An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
St Patrick’s College
Roll number: 61060M
Date of inspection: 15 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Patrick’s College. 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 Patrick’s College Cavan has an enrolment of 525 boys. The school provides Art in junior cycle, Transition Year (TY) and for the Leaving Certificate. The art department is staffed by two teachers who share delivery of the subject. One of the teachers also has commitments in other subject areas.
Art is considered an important subject in the school and the art department is well supported by management. This is evidenced by an accommodating budget, good class contact time and support for projects outside of the regular curriculum and timetable. Evidence provided on the day of the visit showed that the art department has a very clear vision for Art in the school and is very aware of the positive influence of the subject on the whole school community. To this end, the department has been involved in the sourcing of funds for various projects, one of which has culminated in a piece of professional quality outdoor-sculpture designed by students for a public area of the school. The art department is now planning to install student-designed seating to augment this piece. The school is further enhanced by a framed collection of high quality artworks displayed around the corridors.
One member of the art department is a member of the Art Teachers’ Association of Ireland. Teachers are highly engaged in pursuing Art-related courses and programmes in their personal time as well as their own individual artwork. These courses and programmes directly influence the quality of artwork achieved at the school and also help to inspire new types of work. This passion for the subject and willingness to embrace new ideas and technology ensures that the delivery of the subject remains fresh and that the students and general school community benefit from an enthusiastic and informed art team.
The art department is currently situated in a large room with ample natural light and a lockable storage room. The room is richly decorated with examples of students’ work and exemplars from art and design history. Shelves of interesting objects are maintained as stimulus materials for observation and a library of art books is retained in the room for research. Occasionally, when two class groups are timetabled for the art room, an auxiliary room is used. It is reported that this arrangement, whilst not ideal, is workable.
The art department is also very active in supporting classroom-based learning by offering students a variety of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Recently included in these activities were glass casting, woodcarving and ancient bronze casting. These activities were much enjoyed and appreciated by the students. Other activities include support for students wishing to produce portfolios of work and excursions to relevant sites, museums and galleries. Such support for the teaching and learning in Art is excellent practice.
Students’ access to Art is good. Students are offered an open menu of subjects from which to choose at both first and fifth year. Open nights are held to inform students and parents about the various subject areas and of the consequences of subject choice. All class groups formed are mixed ability.
Information and communications technology (ICT) is provided for the art department in the form of a personal computer, an Apple Mac, printer, digital projector and a digital video camera.
A volunteer subject co-ordinator is in place and commendably both formal and informal meeting times are used to share best practice, develop plans and to resolve issues as they arise. Minutes of formal meetings were provided at the evaluation. Collaboration and cross-curricular planning also takes place with members of other departments in the school, notably Music, Materials Technology (Wood), Metalwork and Technical Graphics. Commendably, collaboration also takes place with other bodies such as ‘Creative Engagement’, the Cavan Arts Office and the Parents’ Association.
An art department plan was presented during the evaluation. This plan included some very relevant information on the operation of the department, such as timetabling and lists of resources available. Both teachers in the art department also provided individual planning documents. It is obvious from the work being carried out in the art department that a significant level of forward planning takes place, including the targeting of specific skills and the appropriate strategies to develop those skills. It is also obvious that a very clear and sound vision for art education in the school underpins all of the department’s activities. However, the documentation presented did not accurately reflect this level of thought and planning. It is recommended that the current planning documentation should be extended beyond a list of content to include the target skills and expected outcomes. It is also recommended that these lists of skills and outcomes should be linked to a specific time frame and that class groups in the same year should address the same topics at the same time. This would ensure that, at the end of each year, students in the same year group would have covered the same material.
This is the first year that the school has run the TY programme and Art is a compulsory component. Some of the TY work was observed during the school visit. This work was educationally sound, visually engaging and highly stimulating. It is obvious that a high degree of planning and prior thought had gone into the creation of this module for TY students. However, the TY plan presented did not reflect in its entirety the strategies and methods being used to deliver this course. It is recommended that the TY schemes of work should be reviewed to include the recommendations outlined in the preceding paragraph so that an accurate record of the good work being executed can be retained for future use.
Some of the extra-curricular project work was very well documented and presented. It is suggested that teachers expand this good practice by recording all significant extra-curricular and co-curricular activity occurring in the department.
The ICT provided is used to very good effect in the department. Aside from using ICT for research, technology is also used as a tool in teaching and learning. PowerPoint presentations are used to teach the history and appreciation of art and design. Commendably, students are encouraged to use ICT not only for research but also as a tool to edit their short films. This is excellent practice.
Three class groups were visited during the evaluation. Of these class groups, two were from junior cycle and one was from senior cycle. All of the topics and skills addressed in these classes were educationally sound and appropriate to the developmental stages of the groups. Subject matter relating to student experience is used to encourage engagement. Some very creative and inspiring work was observed, not least a lesson in which students were completing short films which they had made and were preparing to upload onto the internet. The potential for learning in this scheme of work was optimised, as students were required to devise a concept, execute it on film, add sound, as well as create a CD cover for the finished work. This meant that students had to make individual decisions about a variety of aspects of their work as it progressed and use other skills from the artistic realm such as graphic design as the project developed. Students were found to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the topic. Images were displayed in the classroom to help students understand concepts and work through ideas. This is very good practice.
The atmosphere of lessons varied in relation to the nature of the student groups involved. Where the atmosphere was most conducive to work, students were capable of working on their own initiative and using the facilities in the art room without distracting other students. They were also able to work in groups and progress their work at a good pace. In other lessons, small numbers of students were more easily distracted. It was noted that in these cases some of these students liked to listen to music using earpieces and MP3 mobile phones. Whilst the calming effect of music may be useful in helping specific students, it is suggested that the widespread use of MP3 players in the classroom should be avoided. As well as having implications for health and safety in a practical classroom, the use of this technology can contribute to an overly-relaxed approach to work.
The art department staff aims to foster an atmosphere of contented engagement. However, the dynamic of some of the groups requires that teachers must carefully monitor the behaviour and effort of specific groups of students. It is recommended that a review of classroom management should take place in these situations and that steps should be taken to alleviate potential disruption. It is suggested that teachers consider rearranging the seating plan so that students are spread around the art room and are clearly visible from the top of the classroom. It is also suggested that the use of individual instruction as the main teaching methodology for these groups should be avoided and group instruction should be used as much as is possible. In this way the main points of the lesson can be imparted and the students’ progress and engagement can be more easily monitored. Extra tuition can then be given to those who need it.
Generally, students were excited by and completely immersed in their work. Technical terms were used to discuss their projects and they were confident and knowledgeable in answering questions. The pace was also good and students were challenged appropriately. It is suggested that teachers expand on this good practice by using techniques such as critical evaluation and regular oral assessment to encourage all students to work consistently. It is particularly suggested that this way of working should be emphasised from first year so that students develop these skills early in their artistic education.
The range of disciplines addressed in the school was commendably wide. The quality of images and artefacts observed on the day was of a high standard.
The art department has considered its assessment policies and assesses students each month in keeping with the concept of continual assessment. At the end of each term, students have their whole folders assessed. Senior cycle students’ practical work is assessed in a similar way and in addition their progress is monitored using monthly art and design history and appreciation tests. It was noted in some lessons that students are encouraged to assess their own work as part of the learning process. This is an important element of learning as it promotes independent thinking and students’ critical faculties. It is recommended that this approach should be formally developed and included in the art department plan. The art department’s policy on assessment rightly stresses the negative effect that graded results can have on students. It is further suggested therefore, that elements from ‘assessment for learning’ principles should be introduced so as to make the best use of assessment procedures in the department.
Records are held of students’ attendance and behaviour and these are used to monitor and evaluate students’ work and effort. Formal examinations are held at Christmas and summer for first, second and fifth year students. ‘Mock’ examinations are held for certificate examination class groups in early February. Parents are kept informed of students’ progress using a combination of the school journal, parent/teacher meetings and student reports issued periodically during the year.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The art department makes a very valuable, high quality and rich contribution to the life of the school.
· A very clear and educationally sound vision for Art underpins all of the activities of the art department.
· The art department provides an excellent array of activities and projects outside of the regular timetable to support the teaching and learning of Art.
· Collaboration with school departments and outside agencies is frequently used to enhance the provision of Art in the school.
· ICT is effectively used by the art department staff and students.
· The range of disciplines addressed by the art department is commendably wide and of a very good standard.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The current planning documentation should be expanded to include target skills and outcomes linked to a specific timeframe.
· A review of classroom management should take place in classes where students are easily distracted.
· The good practice endorsed by the department which encourages students to be engaged in their own assessment should be formally developed for inclusion in the art department plan.
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.