An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Mean Scoil an Chlochair
Kilbeggan, County Westmeath
Roll number: 63221U
Date of inspection: 24 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Art. 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 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.
The art department is valued by management for its contribution to the life of the school and to the education of its students.
There is one art teacher. The art room is spacious, with good storage, a kiln, an automatic washing machine to facilitating batik and textiles, and resources for other crafts. Funding for materials for day-to-day use is provided for the art department when required, on request. On the day of the inspection there was evidence that a range of materials and tools is available to facilitate students’ learning, and these are very well managed.
Access to the subject is better in junior cycle than in senior cycle. Its place in the Leaving Certificate options is on a band with two continental languages, which means that many students who wish to escape language study come to Art, without having previous experience of it. This practice should be reviewed. There is a big drop in students taking Junior Certificate Art compared with Leaving Certificate, partly due to the structure of the options. Again this needs to be reviewed. Extra art classes are offered on Friday afternoons, a half day for the school, and students who cannot study Art during the week because of their other subject choices are accommodated in this way. That this extra class has had to be set up is perhaps indicative of a demand for the subject by a wider range of students that is not being accommodated by the subject option arrangements. There is a good gender balance in the art classes.
In order to update the manner which the history and appreciation of Art is delivered, and for the enrichment of the content taught, it is recommended that the use of screen, scanner, PowerPoint, and data projector be introduced a soon as these resources can be provided. Help and/or training should be provided to the art department personnel in order to facilitate the use of these tools.
To help integrate the history and appreciation of Art into practical work, an up-to-date computer should be installed in the art and design classroom so that both students and teacher can conveniently refer to visual material on CD-ROM.
Management should engage with the art department to discuss the further development of the subject in the long term and to plan for enhancement of what is currently offered by way of facilities and learning experiences to students.
There were planning documents available on the day of the inspection which provided a basic timeframe for the delivery of topics and activities. The addition of learning aims and objectives to this would be a valuable extension of its usefulness.
Long-term planning is needed for the development of the subject, for the use of ICT for teaching and learning, and for the addition of new crafts along with the further development of existing ones.
Short-term planning needs attention. Specifically, more consideration of the allocation of class-periods/weeks to particular activities is advised in order to use time economically and with optimal effect, so that additional learning activities can be added during the school year.
History and appreciation of Art would benefit from more rigorous preparation. Sources of information beyond the student textbook are indicated, and the small format publications by the National Museum of Ireland are recommended for preparation of history of early Irish art topics.
Many of the fifth year intake had not studied Art during junior cycle, and had a deficit of the perceptual and/or technical skills necessary to be effective in engagement with the graphic design task assigned during the class. As a result there was a low output of work and a perceptible level of frustration among this sub-group. Graphic design is a craft-like medium, an “applied” Art, as it were, and thus had several layers of difficulty inherent in it. Students in the ab initio situation need first to have skills related to seeing, looking and recording, familiarity and practice of the Art Elements, and basic skills in the use of a variety of drawing media. Thus armed, they will be able to undertake assignments such as the graphics project that they were accomplishing with difficulty on the day of the inspection. It is recommended that a capsule course of the above-listed skills and knowledge should be devised in order to prepare them to engage meaningfully with the fifth year work. Students who have previous experience of Art should also study the capsule course at the same time, but a much higher level should be expected. A different set of learning aims and objectives should be prepared for the two sub-groups. Furthermore, these aims and objectives should be used as the basis for clear assessment criteria. The art department has the skills, enthusiasm and determination to bring the ab initio group to a good level of skill in what remains of the current school year, whilst further strengthening the skills which the experienced group have already developed.
The over-reliance on secondary sources needs corrective attention, in both junior and senior cycle. A primary-sources based procedure should be emphasised in the delivery of the junior cycle programme. In guiding students with their project work, art department personnel should direct and advise students to develop their ideas in a way that allows for the use of primary sources at different stages in the practical work and support studies activities which they undertake. Exclusive or heavy reliance on secondary sources is not educationally desirable; where these are used, whether in junior or senior cycle, a clear path from them into primary sources use should be apparent. Secondary sources are a starting point, not a template for imitation. Support Studies based on a scrapbook of secondary sources is not a rich enough educational experience; this course component should be defined as the appreciation of art, design and the built environment at junior cycle and use painting, drawing and 3D as tools to engage with imagery and other material from art and design, both historical and contemporary. It is recommended that use of primary sources be made more strongly central to students’ learning activities from first year upwards.
There were some reproductions of paintings hung in the art room. This is good practice. It would be valuable if a wider range of imagery were available to students in this way, to include sculpture, architecture, contemporary art and different design disciplines. A small, dedicated budget for the purchase of art/design postcards, posters and inexpensive art books that can be cut up and displayed on the wall is recommended in order to extend current good practice. These images should be changed on a regular basis, in order that students of all ages, aptitudes and motivations are constantly exposed to the visual culture that is at the basis of the art programmes taught in post-primary schools. It is recommended that ways of using this material should be creatively integrated into the day-to-day practical work, with a conscious and deliberate emphasis on increasing student engagement with art and design of all sorts, and on student self-directed learning.
Apart from Leaving Certificate students, most others, when questioned, appeared relatively unaware of artists and designers; even to name one or two was not possible for most of them, apart from a number of students who could list Leonardo and Michelangelo. This distance from the real sources of art, design and architectural artefacts needs to be addressed now, as it is a dimension that, when absent, diminishes both the cultural and aesthetic learning outcomes for students, whatever their aptitude and motivation. It is recommended that planning to develop opportunities for students to encounter art, design and architectural artefacts, in reproduction and on CD-ROM, should be a priority and must be integrated into the daily learning and practical work.
From the evidence of junior cycle portfolios many learning experiences have been given to students in the area of Art Elements basics. Good attainment was seen in the work of some of these students. A different sequencing of the lessons in terms of technical and perceptual challenge would have meant better transferability of the skills involved into the next assignment. Inclusion of more than one Art element in the lesson content would have presented more of a learning challenge and made better use of time. For example, a lesson using scribble-type lines and marks could be enriched by using primary colour lines instead of monochrome, and so on. With this general principle in mind, it is recommended that more thought and planning should now be devoted to lesson construction in order to make current practice more effective. The educational value of activities, topics and assignments to the visual and aesthetic development of the students needs to be very clearly thought through, and recorded in the planning documents.
A full engagement with the syllabus document of Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design, as well as with the SEC examination requirements, as a basis for delivering the programme, is strongly recommended.
The expressiveness and response to a challenging brief demonstrated in the acrylic paintings on wooden panel being so enthusiastically undertaken by TY students was very commendable, and illustrates the didactic and learning-management resources that are available to the art department. It is recommended that this flair for enthusing students about making artefacts is the basis for more teaching and learning strategies in the short and long term.
There were calligraphy artefacts displayed in the room. The standard could be higher in terms of writing technique, overall composition, and of the use of calligraphy as an expressive medium for communicating ideas. The very good start that has been made to date needs to be reviewed and developed. Students should be taught at least three different styles of calligraphy. Different types of paper and card, different writing tools and links with marbling and bookcrafts should be considered in the future development of this craft Long term cumulative homework - over three or four weeks, say - where they will first practice, and later create an expressive artefact in the lettering style should be set, in order to get students to achieve some form of self-directed learning. Long-term homework, with a clearly defined learning outcome like this should be devised and become part of work for assessment during the school year, and should be marked as part of it.
Good history and appreciation teaching was observed, and some very focused delivery of the topic being taught was apparent, with many strengths and notably good practice in terms of explanations and definitions. It was an information-rich presentation, and though not supported by photographic slides/visuals of the artefacts associated with the topic, handouts and diagrams were included. Students were of mixed ability and it was evident that some of them were quite challenged by the requirements of this Leaving Certificate course component. Because the class lasted for a double period, some students’ concentration became less than effective as time passed.
Some adjustments are suggested to the manner in which history and appreciation is taught. Firstly, for the delivery of presentations in history and appreciation of art classes, it is strongly recommended that multi-media projector, screen and PowerPoint software be used as soon as it is possible to provide these tools. Training might be initially necessary for PowerPoint to be effectively introduced. Window blinds to darken classrooms are also recommended so that optimal visual quality is available to students in teaching using ICT.
Secondly, good vocabulary and technical language was a large part of the presentation of the topic. Many words were written on the blackboard. How many students retain the information beyond the class is questionable, and, in order to help them to do so, it is recommended that a conscious strategy of vocabulary/terms learning enhancement is developed. As good work is already being done on the blackboard, it would be better to use a paper flip chart to write vocabulary/terms, so that these can be revisited regularly in the classes that follow, adding an element of rote and reinforcement into the learning process especially for students who are not yet strong on words and concepts.
Thirdly, students need practice at communicating information and opinions in writing. They should be asked to write short paragraphs – maximum time 5 to 10 minutes – every other day until they are fluent and practised at putting down information.
Finally, in planning for the delivery of the appreciation of art, it is recommended that this component is covered from the September of fifth year rather than later on, in order to equip students properly to engage visually with historical material, their own artefacts, and the international visual-culture environment that is so easily accessed digitally through ICT. Use of scanner, multimedia projector and PowerPoint is recommended as the main tool for teaching and learning art and design appreciation. To help integrate the history and appreciation of art, and support studies, into practical work, an up-to-date computer should be installed in the art and design classroom so that both students and teacher can conveniently refer to visual material on CD-ROM.
Imagery in 3D artefacts was varied and expressive, and it is recommended that use of the ‘Newclay’ craft product be phased out in favour of real pottery clay which allows for more expressive effects, can be fired and glazed, and is less laborious to get results from. As a kiln is in situ in the art room, it is recommended that this facility be exploited for the enlarged learning opportunities it can offer to students from first year onwards. This is strongly recommended, and a phased development of activity in this medium should be planned for.
Very good work in batik was displayed in the art room, and good equipment was available for this craft. Ways of integrating more crafts into the learning of basic expressive and technical skills should be explored in the medium to long term, with a view to enhancing current strengths.
There is an opportunity for a wider range of drawing materials to be emphasised for technical and expressive purposes from first year onwards as an alternative to over-reliance on pencil, and it is recommended that this is done during the current year. It is recommended too that ways of linking life drawing with 3D work be developed, in order to reduce the reliance on secondary sources in figurative work.
The art department has a big role in providing design services for the school’s annual theatrical show. This is part of the art department’s contribution to the cultural life of the school. Students give a lot of time to the painting of stage sets and other design related tasks, under the management of art department personnel. Stage design is an option on the Leaving Certificate Design examination paper at both higher and ordinary levels. As students have attained informal learning outside the classroom in working on stage design, it would be a logical extension and a good use of their experience and enthusiasm if they were prepared for this design examination question as part of their formal classroom learning, and it is recommended that the possibility of this linkage is given consideration in the future development of the art department.
A variety of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class-work, mock projects, assignments and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate programme. Practical work is graded at the end of each assignment. There are good levels of achievement in the state examinations. A strong consciousness of SEC assessment criteria, and of the associated practical requirements, informs the work of the art department.
Systematic records are kept 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 available and documented; it is recommended that these be developed as part of the teaching and learning process, and used to assess student attainment. The use of varied assessment methods is to be encouraged, including, where possible, some element of students’ self-evaluation/assessment.
Good forward planning for assessment has been noted in the art department.
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.