An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Maynooth Post-Primary School
Maynooth, Co. Kildare
Roll number: 70700A
Date of inspection: September 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Maynooth Post-Primary 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 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 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.
The art department is valued by management for its contribution to the life of the school and to the education of its students. There are two permanent members of staff assigned to the art department. Every year a student from the National College of Art and Design is provided with teaching hours in the school. The permanent staff work closely together and there is good co-operation between them. Art is a popular subject choice and classes are relatively large. There is a high degree of professionalism and a working atmosphere of enthusiasm and commitment in the department. Art is affirmed by management for the educational opportunities it offers to students. This is reflected in the good examination results that have been attained over a period.
The art rooms are spacious and well furnished, with storerooms attached, and there are three pottery kilns in situ.
There is a relatively good gender balance in the art classes. The uptake of Art by boys varies from year to year, indicating that it is personal choice by individuals rather than impediments imposed by option strands that account for any low male uptake which might occur in particular years.
It is recommended that the excellent learning conditions that exist in the art department be further developed in a number of ways in the short to medium term. Crafts not at present practised should be introduced to allow students added choice, both for personal, artistic development and SEC examination candidature. The present crafts should be reviewed in order that further development might be planned for them in terms of resources. ICT, as a learning and teaching facility, should be integrated into the day-to-day work of art and design as practised in the department. In order that the cultural and aesthetic aspects of the subject be more easily and completely delivered, it is recommended that a small, dedicated budget be assigned to the art department to build up pictorial resources for display in the art rooms.
Funding for materials for day-to-day use is provided on request for the art department. On the day of the inspection visit there was evidence that a range of materials and tools is available to facilitate students’ learning, and that these are very well managed.
The school needs to develop the role of ICT in the art department, and in the medium term to add new crafts and media to the range currently on offer.
Collaborative planning is practised in the art department. The subject co-ordinator creates a document based on this collaboration, which outlines learning activities for the school year. Planning meetings are scheduled several times a year. The collaborative planning which takes place informally on a day-to-day basis is not documented. The effectiveness of the planning document is due to its clear-cut and practical approach to the delivery of the junior and senior- cycle programmes.
Progression and change are worked into the plan from year to year as circumstances alter or as is dictated by the review of the document based on the experience of implementing it. It is recommended that the planning document be augmented to include learning aims and desired outcomes for students, particularly those of high motivation and aptitude on the one hand and on the other for their less engaged, motivated and capable peers, in order that these sub-groups are given suitable differentiation within the context of the mixed-ability class. The current practice of revision and refinement of planning from year to year is to be lauded and has resulted in an efficient programme being delivered, which works well in the context of the school’s circumstances.
The school usually has access to a Higher Diploma in Education student-teacher from the NCAD. It might be valuable to include this student-teacher in the collaborative planning process from time to time as a learning experience in team planning. It may be possible to request that the student-teacher deliver a specified section of the plan as laid out by the art department. On the day of the inspection the second-year students were doing a class in basic clay/pottery skills, which they normally would have covered in their first year had they not been with the student-teacher rather than their usual teacher. Whilst it is valuable and useful that the student teacher’s contribution has the potential to bring varied and different learning experiences into the art department, perhaps one key area might be delivered by the student teacher by agreement with the staff of the department.
Planning for the specific classes observed was good. Preparation, always important in the practical dimension of a subject, is effective and on the day of the inspection a range of necessary tools and materials was readily available.
Planning for the use of ICT is strongly recommended as it has much to offer the art department both in the delivery of courses and the creation of conditions whereby students can be provided with some added increment of self-directed learning that can become part of their experience of art and design.
There is a good learning atmosphere in the art department. Student-teacher interaction is good. Students worked consistently at their tasks, and there was a sense of purposeful engagement with the highly structured work assignments they were asked to do.
The practical aspects of delivering classes to large groups were very well managed. Communication was concise and effective. Advice, encouragement and direction were clear, unambiguous, friendly, and to the point. The classrooms were arranged for maximum efficiency, convenience of circulation, class discipline, and student field of vision. All contributed to the high quality of teaching and learning that was taking place there. The art rooms are well ordered. Storage of completed artefacts, and the management of works in progress are well organised, allowing full usage, on a daily basis, of available space and worktops. This facilitates efficient working by students on the practical aspects of their course.
The Art Elements and basic techniques are being well covered in teaching and learning. An emphasis on 2D design has resulted in the students developing very good levels of skills in lettering and graphic design in poster making. Particularly noteworthy are the second-year poster designs which are of a very high grade. As a general principle, where such high attainment is evident students should not thereafter be asked to over-practise the skills involved. It is more educationally desirable that students are challenged by other areas of craft and design where new skills and further attainment are available to them.
Recent work by fifth-year art students suggests that there is a widespread flair for imaginative composition in the group. This should be nurtured by supporting it with work by artists and illustrators both from history and contemporary life. Students do a lot of observational drawing and still-life in junior cycle, and to continue it on may not be the optimal motivational or stimulating educational path for all students who opt for Leaving Certificate art. The compositional opportunities within still-life are restricted compared with the scope imaginative composition affords. It is important that in fifth year it is given time and status as a learning activity.
Students’ practical work in all areas should be enriched by integrating appreciation of art and design material into it on a constant basis from first year onwards. Encounters with pictures, sculptures, architecture, and design and craft artefacts integrated in this way give students a broad experience of visual culture, which repays any time dedicated to it by enriching their practical work and enhancing the personal development contribution that the study of art and design can provide.
Efforts are being made in the delivery of the history and appreciation of art to utilise action-learning and fuller student engagement during class. For example, students were asked to read part of the textbook and others were asked to describe or comment on the pictorial handout provided to augment the topic. Other methods such as assigning students an artist-designer artefact or building to research, and asking them to present their findings to their class in a 5 -10 minute talk, if possible with Powerpoint, and directing the students to prepare a short, photocopied resumé for circulation in the class as part of their presentation, should be considered. This may not work for every senior cycle class group as it is dependent on aptitude and motivation, but it should be tried out by the art department in its efforts to get more engagement and self-directed learning into the history and appreciation of art.
While there were reproductions of artefacts on display in the art department, it is recommended that more of these are displayed, and a wider range and variety of them, in order that the 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. Again, ways of using this material should be creatively based, with an emphasis on increasing student engagement with art and design of all sorts, and on student self-directed learning. For example, asking students in TY and Leaving Certificate years 1 and 2 to ‘curate’ a display of art reproductions on a wall or notice-board, and to give a brief presentation about it is a good way to help students to develop taste, exercise choice and engage with aesthetic knowledge that is task-driven and not textbook derived.
To make the need to have history and appreciation of art integrated into practical work operational in the art and design classrooms, an up-to-date computer should be installed in both of them so that students and teachers can conveniently refer to visual material on CD-ROM. For the delivery of presentations in history and appreciation of art classes, it is strongly recommended that a multi-media projector, screen and Powerpoint software be used as soon as it is possible to provide these and the help/training that 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 mediated by ICT.
Very good artefacts had been made by the students in pottery and there were impressive technical and expressive qualities exhibited in these works. Students had good glazing skills and the 3D quality of the artefacts was notable. There is an opportunity here, where standards are so good, to develop the appreciation of ceramics parallel to the practical making of them, in order to highlight the aesthetic value and expressive importance of clay-based crafts across different cultures and historical periods.
Good use of colour was notable in the 2D work seen displayed and in students’ portfolios. Drawing competence was everywhere in evidence. There is an opportunity for a wider range of drawing materials to be emphasised from first year onwards as an alternative to over-reliance on pencil. It is recommended that ways of linking life drawing with 3D work be developed to bring together these two areas of the department’s strength and to forge a new direction in teaching and learning.
Support study sheets seen on display in the art department were reliant on photographic material sourced from magazines and photocopies. This practice needs to be reconsidered in the light of its rather low educational value. Support studies should be interpreted as the appreciation of art, design and the built environment for junior cycle, pitched at a level appropriate to their aptitude and motivation. Drawing and painting should be in evidence in support studies sheets and these media should be used to develop ideas through engaging with artworks and the processes of art, craft and design. Updating the teaching and learning processes to incorporate a cultural approach designed to correct any over-emphasis on secondary source material as the basis for junior certificate project work should be factored into planning undertaken for the long term development of art and design in Maynooth Post-Primary School.
Evidence abounded of student engagement, enjoyment and achievement. The art department very effectively supported their learning, and with some adjustments to current delivery of courses, the thought and insight already being applied should further enrich the artistic and cultural life of the students.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on classwork, mock projects and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate programme. 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. There are systematic records 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 for learning criteria need to be devised and documented. It is recommended that these are developed as part of the teaching and learning process, and used to assess student attainment throughout the school year for all classes.
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.
School Response to the Report
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
We take on board and look forward to developing the role of ICT in the Art department. We agree that ICT has a lot to offer in promoting Art and we would greatly appreciate any long overdue In-service training that the Department of Education can offer Art Teachers