An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Buncrana, County Donegal
Roll number: 62770C
Date of inspection: 26 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 12 March 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Scoil Mhuire as part of a whole school evaluation. 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 art department at Scoil Mhuire is staffed by two fully qualified permanent members of staff. It is reported that there is a high level of collaboration within the team and there is evidence that this has resulted in a well-developed art department plan. The art department feels highly appreciated by the school and reports that the structures in place to support the department are good. It is also reported that the parentsí council is very supportive of the work of the department and is fundraising to provide for a digital camera and data projectors. To avail fully of the expertise available to the department in terms of information and communications technology (ICT) it is recommended that digital projectors be obtained for each art room.
Two rooms are provided for the teaching and learning of Art at the school and the organisation and maintenance of these rooms is very good. One of the rooms is small with bright natural light and a small storeroom whilst the other is a much larger and brighter room but with no lockable store. Curtains are used to avoid glare in this room which can make the room dark. On the day of the visit this room was damp and in light of the nature of the materials and work stored here it is recommended that the temperature of the room be monitored and possibly kept at a warmer more appropriate temperature. Both of these rooms are well organised and every effort has been made to ensure that they are visually rich and stimulating environments. The classroom-based exhibitions of studentsí work showing the wide range of disciplines addressed in the department are of excellent quality and are reaching optimum levels of presentation.
Budgeting requests are submitted to school management when necessary. On the day of the visit there were ample supplies of consumable materials available to the department.
The numbers of students taking the subject at both junior and senior cycle are very healthy and arrangements for student access are good. Subject choices are decided prior to entering first year for junior cycle students, following meetings, subject presentations and the distribution of information booklets. Subject choices for senior cycle are made in third year following meetings, receipt of an information booklet, guidance advice, subject presentations and subject choice week.
The level of respect for the subject in the school is high as is awareness of career prospects in the general area. There is a tradition in the school of students pursuing art-related careers on leaving school and students who wish to create portfolios for submission for art college receive high levels of support and encouragement. Students working on general school projects are also supported by the provision of extra teacher contact at lunch-break and at other times.
Accounts and documentary evidence were provided of the art departmentís involvement in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. The range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities engaged in is outstanding and serves both to highlight the subject amongst the school community and also to enhance the opportunities for engagement amongst students of Art. Some of these activities include involvement in the school musical, working with the learning support department, organising external workshops in the community and participation in local and national competitions. Documentary evidence of involvement in such art events as ĎForm and Fusioní from past years was also observed.
Planning is of a very high standard in terms of both individual plans and departmental plans. A very intelligent, sensitive, and aesthetic approach is taken to the delivery of the subject which is highly ambitious in terms of range of opportunities and depth of engagement for all students.†
The art department plan outlines its general aim which is to ensure that success is not measured by examination results alone but that each student has reached his or her full spiritual, intellectual, creative, emotional and physical potential. A number of practical and tactical strategies to achieve these aims have been developed. The plan facilitates the development of different aspects of a holistic art education and includes the aesthetic, perceptual, technical and personal and social qualities of Art. It was voiced on the day of the evaluation that the theory of multiple intelligences plays a role in planning in the department and is used to help enhance teaching and learning.
Lessons are based on the building blocks of the art elements and are logically and sequentially developed. Thematic work is also incorporated into these schemes as well as opportunities to engage in other tasks as they arise. Commendably the department constantly reviews its processes to see how its offerings can be improved to help students achieve their potential. Strategies and approaches are actively sought to improve the potential for student success by offering students opportunities to excel in disciplines and crafts to which they are naturally disposed.
In terms of breadth a very wide range of work is being addressed, in a good variety of materials. From the work observed in the classrooms it is apparent that members of the art department are confident in working in a range of scales and dimensions. Students are encouraged to develop work in personal and individual ways in both two and three dimensions especially at senior cycle.
Although the art rooms have shortcomings and storage space is at a premium, the layout and storage of materials and equipment is very well organised. A large array of teacher-generated and collected notes and resources as well as the very large library of art books are shared between each of the two rooms.
The organisation of lessons is very precise. Classroom preparation was of high quality as materials and media were meticulously arranged and ready for student engagement. Senior cycle students, especially, were obviously familiar with the operations of the art department and were able to access materials and resources as necessary. The excellent use of the art room as an exhibition space is one of the factors which enhances teaching and learning of Art in Scoil Mhuire. The use of display as a teaching tool is evident in both the work on show and the quality of the work produced in the classroom. The finish of students work is encouraged to be as skilled and proficient as possible whilst the displays are created in such a way as to be exciting and professional. It is noted that work created by weaker students is also exhibited and given the same level of attention and presentation as other work. The arrangement of work on display included textiles, painting on canvas, life drawing, papier machť and printing as well as a plethora of other artefacts. Examples of junior cycle support studies were also displayed which are personal responses to artistsí work in the true sense including investigation and observation of professional work and evidence of visits to galleries.
All of the lessons observed were dynamic and effective. Target skills and knowledge were appropriately ambitious for all of the students in the group. Teachersí rapport with students was at all times respectful, friendly, positive and enthusiastic and as this was reciprocated by students the atmosphere was pleasant and generally conducive to work. Care was taken to ensure that students with particular problems were appropriately encouraged and supported; this caring approach to students is highly commended.
The diligence and enthusiasm with which students approach their work is due largely to the planning of student friendly and educationally sound lessons, which are appropriately pitched to individual class groups. References to art history and important works are made throughout lessons and offer excellent visual orientation as well as contextual knowledge. Of particular note on the day of the evaluation was a collage project, which introduced the work of both Kurt Schwitters and Andy Goldsworthy to a junior class group. Visual aids are used in all lessons and students are encouraged to use the internet and colour printer in the classroom as appropriate.
Methodologies are also given high priority and are carefully chosen and executed. On the day of the evaluation instruction, observation and demonstration were the main methodologies used. Instruction was given clearly and delivered such that students of all ability levels could determine how to proceed with their work. Commendably, the nature of artistic development and process was emphasised at all times and this focus is evident in studentsí finished work. A very good description of how to develop a preliminary page was observed. Instruction is also practical and encourages students to maximise their work time. To keep students focussed dates were given in some cases for realisation. Teacher movement around the classroom is used to good effect to allow for support and instruction to be given to individuals as needed. The demonstrations observed on the day of the visit were stimulating and instructive.
Three class groups were visited as part of the evaluation; one junior cycle group and two senior cycle groups. All groups showed wholehearted enthusiasm for the subject and were highly engaged and interested in their work. In the main class groups were quiet, diligent and behaviour was exemplary. However one junior class group was excitable, louder than would generally be expected and demanded very high degrees of attention and support from the teacher concerned. In this class group were three special needs assistants and their charges; it was also apparent that a number of other students in this group were in need of extra support. Although the teacher involved had prepared very well for this lesson and had created an excellently differentiated set of tasks to address the needs of students, the levels of attention and support sought by the students made the teacherís job difficult. Although the lesson was carried out very well considering the conditions, it is suggested that the class grouping arrangements for lesson groups such as this be reviewed so that numbers of students in need of high levels of support are not gathered together for lessons.†††††
Student work is of a high standard; there is ample evidence of ambitious teaching and delivery of the syllabuses. Stronger students exhibit good drawing skills and good contrast in tone and colour. In general there is a very wide range of media in use and good use is made of media chosen. Weaker students are shown how to use media and materials to their best advantage. Imaginative, independent and creative work is being encouraged at all levels.†
At senior level students are independent in their thinking. This was evidenced by students working on their own individual still-life, in their own choice of media, on the day of the visit.
A combination of summative and formative assessment is made of the work produced in the department. Instructive formative comments are made during class time by teachers. These help to make students very positive about their work. Useful and supportive comments are also made on studentsí submitted work. Summative assessment takes place on a regular basis and all records of assessment are kept in addition to graded progress in project work. Students are regularly encouraged to critique their own work at all levels and at senior cycle advice and instruction is given on the use of the official Leaving Certificate marking scheme to evaluate studentsí work.
Homework is planned for and is used to support classroom activities. Sketchpads are used to encourage the practice of independent research and were of a high standard.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths 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.