expressiveness is considerable. Students of all aptitude and motivation levels have benefited from the high quality of the learning experiences, and the mode and manner of the delivery of these that they have encountered in the art department.
A senior cycle history and appreciation of art class made use of ICT by way of a Powerpoint presentation on the Bronze Age. In this, there was very good delivery of information, combined with excellent comment and interpretation. It was observed that some students more than others were engaged by and focussed on the proceeding of this very detailed presentation. It is recommended that didactic strategies be developed for the history of art to make students who are not as focussed and engaged as they should ideally be, participate strongly and be actively responsible for their own learning.
There is a good approach to the teaching of the design process and students are being prepared very well in the rudiments of research, development and conclusion in relation to briefs and assignments. There was evidence in all lessons inspected of the creation of links with the larger culture of art and design, both contemporary and historical. It is recommended that this be developed even further and integrated into the practical work for all classes from first year onwards. ICT has a role here in providing access to sources across fine art, design and architecture. Design and architecture should be increasingly emphasised in the delivery of courses as these metiers have vocational opportunities for those students for whom a career in fine art might not fit with their interests or aptitudes.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class work, mock projects and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the leaving certificate programme. A good consciousness of SEC assessment criteria, and of the associated practical requirements, 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.
Assessment criteria need to be linked closely with learning aims and objectives; it is recommended that these are developed as part of the teaching and learning process, and used as the basis of assessing student attainment.
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 deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.