An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Royal School Cavan
College Street, Cavan
Roll number: 61080S
Date of inspection: 16 January 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 Royal School Cavan. 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 teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s 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.
The art department at the Royal School Cavan is operated by one fully qualified teacher. The department is well established and Art is considered an important element of the school’s curriculum. The art department is keen to celebrate the work of students and the school building is used to display students’ work outside of the art room as well as within. The department is involved in many extra-curricular and co-curricular activities in the school and it is reported that this involvement is very beneficial to the students and to the general school community. At the time of the evaluation the department was involved in the production of a performance piece for end-of-year celebrations. Throughout the year students from the department participate in local and national art competitions and tend to be very successful.
The art department is keen to ensure that the students’ experience of Art remains as fresh and vibrant as possible and to this end it is involved in the development of personal art work and in a number of arts organisations outside of school. This is particularly important in the case of a one-teacher department as support from and contact with other practitioners is essential. Further commitment to the subject is shown in the provision of support and direction for students outside of class time. This includes offering help and support for projects and portfolios for third level as well as night classes and once-off type projects.
The art department is housed in a big room with an abundance of natural light. Storage is provided in the form of a lockable storage room and a number of storage units. On the day of the visit a range of consumable materials was evident and it is reported that the budgeting system works very well. A kiln, throwing wheels and other facilities are also available. The department is well maintained and materials, students’ work and other items are stored appropriately. The room is used to display students’ work as well as images from art history and other images of interest. This good practice ensures that the department is a visually rich and stimulating environment.
The school is a co-educational boarding school and currently enrols 207 boys and girls. All class groups are of mixed ability. At first year a taster module is used to give students an opportunity to experience the subject before committing to it for the junior cycle. Recently, Art was removed as a core subject for boys due to a rebalancing of the timetable. It was noted during the evaluation that the number of boys taking the subject at junior cycle has dropped as a result. It is suggested that the art department pays particular attention to the topics chosen for the taster module and puts in place particular strategies which will attract boys to the subject.
At senior cycle all students participate in the Transition Year programme in which Art is compulsory. This ensures that all students have the opportunity to experience Art and to choose it as a subject for their Leaving Certificate even if they have not studied it at junior cycle. This is a good way of expanding the variety of opportunities open to students.
Currently, senior cycle Art is not provided for as part of the mainstream timetable. Instead, it is delivered after school on two evenings. This after-school provision has existed over many years and in the past has been a very popular option with students, in part due to the fact that many students were boarders. Whilst this provision for Art is commended, it is not ideal and it is recommended that Art be included on the main timetable for the school. It was voiced by management on the day of the visit that the expectation was that this would happen in the coming academic year. Such provision on the timetable would be most welcome.
Commendably time is formally laid aside for planning and this has resulted in a well developed art department plan, including documents regarding health and safety in the art room and the school’s homework policy. To develop this plan further it is recommended that a mission statement be developed for the delivery of the subject in the school. All activities could then be framed by this. This planning will be especially useful in light of the subject becoming part of the main timetable at senior cycle and the changes that will ensue.
Examination of the work planned for first years found it to be well balanced involving the students’ engagement in a series of sound educational experiences in Art. As there are only three class periods per week provided for the subject, efforts have been made to use this time to deliver concepts in the best manner possible. However it is suggested that a series of short and ‘once off’ projects be introduced in first year and second year to avoid students becoming over-burdened by project style lessons at this early stage of their development.
It is recommended that a list of skills outcomes would be developed to progress the work of students at all levels and in all programmes. Students should be encouraged to work from primary sources and opportunities should be created for them to develop their drawings and studies from the initial research into various disciplines. To help students prepare for support studies at junior cycle and art history and appreciation at senior cycle, it is suggested that art history be delivered as a discrete topic from first year.
High levels of activity in planning for lessons were evident in the amount of teacher-generated visual aids, notes and revision documents on the history and appreciation of art observed on the day. Collections of DVDs and videos are also used to aid the delivery of the subject.
It was noted that there was no dedicated information and communication technology (ICT) in the art department on the day of the visit; however, it was voiced by management that ICT equipment is forthcoming. It is recommended that as part of this provision a digital projector should be obtained as well as internet access in the classroom to benefit from the display potential of ICT for the subject.
Three class groups were visited as part of the evaluation; two junior and one senior group. In all three lessons, student behaviour was excellent and students were found to be confident, articulate and knowledgeable. A sense of respect for the subject, for the teacher and for each other was palpable. Students were very well able to prepare their work areas, and to move around the room with ease when necessary. The level of engagement with work was generally high and students appeared to be enjoying their work.
Classroom management was good, lessons were appropriately pitched and pace was at a speed which allowed for the abilities of all students within groups.
A variety of appropriate teaching methodologies was used including demonstration, looking at overheads and other visual aids. Of particular note, some of the teacher-generated visual aids created were highly acclaimed by students and served not only to demonstrate particular elements of the task but also served to increase the levels of confidence and respect students have in the teacher. Information was delivered in a pleasant and effective way and asides were used to keep students interested. Students were regularly questioned on previous experiences to recall and build on what they already knew.
In the art department at the Royal School Cavan, students with special educational needs (SEN) are welcome. To further build on the skills of these students it is suggested that their progress be monitored carefully and that tasks set for them be tailored accordingly. When teaching students with SEN, lessons aims and objectives should be similar to that of the rest of the class but the students’ particular needs should be considered so as to increase the potential for a successful learning experience. For example, in a graphics lesson a student with limited motor skills might find rendering lettering very precise, complicated and tiring. By rendering one or two large letters or perhaps a short word, rather than a longer phrase, the skill can be learnt with less difficulty.
During a junior cycle lesson a range of crafts was taught including embroidery, lino printing, making wire forms and calligraphy. Of necessity, teaching was directed during the lesson to small groups of students working within the same discipline. It was noted that some groups of students were very unsure as to how to proceed during the lesson and had to wait for instruction whilst tuition was delivered to other groups. Whilst the offering of such a wide choice of crafts is commended, there is some danger that the provision of such an expansive range in limited time may spread the focus of the teacher too thinly. It is suggested that the outcomes of this strategy be examined and different ways of addressing a wide range of topics and disciplines be explored.
Portfolios of work are assessed at Christmas and summer. It is intended that this approach would encourage students to complete set tasks and emphasise the importance of working continually over the year. Work is also graded after each scheme of work is complete. ‘Mock’ examinations are held for Junior and Leaving Certificate groups. It is recommended that the assessment system currently in use be expanded to include a variety of assessment methodologies including peer assessment, self-assessment, and the sharing of assessment criteria with students. Further information on assessment can be obtained at www.ncca.ie. Accurate records are kept of student absences and rolls are called at the outset of each lesson. Student profiling has been initiated and it is now recommended that as the assessment system is expanded more regular profiling of students should occur.
Art history is assessed using essay style answers similar to the evaluation strategies used by the State Examination Commission. Whilst using the essay style answer can be very good practice for the examinations, it can be time consuming for both teacher and student especially in the earlier stages of senior cycle. It is suggested that projects and shorter style responses be used to help students move through the material in a thorough, yet faster, fashion.
Parents are kept informed of student progress using the school journal, parent-teacher meetings and school reports.
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 teacher 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.