An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Swords, County Dublin
Roll number: 60383I
Date of inspection: 14 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 Coláiste Choilm. 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Three teachers, each with qualifications in art and design, staff the art department at Coláiste Choilm which caters for 610 boys. The department has also had the assistance of a student teacher this year. Commendably, teachers are members of the Art Teachers’ Association and have been supported by the school in availing of in-service activity both in terms of general teaching and subject-specific practice. The department structure is well established and a good degree of collaboration takes place. The post of co-ordinator is shared between the members of the department and it is reported that both formal and informal meetings take place. The department is well supported by management and the subject is held in high regard in the school.
There is an obvious policy of displaying students’ work in the school which extends beyond the classroom and out into corridors. These high quality displays enhance the environs of the school and are a very valuable way of allowing all students to appreciate the work of the art department. Exhibiting work publicly is also an excellent way of promoting students’ personal confidence. Commendably, the work displayed is very well labelled and presented.
There is one dedicated room provided for the delivery of Art. However due to space constraints in the school other departments may also use the room. This room houses much of the art-related equipment such as the audiovisual and ceramics equipment as well as most of the consumables. Due to the room receiving a high level of use and the nature of the art room as a display area, it has suffered much wear and tear. It is recommended that the room be cleared of unwanted material and repainted as soon as possible. A purpose-built technology room is also used to deliver Art. Although this room is far from ideal from a space point of view for the delivery of Art, the room is clean, orderly and used to its optimum potential. Department-wide, there is an issue with storage as space for projects is limited; however, teachers are making the best use of the space available to them at present.
A budget is allocated to the department to purchase consumable materials and on the day of the inspection visit there was a range of consumables available. Students are also encouraged to obtain their own materials to help them work at home.
The art department has access to designated information and communication technology (ICT) in the form of a laptop and digital projector. The art room is broadband connected and ICT is generally used for art history and examining visual images. It was voiced in the day of the evaluation that an A3 scanner and printer were anticipated which will be a useful addition to the department.
The uptake of the subject is good at both junior and senior cycle. A taster module is provided during the first term for first year students to help them make appropriate subject choices where students have the opportunity to fully experience each optional subject for two weeks. It is suggested that on open nights parents would be encouraged to visit the art room in order to see the kind of work being executed there. Information is given to students approaching senior cycle to help them make informed subject choices and, where possible, students are given their first option. It was indicated on the day of the visit that management intends to review the subject choice arrangements in the school to ensure that students are receiving the best possible chance of securing their chosen subjects.
All lessons are arranged in mixed ability groups. Members of staff are briefed in September about incoming students with special educational needs at both ends of the ability spectrum and extra tuition is provided for these students. Commendably close liaison with resource teachers is reported. Timetabling is good with an appropriate number of double and single classes provided for both junior and senior cycles.
Students benefit from a range of out-of-classroom support activities including visits to museums, art galleries and heritage sites. A range of practical activities is also offered to students including involvement with the Green Schools Programme and local and national competitions. Students are also supported and encouraged to create portfolios for art college should they so wish. A testimony to the dedication of the teachers is that they offer advice and instruction to students regarding this type of activity outside of formal class time. Students who are completing other types of projects such as Transition Year (TY) and third year projects are also supported. Information about various art and design courses and events is displayed in the art room. Trips are organised for students to art and design colleges and students are also encouraged to attend open days and exhibitions in their own time. This type of activity allows students to recognise the potential of the subject in terms of careers, leisure time and life long learning.
A very thorough and useful collection of art history and appreciation documents and images has been amassed in the department and there is a relevant library of art books in both rooms. This commitment to enhancing the learning opportunities for the students is noted.
Teachers’ individual plans showed some good work and were developed from and framed by the art department plan. The substantial art department plan was presented on the day of the evaluation. This plan includes a list of the policies adopted by the school in addition to plans and procedures agreed by the art department and are of a high quality. The curricular content addresses a wide number of topics spanning year groups and programmes and is set within a well-formed view of a rounded art education. There is a good balance between levels of two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities. In light of the good standard of drawing achieved in the school at all levels, it is recommended that plans be developed to nurture more project work from observation. This review should include all members of the department, and a list of skills and outcomes for every year group should be agreed on. These lists of skills and outcomes can be manipulated to allow for differentiation, student motivation and teachers’ particular skills and topical interest, thus facilitating individual potential and curiosity. It is also suggested that these plans would imply an emphasis on the finish of all work.
In all lessons observed, structures of lessons, including roll call, assigned seating and students’ obvious familiarity and expectation of working at a reasonable pace, ensured smooth operation of lessons. Demonstration was used as the teaching methodology for practical work, whilst reading, observation and questioning were used to explore art history and appreciation. Commendably good quality visual aids were used in all lessons and these images were relevant and interesting.
Four class groups were visited as part of the evaluation. In the two junior and two senior cycle groups observed, the majority of students were very well behaved and engaged in their work. The delivery of topics by teachers was informative, lively and interesting. Students were reserved initially in some cases especially when discussing aspects of art history and appreciation; however a range of techniques was used to encourage students to make assertions and responses and this worked very well.
In senior cycle a lesson on the appreciation of public sculpture was delivered. A range of media was used to display the work to best effect and notes were also given to add to the historical and design information. A very interesting technique was used by the teacher involved to draw information and conclusions from students; this included comparison of the piece to similar work in other parts of the world, and reasons to nominate the piece as a ‘wonder of the world’. Differentiated homework was then given to both ordinary and higher level students; such good practice is commended. To further enhance levels of learning it is suggested that students are given access to lists of appropriate terminology which they can then apply to work, this can work especially well in the case of the weaker student. Displaying terminology on the walls of the room with visual depictions of what the terms means can be a very effective method of improving students’ ability to discuss work at all levels.
During the practical lessons it was obvious that students were enjoying their work and most were very much engaged in the processes at hand. Students were monitored as they progressed and individual instruction was given to students, as needed. Classroom management in the majority of cases was very good. In instances where students are distracted from their work, they should be redirected back on task as quickly as possible and should be made aware that their efforts are being supervised.
During a junior cycle lesson some mono printing was addressed which was an excellent idea as it is quick, can result in a high quality image and is easy to differentiate. Students followed the direction they received in the demonstration and then begun to experiment using their own ideas. However, the potential value of this lesson was lost as the ink was rolled out onto plates with a warped surface. This resulted in difficulties in rolling on the inks and disappointing images. It is recommended that materials and equipment should always be tested to ensure that they have the capacity to function in the manner desired during lessons.
The displays of finished work in the school included high quality lino printing, drawings in pencil and charcoal, studies of objects, masks, graphic design, life drawing and portraits, posters based on safe driving, senior imaginative and still life colour work, some good composition work and mosaic. In one area of the school’s public area a collection of student-generated studies of the school before it was renovated is displayed. These drawings are entertaining and pertinent in their description of the school. Work carried on in the department throughout the year is displayed outside rooms giving passers by an idea of work during the year such as murals, Christmas cards, models of rooms and participation in parades.
A system of summative and formative assessment takes place in the art department. Christmas, Easter and summer examinations take place for first, second and fifth years. An assessment is held in October for third and sixth year students as well as ‘mock’ examinations in February. Transition Year students are assessed at Christmas, Easter and summer and are assessed on both their written and practical work. Written homework at senior level is graded using both formative and summative methods. It is good practice that assessment schemes are shared with students and the schemes are designed so as to be most appropriate to the ability of the students using them.
Parents are kept informed of students’ progress using the school journal, parent/teacher meetings, assessment reports issued at Christmas and summer and individual reports compiled by the year head as required. Records of attendance are kept and student profiles have been initiated.
At the time of the evaluation, it was reported that the school was in the final stages of ratifying a draft homework policy. The homework journal is checked by the class tutor weekly and marked by the official school stamper to encourage completion of work.
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.