An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of ART
Saint Paulís CBS
North Brunswick St., Dublin 7
Roll number: 60430O
Date of inspection: 26 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Paulís CBS, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. 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 the subject teachers.
Art and Design is a valued part of the curriculum in CBS, North Brunswick Street and management is highly aware of the positive and wide-ranging contribution it makes to the academic and cultural life of the school, and to the social and personal development of the students at both junior and senior cycle.
There is one full-time art teacher assigned to the art department. The subject is adequately funded and supported. The timetable supports learning in Art and Design in an effective way.
Excellent space has been assigned for the art departmentís use, and the lack of cramping and overcrowding is a huge plus for the practical components of the courses offered. The potential of this large allotment of space for the development of the subject in the medium and long-term is immense, and there is experience, commitment, professionalism and competence available in the art department to spearhead this development over time.
The space available to the art department is the whole of a large and lofty study-hall type room in the Pugin-designed section of the school building. The natural light from its huge windows is an advantage for art and design education. However, the potential of the huge art room is at present not being exploited fully for the studentsí educational advantage, or for ease and efficiency of the delivery of the subject. The cause of this problematic non-optimal usage lies with the intrinsic layout and organisation, and with cleaning and maintenance of the huge space.†
Cleaning and maintenance of the art room is not at all satisfactory. The walls are extremely dusty from a long-term build-up and are thus unhygienic; immediate thorough and extensive cleaning to bring the room to an acceptable level of cleanliness is needed urgently, and thereafter it should be possible to maintain good standards of hygiene and cleanliness on a regular, and essential, basis. The present extreme dustiness prevents the walls being used to display studentsí work and to hang up visual learning aids; the room is prevented, by very poor maintenance over a long period, from being put to optimum use for the benefit of students and the efficiency of course delivery. It is recommended that the process of undertaking a full and thorough cleaning and maintenance of the art room be begun as soon as possible, for both educational and health and safety reasons.
Layout and organisation needs a lot of planning and attention. Storage, secure areas for computers, and layout of an area for clay modelling and 3D work generally are necessary. The area around the sole sink in the room should be separated off by a rectangle of tables so that the teacher can supervise and teach when students are working with materials and tools that have a potential for danger or injury, and also for ease of delivery of technical demonstration, instruction, advice and feedback. In the long term, more sinks with worktops adjacent to them for 3D work are recommended.
Storage of studentsí day-to-day assignments and work-in-progress, and of artefacts prepared for the State examinations, needs to be organised. Support from school management will be necessary to achieve this, as there is virtually no effective storage system at present. Standard metal office presses should be acquired for the storage of studentsí work, as well as art and design materials, equipment and tools. This type of press can be securely locked and is a sensible long-term investment in the infrastructure of the art room. At present security of equipment, of materials, and tools, and of student artefacts, is a concern for the art department and the school needs to provide solutions here.
In one corner of the art room is a concentration of electrical fuse boxes, wiring and technical devices related to the schoolís power supply. These need to be screened away from potential interference, perhaps by constructing a lockable cupboard around them; the art department is concerned that there are issues of safety in the present too easily accessible set-up of this facility. Making these electrical facilities secure and unreachable by students should be attended to as a matter of urgency. As a contingency arrangement, the art department has barriered the corner where the electrical facilities are with tables, but this is not satisfactory, as the tables and the space should be put to productive use for art and design education. The school needs to provide solutions to the issues associated with this potential danger, and it is recommended that this be done without delay.
It is commendable that some computer technology has recently been made available in the art room and it is recommended, in the short and medium term, that the art department be supported in whatever ways are necessary to make extensive focused use of this in delivering courses and programmes, and in encouraging students towards self-directed learning in Art and Design.
Good documentation for the planning of learning activities was available during the inspection and a wide range of art and design activities was included in this. Individual plans for the classes inspected were supplied too, and it was clear that the good learning ambience and conditions in the art department are significantly due to the quality of formal and informal planning that takes place there.
Existing planning modes would be enriched and made even more useful to day-to-day course delivery if learning aims and objectives were included for different activities and course components. These aims and objectives should be differentiated for students of high motivation or aptitude and for their less motivated peers so that the learning needs of both are catered for in as focused a way as mixed-ability class composition allows. It is recommended that differentiated aims and objectives be developed for some year groups for, and during, the next academic year.
It is also recommended that a review of the current term and year plans take place in relation to the number of periods, days and weeks devoted to topics and assignments in order to see if it would be possible to find more time to include new learning activities for which there is no time in the present plan structure.†
The schoolís location in the inner city is advantageous to the art department, as it gives easy access to the nationís principal public galleries and museums, to the vibrant visual arts culture of Dublin, and to the many-layered architectural and environmental richness of the cityís own fabric. A great deal of educationally valuable use has been and still is being made of these advantages. The art department is to be highly lauded for this, as is the school management for its ongoing support for out-of-classroom learning in Art and Design. For example, students visited the Eileen Gray exhibition in the adjacent Collins Museum. It was very valuable for them to encounter the work, at first hand, of such a sophisticated and important designer, and the initiative taken by the art department in bringing this about is highly commended. Current strategies for embedding this type of experience into the subsequent classroom experiences of students could be further developed and enhanced by appropriate teaching methodologies and follow-up assignments. An emphasis on reinforcement of learning on foot of museum and gallery visits through both verbal and pictorial means, when back in the classroom, might help ensure that more students get increased long-term art-learning benefit from such experiences as the Eileen Grey exhibition. The JCSP students benefited by a project about ancient Egypt, which was National Museum researched, and ENFO is also used for art department research as a source of environmental topics and information, and these types of approaches will be made even more effective when reinforcement is further developed as an organic part of the assignments and projects. Many students are involved in community arts programmes in the area.
The art department utilizes professional artists who are currently practicing in Dublin as a teaching and learning resource; over the years, Brunswick Street CBS students have benefited from these encounters with the art world. The incorporation of such artists from time to time into the departmentís delivery of courses benefits all students but particularly those with motivation and aptitude. One notable outcome of this programme of artist-visitors is that students see for themselves the vocational possibilities of Art and Design. Many past-pupils of the art department are now working in the arts and the media. The school currently is involved with the National College of Art and Designís access scheme, and is committed to helping students with aptitude and motivation to engage with the possibility of a career in Art and Design.
The art department has amassed good resources in terms of images and information for supporting the teaching of the programmes, and the computer now provided will enhance the research and development of topics and themes. There is a need to further develop current approaches to strengthening appreciation of art and design skills in both junior and senior cycles and it is recommended that from the beginning of first year, practical learning activities be closely integrated with the appreciation of art, design and architecture.
The art and design programmes are delivered with great enthusiasm and commitment. There is a good overall programme available to the students, and it has been carefully pitched to the needs of students and referenced where necessary to the contextual environment of the schoolís intake.† There are opportunities to expand and develop the crafts available to students and this should be done in a well-planned and resourced way over time, taking particular account of skills and expertises available at present to the department which are not fully called upon in the delivery of the courses within current provision for the subject in Brunswick Street CBS. There is a good approach being taken to teaching and learning in 3D and this is commendable. All students have opportunities to develop skills in this important course area and it is recommended that modelling with authentic pottery clay be integrated from first year into the studentsí experience of 3D creativity. It is recommended also that the making of small maquettes from clay or even plasticine from life be made part of learning life-drawing in order to get students to focus on the solidity of the figure, and on the depiction of this solidity in 2D media.
Students, on the evidence of their portfolios, are given a good introductory grounding in the Art Elements. A variety of media, materials and pedagogical approaches are in use to give the students experience of these art and design basics. A very sound approach is to be seen throughout the delivery of the courses, and a lot of effort has gone into making the learning tasks as engaging and attractive as possible for the students. It is recommended that the good work in the area of Art Elements be further supported by teaching strategies that empower students, from their earliest days in post-primary school, to engage with and become competent and at ease with a wide range of drawing media and tools, and less dependant on pencil, which can become a default medium for many of them.
Good and appropriate assessment practices are in use in the art department, and these are a support to, and an enhancement of, the learning process. Assessment is well integrated into the work students do and the assignments they are set. In general, 40% of marks are assigned for a specific, classroom centred examination task, and 60% for the portfolio of the termís or yearís classwork.† Feedback is given to students as part the assessment process. †
It is recommended that the differentiated aims and objectives referred to under the planning section of this report be used as a basis for creating differentiated assessment criteria for students of different motivation and ability levels which are then applied to the assessments and examinations the students are given during the year.
There are good systematic records of studentsí achievement in ongoing assessments and in the end-of-term and summer examinations. 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.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ A very sound programme in Art and Design is being delivered with excellent inputs from the visual art and design community and with a good track record in museum and gallery visiting.
∑ Students are offered well thought out learning experiences in which a lot of effort has been put into making the tasks and assignments as engaging and attractive as possible.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ Thorough cleaning of the art room walls, and regular normal cleaning of the art room is recommended.†
∑ It is recommended that the fuse boxes in the art room be made secure so that it is not possible for students to have access to them.
∑ It is recommended that, in order that organisation of the art department be improved, secure storage arrangements for artefacts and stocks of material and equipment be arranged as soon as possible.
∑ It is recommended that a 3D area be developed, and that this include additional sinks.
∑ It is recommended that from the beginning of first year, practical learning activities are closely integrated with the appreciation of art, design and architecture
∑ It is recommended that, in the long-term, new crafts and art and design activities be introduced to extend what is currently available to students for artistic self-development and state examination candidature.
∑ It is recommended that the differentiated aims and objectives referred to under the planning section of this report be used as a basis for creating differentiated assessment criteria for students of varying motivation and ability levels and that these aims and objectives are then applied as assessment criteria to the assessments and examinations the students are given.
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.