An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Loreto Secondary School
St. Michael’s, Navan, County Meath
Roll number: 64370T
Date of inspection: 20 September 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Loreto Secondary School, Navan. 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
There are two teachers in the art department at Loreto Secondary School, Navan, one of whom is dedicated primarily to the art department whilst the other has a majority of commitments in other areas of the school. Presently there is a departmental structure with an informally appointed subject co-ordinator. Department meetings take place, where procedural issues such as budgeting are dealt with. These meetings are largely informal. It is also reported that formal meetings are arranged at least three times a year at which pre-arranged agendas are dealt with, decisions are made and minutes taken.
In terms of facilities, Art is very well provided for in the school. Two bright and well-appointed art rooms are provided in addition to a special graphics room, a room with a kiln and other storage areas. Commendably, the graphics room is accessible from both art rooms and the installation of glass panelling ensures that students may be observed from the main classrooms. Internet access was not available at the time of the inspection; however, it was indicated that access would be provided in the near future, an addition that will be of great benefit to the department.
Storage is very well provided for in the department, with a collection of storage units as well as a dedicated store room for holding State Examination project work.
These rooms are generally well maintained. However, it is recommended that stores of work currently being housed in the department should be organised to keep only what is useful as exemplar material. Following this, arrangements should be made to house exemplars and visual aids in folders to allow for ease of access. It is further suggested that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be used to good effect to help record and document students’ work.
It was indicated on the day of the visit that there were plans to improve the display potential of one of the rooms, which is commended, as display is an essential part of the artistic process. It is further suggested that this room might also be repainted in the near future as funding and opportunity presents.
Access to the subject is good. All first years have an opportunity to experience the subject during a 10-week module after which they make their subject choices. Uptake of the subject at senior level is healthy.
On the day of the visit an art department plan was presented as part of the evaluation, in addition to individual teacher plans. The use of the plan as an instrument to frame and shape the activities of the art department has not been fully exploited to date. It is recommended that, as time allows, both members of the art department develop the plan by establishing how the delivery of Art is proceeding in the school and by identifying and prioritising urgent issues for development. In particular it is recommended that this document be used to consider the kind of art education offered at Loreto Secondary School. This would provide a general over-view of what a student might hope to learn over the full post-primary career of the student, without limiting the students’ experience to the examination requirements. Such thinking is already in evidence in the school where some students are facilitated in out-of-classroom art experiences; however this approach to the delivery of the subject should be extended to all programmes and all years.
It is further suggested that staff should consider how the syllabuses would be delivered over the duration of the programmes for maximum effect; for example, how thematic research could be taught in second year so that students in third year would be able to research independently on receiving the examination brief. It is intended that this type of planning would consider how best to approach topics so that students could build logically on what they already know.
Most importantly, the art department plan should contain a list of aims and outcomes based on skills and knowledge outcomes for each year group and programme. This would then be used as the framework from which individual teaching plans would be drawn. The individual teaching plans observed on the day of the visit outlined the general topics to be addressed by month. It is recommended that these be developed in a more detailed and structured way, highlighting the skills and knowledge to be delivered as well as the specific assessment modes to be used. It is further suggested that the lengths of projects and topics be varied at all levels to include longer term, shorter term and once-off lessons to help students remain engaged.
It is recommended that a list of rules for students be agreed upon and posted in the art rooms so that they have a very clear idea of the kinds of behaviour that are acceptable in the art room. Specific attention should be paid to the safety of students in the classroom and to moving classroom equipment.
It is recommended that art history and appreciation be incorporated into lessons from first year. This should be delivered with an emphasis on learning the vocabulary of the subject, developing confidence in appreciation and also, developing a sense of enjoyment in the subject, which will help them in both the junior and senior cycles.
Three lessons were observed: one junior and two senior class groups. Teachers showed respect and concern for the needs of the students at all times. Classroom management varied considerably. Where classroom management involved clear expectations of student effort, shared outcomes of the lesson and appropriate monitoring of student behaviour the lesson was effective and the degree of learning high. This clear and focussed approach encouraged good discipline where students were respectful, well-behaved, familiar with the operational practices of the art room and diligent.
Where this is not the case, levels of teaching and learning are adversely affected and it is recommended that the management of these groups be completely reviewed as a matter of priority. Issues to be addressed include the following: (a) students’ understanding of behaviour expected in a practical room and of the link to effective learning when all of their energy is focused on the task in hand (b) the need for more effective management of instruction and monitoring of students’ progress on a whole-group basis (c) the value of having all materials prepared in the general classroom so that time is not spent unnecessarily during class time in the store room (d) the need to manage movement around a practical classroom so that tools and equipment do not present unnecessary health and safety risks and that students do not have difficulty in settling into work.
In one junior cycle lesson observed, students were encouraged to look at shape in life drawing by drawing the model, redrawing it and then cutting out different coloured shapes to make a collage of the image. It was reported that this particular lesson was developed from an intention to address the theme of life drawing in as many different ways as possible to avoid student fatigue. Whilst the intention to make the topic interesting for students is accepted, there are more direct ways of looking at form and shape than this method which is overly complicated. One way of approaching this is to give students paint and big brushes so that they have to think in terms of shape rather than line to make marks. Another method might be allowing the students to work with large chalks, charcoal or any other large mark-making tool. Perhaps in the future, where students have the ability and motivation, it may be possible to work immediately from life to cut out a whole contour in paper. Whilst experimentation in the delivery of topics is highly commended it is suggested to teachers to amend and, where necessary, remove activities from lesson schemes when they are found to be lacking on delivery in the classroom.
It is essential that teachers are very specific about the topics and skills that they are covering at a particular lesson. The good practice of sharing lesson outcomes with students at the outset is recommended so that students have a very clear expectation of what it is they are aiming towards.
A very good attempt at differentiated teaching was undertaken in one lesson observed. However, too many topics were being covered in this lesson for it to be entirely successful. Where differentiated teaching is most successful, one key topic is chosen with a very specific aim and a set of target skills. This set of skills is differentiated in terms of difficulty and students are encouraged to aim for the level most suitable for them. To ensure that the weaker students reach their potential they should be encouraged regularly to complete their work to a high level of finish and should be provided with opportunities to make this work as attractive and aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Student profiling has been initiated and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to include more regular monitoring of students’ efforts and attainment. It is also recommended that the system of assessment should be developed further; assessments should be planned for every scheme of work and the modes and methods of assessment should be varied. Peer assessment, group critiques, self assessment and the more traditional teacher assessments can help students clearly ascertain their strengths and form plans to improve weaker areas. Further information on Assessment for Learning can be gained from the School Development Planning Initiative and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment websites. Planning for assessment should also serve to highlight the importance of working from primary sources and completing work to a high level finish.
A number of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities take place which add to the provision of the subject in the classroom and these are commended. These activities include sets and costumes for school plays and productions, murals in the physical education department, the school canteen and a local national school. Students from the art department also produce designs and art work for various school pamphlets and leaflets.
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:
· Instruction should be given to the class as a whole as this is a more effective use of teacher time.
· The good practice of sharing lesson outcomes with students at the outset is recommended so that students have a very clear expectation of what it is that they are aiming towards.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The St. Michael's Art Department appreciate the recommendations of the Art Inspector, and accept that there are areas to develop and improve.
Inspections of their nature are selective, and the lack of opportunity for adequate discussion after the inspection, along with a very full inspection timetable did not give adequate opportunity to reflect the full scope of work of the Art Department in the school -displays of students art work which were not viewed would illustrate further modes and methods of assessment, and an inspector's involvement during the introduction session of class would further illustrate lesson aims and outcomes.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
§ Formal, minuted meetings, with pre-arranged agendas are held on a regular basis.
§ Teachers are working on an on-going basis on detailed teaching plans
§ T.Y, 5th and 6th Year Art students have been to Bru na Boinne and Newgrange.
§ Three visits have been made to Art Exhibitions in Solstice Art Centre Navan.
§ T.Y have completed an Art Project on their response to work seen in the Art Exhibition in Solstice.
§ 5th and 6th Years have been to the National Museum and National Art Gallery, with completed follow-up work.
§ 3rd Years have been to the National History Museum for drawing project from Primary sources. They have also been to the National Gallery for support studies.
§ 1st Years have been to a play to study set and costume design.
§ Safety regulations are clearly displayed in the Art Rooms
§ It is the norm that instruction is given to the class as a whole as well as individual assistance as appropriate.
§ Each lesson begins with clear instruction of what is expected by the end of the lesson.
§ Increased display areas have been created in the Department.
§ Art work is displayed and updated regularly within the Art Rooms, and also on designated display areas in the school.