An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Monaghan Collegiate School
Monaghan, County Monaghan
Roll number: 64830E
Date of inspection: 9 April 2008†
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Monaghan Collegiate School. 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Monaghan Collegiate School is a fee-paying post-primary school with an enrolment of 109 boys and 112 girls. Art is taught as part of the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and the compulsory Transition Year (TY) programmes. The art department in the school is operated by one member of staff who is a member of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland.
School management has a sound awareness of the value of Art for students and is very supportive of the endeavours of the department. The art department rightly places a high priority on the presentation of studentsí work in the public areas of the school and exhibits a range of studentsí two dimensional pieces in the corridors. This work is of a very high quality, enhances the school environment and keeps the good work of the art department in view of the whole school community thus maintaining the profile of the subject in the school. The art department encourages students to be involved in local and national art competitions where they have achieved a high level of success in individual and team competitions. The art department is also very supportive of other extra-curricular activities such as the Ulster-Scots culture day at which art students created a time line of the Scots in Ireland. This was then presented to a school in Northern Ireland.
All art classes are arranged in mixed ability groups. The numbers of students taking the subject are healthy, with a good proportion taking the subject at higher level in junior and senior cycles.
Access to the subject in junior cycle is good and students along with their parents are well informed about Art as subject. As well as the information provided in the school prospectus, first year prospective students and parents are invited to visit the school on its open evening. An induction day is held in May at which incoming students may experience a taste of the various subjects. In addition, personal visits to the school are provided on request. Final subject choices for first years are made before September, however, the school reports that students can change their subjects within first year if they so choose.
Senior cycle students also have good access to the subject. Students in TY complete a careers programme and a guidance module as part of their course which help to inform them of the implications of their subject choices. An options evening is held for parents and students to further inform their plans. The art teacher is also on hand to advise students. Every effort is made by the school to ensure that the maximum number of students can take their chosen subjects. In exceptional circumstances Art can be offered to students outside of the options system. Also, where students wish to take up Art for the first time for their Leaving Certificate, they are usually accommodated. This focus on providing for the needs of individual students is very good.
Timetabling for Art is good. Art students are allowed supervised access to the art room during some of their study periods. This is good as it allows students to work on extra projects and to augment their classroom work when this is necessary.
One bright, designated room with a large store room is provided for Art. This room is beautifully organised and meticulously kept. The efforts of the art department to maintain, store, and manage its resources are excellent. Tools and equipment are safely housed in colour-coded storage units around the room whilst studentsí work is clearly labelled and held in racks. The departmentís collection of art books is stored in an open unit in the classroom, the design of which encourages students to use the resources available. Commendably, the art department has amassed an excellent collection of DVDs and documentaries to enhance the teaching and learning of the history and appreciation of Art.
Notice boards are used to inform students of careers in art, craft and design as well as support studies and other areas of educational interest. Exemplary student work is shown on a large display area in the classroom and is very well presented and labelled. This work is changed annually and used in teaching and learning during the academic year. To further this good practice of displaying studentsí work it is suggested that some full collections of studentsí work should be displayed soon after completion, as seeing all of a class groupís work displayed is good for student confidence. It is also suggested that studentsí more immediate work such as life drawing, design ideas and less finished pieces should also be displayed on a temporary basis.
On the day of the school visit there was an ample supply of consumable materials for use in the art department. It is reported that the arrangements for budgeting and purchase of materials work well.
The art department houses three desktop computers with printers and scanner. These are used by students for research purposes and for graphic design projects. A large-screen computer is also used to show PowerPoint presentations in the history and appreciation of Art. These presentations are teacher-generated, designed specifically for the students in the group, are attractive and of a very high quality. It is suggested that, as opportunity and funding presents, additional art-related software should be obtained to enhance the resources available to students.
It was noted during the evaluation that clay work was an option favoured by the students. However, at present there is no facility for firing work at the school. It is recommended that, when funding becomes available, a kiln should be obtained and installed at the school to enhance the resources currently available and to enable the areas taught to be broadened.
The school has a policy of integrating students with special needs in all class groups and every student is encouraged to participate to the best of his or her ability. The art department reports that support from the Special Educational Needs department in the school has been very valuable in creating rich learning experiences for students with particular needs. Such collaboration is good practice.
Subject department plans have been compiled by all departments and reviewed by senior management. The art department has created a sophisticated plan with two files for each year group consisting of a written plan and an accompanying visual plan outlining the activities to be conducted. This is a good system. The over-arching plans for art education in Monaghan Collegiate are good in that an ambitious standard is set for students and the plans for lessons are specifically designed so that students can reach those standards. The visual documentation presented as part of the subject department plans reflects the art departmentís view that if students are exposed to a high quality of artwork then they will aspire to and reach a high standard in their own work.
The written plans inspected on the day of the visit outlined some very good ideas for lessons which were educationally sound and of particular interest to students in their teenage years. These topics were divided using a weekly timeframe and gave some detail of the approach and specifics to be covered. In the interests of improving teaching and learning it is recommended that the plans as they exist should be developed further by identifying learning outcomes and including statements such as Ďon completion the student will be able to Öí. In this way the specific learning aims would be clearer and could be directly shared with students and used in their assessment of their work.
A range of crafts and disciplines is offered to students including clay work, batik, calligraphy, lino, modelling, marbling, and graphic design in addition to drawing and some painting. At the time of the evaluation, design and, in particular, graphic design was being taught to a very high standard. Also, the plans for schemes of work emphasised the design area, for example, drawing exercises and colour work using dry materials. It is now time to expand on this list of crafts and to explore additional areas for students. It is particularly recommended that painting should be encouraged from first year. Also, a fine art approach should play a more prominent part in the schemes of work for both junior and senior cycle.
Commendably, Art is a compulsory module in the TY programme; however, due to the wide range of subject areas covered in TY, the level of class contact time in Art is limited. At present the plan for TY revolves around creating an edition of prints using lino. This approach gives students a thorough experience of block print making and the quality of the completed work observed is of a high standard. However, to make best use of the opportunities provided by the TY programme, it is recommended that a variety of shorter schemes of work be planned using a wider skills base. An approach which uses a quicker printmaking technique such as mono printing, employing the skills of critical appreciation, identification of suitable subject matter, marks and colours should create a more robust experience with more skills being used in a shorter space of time. Thus the rest of the module could be given over to a very different topic such as photography, art appreciation, stained glass, image manipulation, or some other appropriate topics. It is further recommended that TY plans would reference the guidelines provided on the Second Level Support Service website and the brochure Writing the Transition Year Programme. Commendably, cross-curricular work is facilitated and art students contribute to the work created as part of the Business and Enterprise Studies part of the TY programme.
Three class groups were observed on the day of the visit, including one junior group and two senior class groups. In all lessons observed students were very well behaved and engaged in their work. The relationship and rapport with the teacher was good. Students were happy to ask questions and were confident in discussing their work. It was evident from the lesson plans made available and from the activities in the classroom that there is a great concern for the educational progress and well-being of the students in the art department.
Visual aids are used to enhance teaching and learning. During a lesson on poster-making a selection of posters from a popular poster campaign was used to enthuse and alert students to the different approaches that can be taken to the same product. These visual aids were also used to describe the concept of Ďtarget marketí. This use of visual aids is good practice and is encouraged.
Generally, class management was appropriate and successful. A sense of structure was created by holding roll call at the beginning of the lesson whilst students were settling down. Instruction was given to all students who then in turn embarked upon the task in hand. Individual attention was then given as appropriate. In one lesson observed, however, this structure was not evident and each student was given individual instruction from the outset. As the nature of individual instruction means that time is spent with each student, some students had to wait considerable lengths of time before they were told how to proceed. It is recommended that individual tuition should not be used as the main teaching method with groups of students. The aims of the lesson should be shared with all students at the outset of lessons, instructions should be given to the whole group, and individual attention should then be given as necessary. It is intended that students should be given every opportunity to experience independent learning and this cannot happen if they are encouraged to wait for personal tuition before embarking on a task. It is especially important that junior cycle students should build their decision-making capabilities by listening to the given instruction and choosing their own way forward which can then be amended as necessary.
The delivery of instruction was pleasant, informative and purposeful. Where instruction was delivered most clearly, there were no distractions from ambient noise such as radio. It is recommended that the use of audio material such as music should be carefully monitored and not used during class time when instruction is being given. While there may be particular occasions when music can be appropriately used to create a more relaxed atmosphere, it is important to preserve the learning atmosphere in the classroom especially in the formative years of junior cycle and the use of background music can militate against this.
Records of attendance are kept by the art department. Commendably, a book is held by the department which records homework and grades for projects. Studentsí work is also evaluated on an ongoing basis during projects. It is suggested that these good assessment practices should be extended by involving the students as much as possible in their own evaluation and by varying the assessment methodologies. Examples of this might include the use of a marking scheme by students to evaluate their own work, peer evaluation and group evaluation. More information on assessment can be found on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (www.ncca.ie).
Formal examinations are held at Christmas and summer for first year, second year and fifth year students. Pre-certificate examinations in Art are held for students in third year and sixth year in early February, using commercially prepared examination papers. The work produced during these examinations is marked by the art teacher. Each year group has one parent-teacher meeting per year. School reports are completed and sent to parents in December and May for first year, second year, TY, and fifth year students. Reports are sent home for third and sixth year students after their pre-certificate examinations.
Notebooks observed on the day of the visit show that the history and appreciation of art element of the Leaving Certificate syllabus is progressing well. Class tests are given regularly to check progress in this area of the syllabus.
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.
Published October 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1:† Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Monaghan Collegiate School accept the findings of the Inspection Report and note that the findings affirm their confidence and respect for the excellent teaching which occurs within the Art Department.
The Board of Monaghan Collegiate School provide the funding for the employment of the teaching staff entrusted with the teaching of Art and are pleased that their support for the subject of Art within the school curriculum has been validated by the Inspectorate, Department of Education and Science.
Area 2:†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the†† inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Principal on behalf of the Board of Governors will approach the Department of Education and Science regarding the purchase of a Kiln.
Subject Plans now contain learning outcomes.
Group tuition is presently the main teaching method of instruction.
The use of audio material is fully monitored.
The Art Department are investigating and implementing methods of delivery for the encouragement of fine Arts.