An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Art

REPORT

 

Gallen Community School

Ferbane, Co.Offaly

Roll number: 91515W

 

Date of inspection: 8 May 2008

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art

  

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gallen Community 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 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.

  

Subject provision and whole school support

 

The art department provides artistic education for a good proportion of the schoolís population and management is both aware and appreciative of the effective contribution it makes to the personal and academic development of the students and to the life of the school. The art department has given visual arts activities a strong profile throughout the school, with student work being displayed in the public areas and by contributing design work to the schools annual musical show. All this is commendable and underscores the commitment of management to developing the visual arts for the benefit of students. Involvement in local and national art competitions has been a tool for the art department in furthering student engagement with art and design.

 

The art department has developed from after-school provision of classes for students who had a personal interest in art and design. For the last four years, students have access to junior and senior cycle programmes in art, with a dedicated classroom and a budget for materials. The establishment of an art department by the principal is to be commended in the highest possible way as the timetabling of art as a full subject gives students the opportunity to study visual culture, develop artistic skills, extends their choice of junior and leaving certificate examination options and opens possible career paths up to them.

 

The art department has been assigned a full-time art teacher. It has a dedicated classroom, which has few of the customised facilities that the subject needs. Space is adequate but when classes are full there is little to spare, and circulation is inhibited. There is no separate storeroom for materials, equipment or completed student work so this takes up classroom space. The school is awaiting improved facilities on construction of a new school. Student portfolios are held in the art room. The storage facilities that exist there are well managed. 

 

In the long term management should seek to enhance the work being done in the art department by further developing information and communications technology (ICT) and promoting its integration into teaching and learning of art and design when resources and opportunity allow. ICT could support the delivery of lessons, particularly the history and appreciation of art in senior cycle and support studies at junior cycle.  It is recommended that any ICT resources available at present in the school should be now included in delivery of lessons, to enhance the visual nature of the material presented to students in this regard. Self-directed learning by students in the history and appreciation and support studies areas would be enhanced by increased computer use. Support for the art department personnel to develop standard skills in ICT is now necessary if students are to be empowered by the schools existing technology and equipment.

 

It is to the studentsí great advantage that a pottery kiln has been provided recently for the art department, and senior management and board are highly commended on this initiative. Now that this expensive piece of equipment is in place there is no need for students to use hobby-type non-fireable clay any longer, as this material does not support maximised learning in 3D. It is recommended that the frequency and extent that the kiln is in use should be audited by the principal, so that the large investment is put to the studentsí advantage in their artistic development and state examination success.

  

Planning and preparation

 

Planning documentation was provided by the art department as part of the inspection. This now needs to be developed further taking into account the syllabus requirements, assessment outcomes, breadth and balance of the curriculum and the studentsí developmental needs. The use of time, and the duration of the assignments and projects, should be worked out. Learning aims and objectives should be developed for students of all aptitudes and motivations and integrated into the plan in order to enhance current practice.

    

The technical and artistic side of art and design, which is being dealt with at present in the art department in a basic way, needs to be supported and extended in teaching and learning by the intellectual and cultural dimension of experiencing and creating art. Planning should be undertaken for these important dimensions in both the junior and senior cycle. The way 2D, 3D, craft, design, as well as the appreciation and cultural dimension of the courses are taught should be reviewed.

 

Artwork derived from secondary sources is not in general challenging enough to nurture the required artistic development of students. Neither are the wide range of learning outcomes that are desirable in junior and senior cycle supported by copying and recasting imagery from secondary sources. Work from secondary sources does not develop a confident and self-determining approach, nor does it help the student become truly creative. For all of the reasons outlined above, it is recommended that planning take place to develop practical teaching strategies through a programme of class-work that minimises the use of secondary sources, and emphasises work that develops skills that make such reliance unnecessary. 

  

Teaching and learning

 

Art and design courses are delivered in an enthusiastic and student-friendly way. Students have the opportunity to work in a range of materials and media, and several crafts are practised. Classroom atmosphere supports learning and students are given a lot of focussed attention as individuals, small group and as full classes. Encouragement and praise is given to students as they work. Good management of student behaviour ensures that they derive benefit from instruction given. The interaction between students and teacher and vice versa was at all times respectful and courteous, as it was amongst the students themselves. Students are given a lot of individual attention to support their art and design learning. The students were focussed and on-task at all times during the classes inspected. 

 

The real strength of the art department is that students may practise any crafts of their choice. Their choice is neither ordained nor restricted by the teacher, and this enhances student engagement and motivation. Such artistic liberty is commended in the highest possible way, and gives a clue to the potential of the art department to develop its current practice in the future in interesting ways that support student engagement and attainment. Developments of current practice in the following ways are suggested. The use of a wider range of drawing tools and media should be more effectively embedded into the studentsí habitual daily practice of drawing. The use of hobby craft clay should be discontinued because a kiln is now available. Authentic pottery clay is easier to work and allows more expressive modelling, thus supporting student attainment in sculpture and ceramics. Stronger and better developed links between the cultural and aesthetic aspects of art and design with the studentsí artistic and technical practice should be developed. It is strongly recommended that current practice should be reviewed with all of the above in mind.

 

Another area in teaching and learning that needs to be reviewed is visual research as part of the image generation phase of briefs and assignments given to students.  On the evidence of the artworks seen, most students tend at present to collect those images from magazines, books or internet that appear to answer a brief in a ready-made way. If it is to be valuable and effective, visual research needs to be more rigorous and integral to the creative process by which the studentsí develop artefacts. This passive approach to image generation needs to be challenged through the promotion of active research, where students take their own photographs and make their own drawings; these should be based on their personal visual perceptions. This approach allows for the delivery and teaching of courses and programmes that results in a wider range of desirable learning outcomes than present practice does.

 

Furthermore, the development of imagination, visualisation, and ideation as sources for art and design is the central ingredient in art education. A key responsibility of art teachers is to impart skills and promote processes that help students to imagine solutions to visual questions, and to develop skills of visualisation. When this approach is not strongly developed, students turn to secondary sources because they have not got the skills to bring a brief through all the necessary stages from idea to artefact. 

 

A conscious de-emphasis of secondary sources should also be linked to differentiation of learning experiences and assignments for students of differing aptitudes and motivation levels. While no doubt the delivery of tuition in lessons takes account of individual studentsí needs and differences, the differentiation of learning outcomes, and expectations of different groups within the student population needs to be more finely tuned, and should also link into the assessment process by becoming the criteria by which tasks and assignments are assessed. Use of the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie for information about approaches to differentiated learning is strongly recommended.  

 

Notably, twelve buildings in Ferbane have been listed. These buildings should be utilized as a visual and cultural resource for teaching and learning about art and the built environment at junior and senior cycle as part of support studies and history and appreciation of art. It is recommended that these buildings be used for learning about architecture in general. Specifically, they are a unique resource around which some of the Transition Year (TY) art programme could be centred. The flexibility of art and design courses allows such focus on local resources, and it is strongly recommended that planning be undertaken to use these buildings for the advantage of studentsí learning about art design and architecture. 

 

Some reproductions of art and design artefacts were displayed in the classrooms, and this is commendable and good. This practice is very helpful to the process of introducing different visual approaches and styles to the students and should be increased and incorporated into teaching and learning at all levels, to enrich the practical components of the courses. The use of reproductions could also be developed through the use of computer mediated CD-ROMs and by presenting art history and appreciation, and support studies, by the use of a multi-media projector. These ICT tools afford more variety in the provision of the classroom materials students can encounter with the greatest of convenience.

 

Many of the more highly motivated and high aptitude students should be able to produce individualistic and creative artefacts, with less reliance on what is conventional or formulaic.  Aims and objectives should be formulated for teaching and learning to promote enhanced personal engagement with projects by all students, but particularly those with high aptitude and motivation.

 

Students of lesser aptitude and motivation often find the written aspect of the Leaving Certificate art challenging. It is recommended that a chart be made and displayed, on which vocabulary is put on a class by class basis over the duration of the course. New technical terms and specialised words used in the teaching process, especially for the history and appreciation of art and support studies, should be added daily to the list and frequent review of these be undertaken to ensure that students who might find this aspect of the Leaving Certificate challenging become practised with the language and concepts involved.

 

Ways of stitching the cultural and aesthetic into the practical work on a daily basis should be further considered, explored and planned for. The cultural and aesthetic aspect of learning about art and design should continue to be given a functional role in the studentsí day-to-day experience. A wide range of art-postcards, posters and inexpensive picture books should be displayed on a frequently changed basis on the classroom walls, to encourage student engagement with art and design.

 

Studentsí learning styles have an influence on how they progress in art and design. Reference to this should be accessed on the NCCA website and incorporated into teaching in order to help all students attain their potential.  

 

The art department is relatively new and, commendably, has achieved much since it was set up. The students have benefited from it and with this in mind, it is recommended that learning outcomes and engagement with wider visual culture in fine art, design and architecture, be a goal in the coming academic year, and thereafter. While it is necessary to focus on examination assignments in May when the evaluation took place, the overall experience of art and design activities should be more broadly based. It is desirable that students are brought to a point of examination readiness by less prescriptive means that emphasise creativity and engagement with visual culture in a wider sense than at present.

 

Teaching of history and appreciation of art is more effective when presented in a strongly or predominantly visual mode; a stronger emphasis on visual learning in lessons described here would have been a valuable addition to the rich and useful content encountered by the students in a largely verbal way.  ICT does make this more visual approach possible, on a daily basis. It is recommended that the use of a scanner, laptop and multimedia projector be planned for in the delivery of history and appreciation and support studies material in the near future, and as these resources become available.

 

The visual nature of the material of art design, craft and the built environment is naturally well served by computers and this mode of delivery is advised because it greatly enhances the studentís visual learning. Multi-media projector and computer allow great access to artworks and thus to the cultural and aesthetic aspects of the subject. Finding new ways to get students to engage with the art history and appreciation course in the coming academic year is strongly recommended.

 

It is recommended that the students be introduced to the art appreciation segment of the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate course in the September of fifth year rather than later into the two-year course. This is because they should be empowered immediately to begin to develop perceptual and observational skills in tandem with aesthetic and cultural knowledge that will support their study of art history and help them to make optimal use of the illustrations in the Leaving Certificate history and appreciation of art paper.

 

assessment

 

A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department: continuous assessment based on class work, and examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate programme. The students are closely observed, monitored and advised whilst working on their junior certificate project and TY assignments. A strong consciousness of assessment criteria of the State Examinations Commission, and of the associated practical requirements, informs the work of the art department. There are systematic records of studentsí during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessment and examination results available. 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.

 

Learning outcomes should determine the criteria used to assign marks in examinations and in the on-going assessment of student work. It is recommended that this dimension of the art departmentís work be given a lot of attention in the coming academic year.

  

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The art department has developed from after-school provision of classes for students who had a personal interest in art and design.
  • The establishment of an art department by the principal is to be commended in the highest possible way as the timetabling of art as a full subject gives students the opportunity to study visual culture and to develop artistic skills, extends their choice of Junior and Leaving Certificate examination options and opens possible career paths up to them.
  • Art and design courses are delivered in an enthusiastic and student friendly way.
  • The real strength of the art department is that students may practise any crafts of their choice, enhancing both their personal artistic development and state examination question options.
  • Investment in a large new kiln for pottery and ceramics recently further extended and enhanced the learning opportunities available to students.
  • The principal has a strong commitment to the development of the art department.
  • The local environment of Ferbane has many newly listed buildings in the town which are an important easily accessible resource for visual learning.
  • Students are given a lot of individual attention to support their art and design learning. 

 

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • It is recommended that maximum use be made of the kiln in order to enhance studentsí educational and self-developmental opportunities.
  • It is recommended that planning for the subject be undertaken that attends to all aspects of the courses, includes learning outcomes for students and is date and time referenced.
  • It is recommended that ICT currently available in the school be utilised in a more extended way than at present for teaching and learning in the art department.
  • It is recommended that secondary sources be greatly de-emphasised in teaching and learning.
  • It is recommended that learning aims and objectives become the basis of assessment criteria for all classes.

 

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, October 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management


Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management wish to acknowledge the strengths of the Art department as witnessed in this report. They would particularly like to commend the following:

 

  • Art and Design courses are delivered in a student friendly way.
  • Classroom atmosphere supports learning and students are given a lot of focused attention as individuals, small group and full classes.
  • Encouragement and praise was given to students as they work.
  • Students are given a lot of individual attention to support their Art and Design learning.
  • The real strength of the Art Department is that students may practice any craft of their choice. Their choice is neither ordained nor restricted by the teacher and this enhances student engagement and motivation. Such artistic liberty is commended in the highest possible way.

 

The Board wish to express their confidence and support for the professional manner in which the Art Department carry out their duties within the school.

 

  

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

 

As recommended ICT currently available in the school is being utilised more for teaching and learning in the Art Department.