An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Navan, County Meath
Roll number: 72010I
Date of inspection: 16 October 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Beaufort College. 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 two days 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, deputy 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.
Beaufort College considers Art to be a very important subject and the numbers of students taking Art are good. Art is delivered as part of the Junior Certificate programme, the Junior Certificate School Programme, the Established Leaving Certificate and it is a compulsory part of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. Art is also taught to a full class group of students who study Art as a Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course.
Three members of staff operate the art department and a voluntary subject co-ordinator is in place. Two of the teachers are responsible for teaching Art in the mainstream second level programmes whilst the third teacher delivers the PLC course in Art. Due to the fact that the art department provides Art at quite disparate levels, with very different outcomes, most of the collaboration that takes place involves the teachers dealing with the mainstream second level students who have common goals and issues. However, very valuable collaboration takes place with all three members of staff of the art department when appropriate, and this is to the benefit of students and the general school community. Such collaboration is commended and is very good practice. The three members of the art department have availed of continuing personal development including personal professional artistic practice, in-service and training regarding artistic and general education. This serves to keep the art department abreast of artistic and pedagogical developments and to keep the approach to the delivery of Art fresh and innovative for students.
The art department prides itself on the ability of Art to significantly enhance the school experience for the whole school community. This has led to the department making very valuable contributions to the daily life of the school including supporting school activities in the form of banners, posters and other decorations for school events as well as creating more permanent and decorative structures around the school, such as mosaics and murals. The art department has been responsible for developing a memorial garden with a professionally executed sculptural centrepiece, which is held in very high regard by the school community. The department is also very active in terms of cross-curricular planning with other departments, which enhances the potential for students to apply their skills and knowledge to new issues. The art department is currently planning a sculptural garden, which will have cross-curricular ties with the building construction department, religion, civic, social and personal education and home economics departments. This is excellent practice.
The art department is well supported by school management in terms of budgeting. Arrangements for the procurement of materials are good and commendably the art department also seeks funding from various other sources to augment the regular activities offered in the classroom.
The space provided for the PLC programme, although less than spacious, is used very well and commendably divided into studio spaces for each student, which is very good practice. The designated art room used by the mainstream students and teachers is a very large space, which was originally two separate classrooms. The dividing wall between these rooms was removed some time ago. As expected, Art is timetabled for this room as often as possible. This works well when there is one class group in the room but due to the high numbers of students taking Art, school management at times has no option but to timetable two different class groups in the room at the same time. Teaching two different class groups in one room raises significant organisational issues. Aside from the visual distractions provided by another class group being present, the noise levels also provide distraction and must be carefully monitored at all times. Management endeavours to provide alternatives to this problem, but removing class groups from the art room and consequently, from the equipment and materials necessary for their studies, to another room also creates problems. Teachers are commended for their positivity and determination to provide a quality education in these circumstances. It is recommended that management should pursue all necessary routes to restore this space as two separate rooms. Seeing that there are already two doors and space for a new storeroom in place, this restoration should prove less difficult than might be expected. It is further suggested that when considering how the room will be divided soundproofing should be a high priority.
The art department is furnished with some information and communications technology (ICT) in the mainstream art room whilst students from the PLC class have access to computers and the internet very near their workspaces. It would be very beneficial for the whole art department if internet access, a digital camera, scanner, data projector and printer were provided. It is recommended that a suite of designated ICT equipment should be developed as funding becomes available. It was understood at the time of the evaluation that some of this equipment would be forthcoming in the near future.
The art department has a policy and practice of helping students outside of timetabled class contact time to prepare portfolios and to support their various art projects. This commitment is commended.
The art department is supported by an active special educational needs (SEN) team and all class groups are mixed ability. It is reported that the SEN team are a very good support to the art department and students benefit greatly from this.
A set of detailed, well-developed and excellently presented planning documents was submitted as part of the evaluation. The plan opens with a very positive mission statement for the work of the art department and commendably sets out the framework on which all activities are based. The document also sets out time allocation, options structures, students’ access and grouping, practical planning for students with special educational needs including references to appropriate outside agencies. Details of how assessment for learning is used as well as modes of assessment and examinations procedures are also included. Commendably, methodologies for addressing specific topics are addressed too. This is good practice and should be expanded upon as the art department develops. The art department plan also includes some content regarding the future planning for the department. This is excellent practice and should be pursued.
The art department includes a significant number of students for whom English is not their first language. The department has compiled a list of art terminology for specific use in post-primary education and translated it into various different languages for use in the classroom to assist students in their learning. This is very good practice.
Individual teachers’ planning notes were also observed during the evaluation. These notes were based on the ideals of the art department plan, clearly presented, educationally sound and based on a very specific timeframe. The activities, aims, learning objectives and expected outcomes were detailed for each lesson per class group. Beautifully presented visual aids for each scheme were presented as part of these plans. Worksheets were also prepared for appropriate topics. The level of detail achieved is a testament to the dedication of the teachers involved and is excellent practice. Art history and appreciation is also planned for and evidence on the day showed that students are progressing well in this area.
The art department at Beaufort College places a high priority on encouraging progress and pace in students’ work. The department is also very keen to promote the values of respect and dignity in the classroom. Constructive criticism is used by the art department in Beaufort College as a major tool in improving students’ work in a sensitive manner, so that students’ confidence is maintained whilst their work is challenged.
Four class groups were observed as part of the evaluation; the PLC class, two senior class groups and one junior cycle class group were visited. Due to the differing age profiles and levels of development of the students, the dynamics of the classes varied greatly. As to be expected, the students in the PLC class group were encouraged to be independent thinkers and to take a great deal of responsibility for their own work. The teaching methodologies used were carefully and successfully chosen to promote these behaviours. Information about briefs was given to the group where discussion took place, and then students were given specific one-to-one attention to help them isolate the particular routes of their investigations. The completed work on display and the on-going work on the day of the visit showed that this methodology was working very well.
The teaching methodologies used in junior and senior cycle were also well chosen. Beautiful still lives were set up for one group, and students were asked to choose their own composition using a viewfinder, thus focussing on the target element, composition, whilst increasing the potential of the work to be aesthetically pleasing. The application of colour, which had been addressed in previous lessons, was then practised and developed. This approach was very successful. A junior cycle group was encouraged to draw leaves using colouring pencil which was very appropriate as the leaves were good subject matter; small and flat which made them easier for young students to observe. However, the layout of the room impacted negatively on this lesson as these young students found it difficult to settle with another group of students and another teacher working in the same area. This led to the group starting work later that should be expected and students from both class groups being distracted. Until this unsatisfactory arrangement regarding classroom accommodation is addressed it is recommended that classroom management be given the highest priority in teachers’ planning. All efforts possible should be made to ensure that students do not have to move around the room, and that students do not make unnecessary noise. It is also recommended that, where students are not remaining on task, assessment should be used to maintain an expectation of effort and pace.
The students’ drawing skills were good relative to their potential across all levels and stages of development. Very good examples of colour and design work were observed in the classroom and in the general school building.
Students’ attendance, homework and behaviour are recorded in the teachers’ journals. All non-certificate examination students are assessed formally at Christmas and summer. Students are also given class tests after certain topics have been covered. Pre-certificate examinations are held for students in February.
Work is assessed and marked after each topic is completed and the result is communicated to each student both verbally and through written comments. Junior students are given ‘worksheet-type’ tests and certificate examination students are given the opportunity to practise their skills using pre-examination tests. All results are recorded in the teachers’ journals and school examinations are recorded in school reports. Parents are informed of students’ progress using the student journal and letters home when appropriate. Christmas and summer reports are sent home each year and parent/ teacher meetings are held once per year per year group.
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.
Published September 2008