An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
St Davidís Christian Brothersí School
Artane, Dublin 5
Roll number: 60471F
Date of inspection: 30 January 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Davidís Christian Brothersí School (CBS). 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
St Davidís CBS provides all six of the second level curricular programmes available for its students: the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme, the Transition Year (TY), the Established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). Commendably, Art is delivered within all of these programmes.
The art department is well established and is operated by two fully qualified members of staff. One of these teachers acts as subject co-ordinator on a voluntary basis. Commendably, this teacher is a member of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland. The school is supportive of the continuing professional development of its teaching staff and the teachers in the art department have availed of in-service to enhance the teaching and learning of Art in the school.
The uptake of Art by students in St Davidís CBS is very healthy. First year students choose their optional subjects before admission to the school in September and Art is one of these. Prospective students and their parents are invited to attend an informational open night where the principal, deputy principal, guidance counsellor, and home-school-community liaison co-ordinator are available to discuss subject options. Prospective students are also invited to tour the school to see the classroom facilities and observe displays of studentsí work in the various subject departments. They are then asked to choose two subject s in pre-set subject bands. Students of Art are generally assigned to mixed ability class groups. To specifically address the special educational needs of students some smaller art classes are formed.
Art is compulsory for all TY students, which is good practice, as Art lends itself readily to the spirit of the TY programme. It also offers students an opportunity to experience the subject before making their subject choice decisions for the Leaving Certificate. As a result, a number of students take Art who have not studied Art for their Junior Certificate. The accommodation of these studentsí desire to study the subject is commended. TY Art is delivered over a number of weeks before students move to another module. In fifth year, students are assigned to higher and ordinary level class groups. These class groups are timetabled concurrently for Art in order to facilitate student mobility; this is a very satisfactory arrangement.
Provision for Art at St Davidís CBS is good. Two designated rooms with storage space are available for Art and other facilities include a dark room and kiln. At the time of the evaluation, it was reported that the photography facilities were to be soon augmented by a new enlarger. Budgeting arrangements are reported to be good and inspection of the facilities found that there were ample amounts of consumable art materials available for use.
A significant number of the books and DVDs used for teaching and learning belong to the teachers. The commitment of the teachers to provide relevant and useful resources to enhance the delivery of the subject is commended. However, it is suggested that provision be made for the purchase of such resources using the budget available to the art department.
At the time of the evaluation, studentsí access to information and communications technology (ICT) was mainly through use of the computer rooms in the school. However, plans were underway to install computers in the art department which will be wired to the schoolís local area network system. When this access to ICT in the art room becomes available it will be of great benefit to students and teachers. To enhance provision over time, consideration could be given to the acquisition of a digital projector, laptop with DVD capabilities and colour printer for the art department.
Timetabling provision for Art is generally good. All art students in first year, TY, fifth year and sixth year benefit from an appropriate amount of class contact time, which includes double periods. However, a problem regarding the allocation for Art to class groups in both second year and third year is noted. In both year groups, a situation exists where one class group has two double periods for Art whilst the other class group in the same year has one single and one double period for Art. In essence one class group has more teacher contact than the other. This situation should be addressed in order to achieve equity of provision in the subject for all students. This might be achieved by reviewing the full allocation to the subject across the three years of junior cycle, so that the allocation of three periods occurs in first year for both class groups and four periods, that is two double periods, are provided in second and third years. Whilst the resource constraints reported in the school are acknowledged, three periods per week for Art in third year is less than optimum provision. The potential for students to achieve well is impacted upon if there is not enough time allocated for the subject to allow students to explore Art in depth and practise the skills taught and to prepare for certificate examinations.
A range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is provided to enhance studentsí experience of the subject. These include visits to libraries, museums and galleries, the production of costumes for fashion shows and entry to art competitions. The art department is commended for enhancing the general school environment with studentsí work, some of which is framed and presented in a very professional manner. Students are given extra support outside of timetabled class contact time to address portfolio work for admission to third level, and on-going project work. This is indicative of the commitment and dedication of the teachers in the department.
Formal art department meetings take place approximately three times per year. Informal meetings are held at very regular intervals during term time. Consideration should be given to recording the important decisions taken at meetings in order to track the progress of the department and to be better equipped to evaluate the outcomes of plans.
A range of crafts and disciplines is provided for students including drawing, painting, design, the history and appreciation of art and design, print-making, batik, calligraphy, pottery, papier machť and life sketching. Commendably, all junior cycle and senior cycle students are encouraged to choose their preferred discipline to submit for the certificate examinations from a selection. TY students have the opportunity to study photography. This is a very good topic choice for TY students, as it is appropriate for students who have studied Art before as well as for those who have not. In the long-term, consideration should be given to the introduction of new crafts to enhance existing provision.
Subject department plans are stored in the teachersí resource room and are openly available. During the evaluation, an art department plan was presented, which outlined the curricular plans for Art. These curricular plans were set in a framework which clearly outlined specific topics, timeframes and student outcomes. Consideration should be given to extending this good planning work to include strategies which target students who have motivational difficulties. Strategies such as formally recording and affirming each piece of work as it is completed would ensure that students are regularly reminded that consistent application to work is necessary. Facilitating some regular, very short, product-based lessons such as mono-printing, would encourage students and give ample opportunities for success to those who find longer-term projects more difficult.
Good ideas for lessons are being developed, which are based on sound educational principles. To enhance this work, it is suggested that the repertoire of themes currently being used by students should be expanded. Consideration should be given to ways of using more themes which are of direct interest to students and which can be translated into useful images. Themes and topics such as cars and their decoration, films in vogue, construction equipment and war should capture the interest of senior students. Themes of interest for younger students could include pirates, space, monsters, knights and mummies.
Commendably, teacher-generated notes are prepared for students to help them progress their projects and direct them towards relevant and useful resources. The practice of clearly outlining how to work from life for inspiration for their projects was observed and is to be particularly praised.
One junior cycle and one senior cycle lesson were visited during the evaluation. In both lessons studentsí behaviour was very good, and all interactions including those between teacher and students were pleasant and respectful.
The structure of lessons was good. Rolls were called at the beginning of lessons which had the added effect of focussing students. Also, the outcomes of the lessons were shared with students at the beginning of class which is good practice. The organisation and preparation of materials for lessons was good and students were clearly used to the routine of working in a creative environment. Relevant illustrations and visual aids were used to good effect to inspire, explain and describe the various processes to be learned.
Generally, the instructions given were clear and specific. Where this worked best, the language used to describe concepts was accurate and the words used clearly described the processes involved. Care should be taken to ensure that the nuances of concepts and processes familiar to the teacher are clearly understood by the students. For example, when describing how to improve a print by adding more tonal values to an image, it was felt that more understanding could have been achieved by describing how marks can create tonal value in print. Consideration should be given to the use of questioning techniques to check studentsí understanding of the various stages involved in tasks. Generally, information was delivered in an energetic manner with a lively and vibrant teacher presence. In one case, the teacher took on the role of a client in a graphic design office in which the students were designers; this proved to be a very good technique as students enjoyed the challenge of thinking about and describing their work in a professional manner.
Commendably, group instruction was used as the main methodology and instruction was given to individuals as appropriate. In both lessons, high-quality, teacher-generated handouts were used to help students stay on task. In one lesson, a marking scheme was given to students to help them focus on the series of tasks that were required. The creation and use of such material to enhance teaching and learning is good practice.
Lessons were concluded well where students were asked to relate what they had learned in the lesson to their daily environment and to look out for examples. Where lessons may need an increase in pace to encourage output, it is suggested that some time be used at the end of lessons to examine and evaluate the work completed during the lesson.
Examination of studentsí portfolios, notebooks and exhibited work showed evidence of some very high quality engagement with the subject. Commendably, attention is paid in St Davidís CBS to the quality of presentation of completed studentsí artwork.
The school has developed a homework policy to regulate the assignment and correction of homework. Generally, homework from the art department takes the form of practical drawing or research for projects. Regular written homework is given to fifth and sixth year students to progress their knowledge of the history and appreciation of art and design component of the Leaving Certificate Art syllabus.
All students sit formal school-based examinations at Christmas, and non-certificate examination students are tested formally before the summer break. Students who are preparing for the certificate examinations are given the opportunity to practise their skills during pre-certificate examinations. Junior cycle students are formally assessed in Art, Craft and Design at Christmas and summer using a similar weighting to the Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design marking scheme. In TY, studentsí portfolios of work are assessed in addition to an evaluation of their work exhibited at the schoolís graduation mass. Fifth and sixth year class groups are assessed based on the marking scheme used the Leaving Certificate Art examinations. Formative assessment is also used to help students progress their work during the year. It is recommended that some of the results of formative on-going assessment be recorded and added to the records of summative assessment, to create detailed student assessment profiles. A student assessment profile portrays the strengths and weaknesses of a student in a manner that provides data to enhance instructional planning. This can be shared with the student and used to encourage emphasis on particular areas.
Commendably, teacher-generated evaluation sheets are created to help students focus on the important aspects of their work. The use of these sheets also aids students in developing critical assessment faculties, therefore improving their ability to create better work. The use of such material with students of all abilities in their various stages of development is encouraged.
Parents are kept informed of their childrenís progress through use of the school journal and bi-annual school reports. Parent-teacher meetings are held for each year group once per year.
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 November 2008