An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Eureka Secondary School
Kells, County Meath
Roll number: 64410F
Date of inspection: 24 September 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Eureka Secondary School, carried out 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.
Eureka Secondary School has an enrolment of 680 girls and in addition there are nine boys who are repeating the Leaving Certificate. Art is taught as part of the curriculum for the Junior Certificate, in the optional Transition Year programme (TY), for the established Leaving Certificate and in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme.
The art department is well established in the school and is currently staffed by two specialist art teachers. Both of these teachers benefit from the pedagogical support provided by membership of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland. The staff of the art department has also benefited from in-service for the LCA programme provided by the Second Level Support Service.
The art department has a good policy of displaying studentsí work in the art department and around the school. Examples of studentsí work exhibited in the art rooms include Junior Certificate projects, papier machť heads, graphic packaging, clay heads, still lives and botanical paintings. At the time of the evaluation, both art rooms also contained displays of useful exemplars. One of the rooms had a Ďprogressí notice board for each class group to display its work in progress. This is a very good idea as it shows a groupís work to all students frequenting the art department. The art elements were illustrated using the relevant words and a small collection of appropriate visual examples. This is an effective approach to explaining and reinforcing visual concepts, one that could be further developed to improve studentsí understanding of other visual concepts as opportunities present. The art departmentís policy of displaying studentsí art work raises the profile of the subject in the school and also helps students build confidence in their work. The completed work on display during the evaluation was very well presented.
The timetabling arrangements for Art are generally good. Adequate class contact time is provided for the delivery of the subject from second year upwards and this includes double periods to facilitate practical lessons. First-year students are provided with a sampling programme for all of first year. This allows for a double period only each week for Art. While this substantial subject sampling programme undoubtedly has benefits for students, the timetabling arrangements necessary to facilitate it have resulted in a significant shortfall of class contact time for Art throughout first year. Consideration should be given to a full review of the sampling programme, with an emphasis on ensuring that students have sufficient experience of optional subjects without significantly reducing the overall time available to cover the syllabuses for the subjects that they choose to study when the sampling process is over. This issue particularly affects teaching and learning in Art as of necessity teaching and learning is condensed into first year and second year to allow for fulfilling the Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design examination brief for most of third year.
When choosing subjects at the end of first year, the school provides a range of supports to students and their parents to enable them make informed subject choices. These include discussions with parents at parent-teacher meetings, an information night for first-year parents and a visual presentation, and an art exhibition and leaflets on open day. Parents are also encouraged to view the art work on show around the school.
The numbers of students taking Art at both junior cycle and senior cycle are above the national averages. In keeping with good practice, all art class groups are arranged in mixed-ability groupings.
Aside from the timetabled classes for Art, the art department provides students with regular supervised support outside of school time to help them complete their projects and to prepare portfolios for admission to art-related courses at third level. This level of provision and commitment is praiseworthy.
The art department reports that senior management is very supportive of the subject in the school. This support is reflected in the provision of two large rooms for teaching and learning in Art. One of the rooms has been established for a long number of years whilst the other was redesignated and adapted for Art in recent months. Both art rooms are maintained to a very high standard of cleanliness. The organisation of the rooms has focussed on ease of access to, and appropriate storage of, materials. Student desks and working areas are arranged so that both teachers and students can easily see all of the work being carried out.
Both art rooms are large with an abundance of natural light. Storage of equipment and studentsí work is facilitated in the older room by two lockable store rooms which can be accessed from the art room. There is limited storage at present in the newer room and consideration should be given to how appropriate storage for examination materials and candidatesí work can be best arranged.
The art department reports that a budget for consumable materials is provided by school management which is augmented by a contribution from students. The fee is also used to purchase a personal kit of art materials for each student. Funding for capital equipment is arranged using a separate system whereby an application is made to school management. On the day of the evaluation one of the art rooms had a sufficient supply of material and equipment. While the supply of materials in the new art room were sufficient for the near future they needed to be expanded upon in terms of quantity and variety. It is recommended that school management should apply to the Department of Education and Science for funding for materials and equipment for this room in order to optimise its use by students.
Currently, the art department has ready access to a computer, printer and data projector which are in situ in the older art room. In time, when the resources are available, consideration should be given to the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) facilities in the new art room.
The art department also has facilities for clay work including a kiln. It was reported that during the past academic year, the schoolís kiln was not working properly. It is desirable that this important piece of equipment should be restored to full working order as soon as possible.
Each year, a number of senior cycle students from the school pursue the study of Art at third-level. This is a testament to studentsí positive experience of Art in the school. The school further promotes commitment, good work and positive achievement in Art with specific awards for students of Art in each year group.
School management provides dedicated time for subject development planning each term. This facilitates collaboration with subject teachers. The art teachers report that their collaborations are fruitful and that in addition to those formally arranged, collaboration also occurs on a more frequent and informal basis.
A detailed and well-prepared art department policy and plan was presented during the evaluation. This document clearly outlines the structures and procedures governing the art department as well as recording the arrangements for studentsí access to Art and information on teachersí involvement in continuing professional development. This document also refers in detail to general subject planning, planning for students with special educational needs and cross-curricular planning.
The art department has prepared a yearly scheme of work for each year group. This reflects the thorough planning permeating all of the activities conducted by the department. The curricular plan is divided into terms, and a time allocation is given for each project. The concepts, teaching methods and assessment modes are also outlined in the plan and schemes. The skills being addressed are in line with syllabus requirements and are suitably differentiated for the developmental stages of students. The ideas for projects are good and would appeal to students. Whilst the content of the projects observed is entirely appropriate for students, consideration should be given to avoiding particularly long projects and to introducing shorter and once-off lessons between longer projects for both junior and senior cycle groups. This would allow for engagement with the appropriate sets of skills whilst providing students with more variety in their work.
The range of crafts and disciplines offered to students at both junior and senior cycle includes painting, drawing, graphic design, clay modelling, lino printing, puppetry and calligraphy. From the studentsí work observed on the day of the evaluation visit, it was evident that these crafts and disciplines are being successfully experienced by students. In light of this, and of the fact that there is a new art room with the possibility of acquiring new materials and equipment for Art, long-term planning should include the introduction of some new crafts for students. The introduction of batik and creative embroidery could particularly complement the existing plans for puppetry work without large financial outlay. As skills in ICT are readily available to the art department some work in digital media such as digital photography and film-making could be introduced in the future.
Both teachers in the art department presented specific plans for the individual class groups in their care. The presentation of these documents was excellent and the plans were observed to be very practical, carefully thought out and detailed. The lay-out of these plans included a full programme for the academic year and plans for lessons were described using headings such as content, aims and objectives, teaching methodologies, pupil tasks, differentiation, assessment methodologies and learning outcomes. Detailed marking schemes were developed for most of the lesson schemes. All plans for lessons were logical, sequential and were designed to build on studentsí previous knowledge. Plans for lessons were shaped by the individual teachersí particular skills. This approach serves to raise the quality of the work.
All of the teachersí individual plans for their classes observed were characterised by an appropriate emphasis on the acquisition of skills and understanding of the art elements. To remind third-year art students of the skills that they have developed over the previous two years, it is suggested that, at the beginning of third year, students should have some lessons to revise the research and development process required to develop good projects.
The art department has created and collected a set of very high quality resources for teaching and learning including visual aids and collections of objects for visual research. A set of presentations for teaching the history and appreciation of Art has been prepared by the department. These presentations are informative, concise, attractive and have potential to greatly enhance the teaching and learning of the subject.
Art is a compulsory module on the TY programme. This ensures that students who have not studied Art, Craft and Design for the Junior Certificate examination experience it again and have the option of taking it at senior cycle. The projects planned for TY include decorative stained glass, calligraphy and the creation of three-dimensional heads. There are plans to introduce a graffiti project whilst using ICT to communicate with another school working on the same project. As the TY programme is ideally suited to the introduction of new topics, approaches, media and tools, the introduction of such innovative lessons is welcome and new lessons should be added to the itinerary of more established work as the programme develops. Suggestions for this include the study of media, popular culture and art history using photography or some other visual art medium.
The art department has put strategies in place to help students with special educational needs. These include the art department liaising with the learning-support team, providing special equipment when necessary, monitoring students and giving individual support and direction.
The art department plans for a wide and diverse range of art-related co-curricular and extracurricular activities for students. These include appreciation and history of art trips, drawing trips, successful participation in art competitions at local and national level, design and execution of graphics for school publications such as year books, and other school events such as anti-bullying week and the schoolís fashion show. The art department is also involved in designing and executing props and sets for the schoolís musicals.
Three lessons were visited during the evaluation, two at junior cycle and one at senior cycle. In all of these lessons the atmosphere was pleasant, mutual respect between teachers and students was evident and the behaviour of students was exemplary. There was clearly an expectation of high quality student engagement in all lessons.
Class management was good. This began with the design of the lessons, which were well structured, making it easy for students to understand what they should be doing at any given time. Students were obviously familiar and comfortable with working in a practical art room and were able to obtain their own materials and equipment when necessary. Students also successfully helped in the organisation and tidying up of materials and equipment. During lessons teachers monitored the work of students and gave individual assistance where needed.
Teachers communicated with their students in a clear and pleasant way. Students were directed in a focussed manner with clearly defined goals to help them stay on task. The enthusiasm with which the teachers described and explained new information helped to maintain the interest and curiosity of students. The methods used to deliver information were carefully chosen for their ability to convey meaning. For example, in one lesson, a mind map was created on the board, a presentation was given using the digital projector and text was read from a book. In addition a short film was shown to illustrate a visual phenomenon. Well-formulated questions were asked throughout so that students were encouraged to use the newly presented information to draw conclusions. Diagrams were also drawn to clarify points of information and used to pose good questions to the students.
Senior students engaging in the history and appreciation of art were given teacher-generated worksheets. These very good worksheets helped to recapitulate and reinforce learning by requiring students to recall elements of the topic in both written and visual form. They were also used to encourage students to draw conclusions from what they had learned. This is a very good way of helping students to prepare for the essay-style questions in their certificate examinations. Students were also directed to relevant website addresses for further research.
Demonstration was used to show students how to proceed in their practical lessons. Good management ensured that students were arranged so that all could view proceedings. In particular, one lesson was noted, in which a teacher made a colour study of an object from life. This is very good practice as students can clearly observe how the study is achieved. Excellent visual aids were also used in this lesson to show students how to accurately research using a variety of media. Support studies were addressed by showing students images using the digital projector. These images were most valuable as they were carefully chosen to relate to the topics being studied by the students.
Students addressed the mixing of colour in one lesson. This task was very appropriate to the developmental stage of the group. The lesson was very well managed and work was of a good standard. It is suggested that the more complex grids used by students for this type of lesson should be reconsidered to better track the progression of colour change. In this way students would be better able to refer to these grids when making tertiary colours and their associated tints and shades in the future.
Students demonstrated confidence in adding comments and asking questions during lessons. In all lessons, teachers asked questions which required answers based on knowledge and application of the art elements. This approach to questioning is very beneficial as it sharpens studentsí perceptions and builds studentsí confidence in their ability to use the relevant terminology.
In one lesson, a group evaluation of the sessionís work was held. Students identified the strengths and weaknesses of their own and peersí work which was very fruitful. It is suggested that this type of evaluative work should be carried out where possible on a regular basis.
The quality of the studentsí work observed on the day of the evaluation was good and it reflected the potential of the students. In particular, the work observed which was based on the study of objects from life is entirely in the spirit of the syllabuses and very good practice. Homework was given which was relevant and allowed for further practice of the newly-learned skills.
The art department has developed strategies and procedures for the assessment of studentsí progress in Art. These include assessment of practical class work, projects and sketchbooks in addition to written work on the history and appreciation of Art. Pre-certificate examinations are held for students in February and formal house examinations are held for all non-certificate examination students. Criteria for assessment are developed by teachers based on the marking schemes for the certificate examinations. Studentsí test work is graded and annotated to help students review and reflect on their progress.
At senior cycle, students are encouraged to use the marking schemes from the certificate examinations to mark their own work. This is good practice. It is suggested that at appropriate times, junior cycle students should be encouraged to develop evaluation criteria for specific tasks and projects. In this way students, under the guidance of their teachers, will decide on the priorities of a given task and so better understand the evaluative process.
Individual student profiles have been created by the art department. These profiles record attendance, homework, behaviour, effort, achievement and other relevant information. This very systematic approach means that very accurate accounts of studentsí progress can be given to relevant school staff and parents. A breakdown of studentsí results in Art is regularly communicated to students and their parents in order to celebrate their achievements and to highlight areas for development in the relevant areas. Parents are kept informed of their childrenís progress using the school journal, parent-teacher meetings, and biannual progress reports.
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 May 2009