An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Gormanston, County Meath
Roll number: 64420I
Date of inspection: 6 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Franciscan College Gormanston. 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 teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
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.
Franciscan College Gormanston is a fee-paying secondary school in Co Meath under the trusteeship of the Gormanston College School Trust. The school which currently enrols 497 boys and fifty-two girls provides full boarding facilities for boys and day boarding arrangements for all students. The school operates a six day week and Saturday classes are part of the weekly school timetable.
Art is on the curriculum of Franciscan College Gormanstown for the Junior and the Leaving Certificate examinations. However, it is currently not offered as a subject on the schoolís timetable. Instead it is provided for on request for those students who wish to take it. At the time of this inspection, lessons in Art were timetabled during the regular school day for Transition Year (TY) students. There are three groups of students in TY all of whom take Art. Each group is timetabled for Art during the six day school week. Tuition in Art is available to junior and fifth and sixth-year cycle students in the evenings after school. This is provided by art department personnel and paid for by school funds. The programmes offered follow the syllabuses devised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for the subject and students are prepared for certificate examinations at both levels. First and second year students form a single class group for Art and receive one hour and forty-five minutes of tuition time per week. Third year, fifth year and sixth year students also receive one hour and forty-five minutes of tuition time per week. This is significantly less than the time recommended for the delivery of the Junior and Leaving Certificate syllabuses. Whilst it is laudable that the school provides access to Art for students, the amount of class contact time provided and the fact that Art is provided for generally in the evenings is limiting for both teacher and students. The potential for students to achieve well is unlikely to be maximised when there is not enough time allocated for the subject to allow students to develop the necessary practical and perceptual skills and the intended understanding of the expressive, communicative and functional modes of art, craft and design.
The art department at Franciscan College Gormanstown is operated by one member of staff. This teacher is very involved in professional artistic practice which brings a special dynamic to the teaching of the subject in the school. Part of this dynamic is a very strong passion for Art and visual culture in all its forms. Commendably, this has led to one of the priorities of the art department being the development of an appetite for, and appreciation of, visual culture among students of Art. While there was a limited amount of room available in the art room for display, some of this space was used to show studentsí work. To help improve studentsí motivation and performance, it is recommended that display should become a more prominent feature of the work of the art department, with a particular emphasis on the finish and presentation of completed work. It is suggested that steps be taken to develop a space within the more public areas of the school for the display of student-generated artefacts. Particular care should be taken to ensure that the presentation of this work should be of a very high standard relative to the abilities of the student. This should serve to improve the perception of the subject in the school and to increase studentsí confidence in their own artistic abilities.
The art teacher is very dedicated to the provision of art education at Franciscan College Gormanston and it is suggested that membership of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland should be obtained as a valuable support to this one-teacher department. In addition to the teaching of Art from the various syllabuses, the art department also takes advantage of opportunities for students to be involved in extra-curricular activities such as the design and execution of sets and props for the schoolís musicals as well as trips to exhibitions, galleries and museums. During sports day each year, the fifth year students organise a student exhibition orchestrated by the teacher. During the teacherís personal time one afternoon per week is generously given to students to support and supervise work in the art room.
Art is taught in a long and narrow room, equipped with very limited storage space and two sinks. The work tables used by students are regular classroom desks and not ideal for the study of Art. The storage furniture in the art room is inadequate and is not suitable for the art department. This art room is not ideal and the art department is commended for continuing to deliver Art in this space. However some relatively minor adjustments to the space would improve the environment and it is now time to consider how this environment can be best improved. Therefore, it is recommended that the school should examine the art room with a view to enhancing its function as a visual resource and display area as well as a functioning space for practical art activities. Consideration should be given to repainting the walls and ceiling in matt white in order to brighten the room, to increase the benefit of both natural and electrical light and to better display exemplars and studentsí work. Particular attention should be paid to the removal of obsolete materials, furniture and studentsí work in favour of an improved storage system. It is suggested that student-generated images which could be used as exemplars should be photographed and retained in a digital library. In this way, important images can be easily stored and recalled without impinging on the space in the room. Storage space for jars and palettes should be made available under the sinks and the sink area should be kept clear.
There is no access to information and communication technologies (ICT) in the art room. Good use is made of a personal laptop computer in teaching and learning of Art and important images for students are compiled on compact disc. This is good work and should be supported by the provision of school-based ICT facilities in the art room such as a computer, printer and internet access as soon as the necessary funding becomes available. On the recommendation of the inspector, a data projector was provided for the art department on the day of the evaluation to further enhance teaching and learning and it was used effectively.
It was reported that materials for art lessons are purchased as required. During the evaluation it was evident that there were inadequate supplies of consumable materials and equipment. In order to deliver more elements of the various art syllabuses, it is recommended that a budget based on the requirements of teaching and learning should be developed for each academic year. During the academic year 2008-2009, priority should be given within the resourcing available to the acquisition of a guillotine and quality coloured paper for presentation purposes. Other materials such as clay, printing and puppetry-making materials should also be obtained if possible. There is a limited number of books in the art room; consideration should be given, over time, to extending the library of art books available to enhance the teaching of the subject.
It is recommended that the school conducts a review of Art to inform future planning for the subject in the school. This review could include student and staff perspectives on current provision, consultation with parents, and analysis of student performance to date, an audit of student needs and preferences and a consideration of the deployment of the resources available.
Reflecting the limitations placed on the department due to facilities, equipment and time, the art department offers very restricted options to students at junior and senior cycle. The core topics include drawing, painting, poster-making, life drawing and lino-printing and there is no access to three dimensional work in first year. To increase engagement in a range of disciplines and to improve studentsí potential for success, it is recommended that more crafts and disciplines be introduced as the department develops. Increased engagement with a variety of materials, equipment and disciplines would help to develop studentsí familiarity with and mastery over techniques and media in general, and would improve their chances of success in chosen media for specific projects and examinations. This type of varied engagement would also help students to become more experimental and creative in their work.
The subject department plan describes the course taught to all art classes including those taught outside of the school day.† The ideas for lessons outlined in the subject department plan were good. Students were regularly encouraged to incorporate personal information and interests into their work. A good example of this was when students made a poster of their name in a chosen font and accompanied it with their personal coat of arms. Other ideas for lessons which directly linked aspects of art history and appreciation with practical work were good. One such example was the construction of a painting based on studentsí research into life in pre-historic times at Newgrange.
As the art department is working within very specific constraints, the planning for lessons needs to be extended to maximise the learning potential of class contact time. To aid teaching and learning, it is recommended that all planning for lessons should include details of the expected learning outcomes as well as specific timeframes for each topic for all year groups. As teaching time is restricted, the sequencing of the development of skills is very important. For example, whilst is it understandable that first year students do need exposure to life drawing, it is suggested that a number of shorter project-type lessons addressing different materials and disciplines, including life drawing, would better develop studentsí skills while avoiding the fatigue associated with intensive life drawing too early in studentsí educational development.
Currently the list of topics planned for TY is very similar to year one course for the Leaving Certificate. Whilst it is acceptable that some Leaving Certificate course material is covered in TY, it should be done on the clear understanding that it is to be explored in an original and stimulating way (TYP: Guidelines for schools, pages 5,6) and this should be significantly different from the approach taken during a two-year Leaving Certificate programme.
Three class groups were visited during the evaluation. In all lessons students were very well behaved and contented in their work. The aim of lessons was shared with students at the outset and the purpose of each lesson was clear. Teacher circulation was good and the monitoring of studentsí progress was constant and supportive. Commendably, group tuition was used as the main method of instruction after which individual students were supported using one-to-one interaction. The pace of work was good and levels of student engagement were high.
Instructions were communicated clearly and were repeated and expanded upon when necessary, to maximise understanding. Demonstrations were organised and used very well to show students how to proceed. In one lesson, students were asked to reproduce a complex image using a grid. Commendably, the nuances of particular tasks were well explained so that all students could understand the objective despite the variety of images to work from and, with some support, all students were able to complete the task. In particular, students were asked and shown how to observe and analyse the lines in their image which was a very worthwhile exercise as it improved drawing and the quality of the finished work. It is suggested, however, that students should be moved from the back of the classroom in order to give them a good view of the demonstration; this would increase the benefit they derive from it.
Commendably, lessons were arranged so that students were encouraged to work on particular tasks and concepts using their own ideas and images. This practice is useful in that it encourages student motivation and allows students to have a certain amount of investment in the outcome of the work. To further support teaching and learning affirmation was regularly used to encourage, enthuse and motivate students.
A history and appreciation of art lesson was observed in which images were displayed using a laptop. The topic for discussion was Ďstill lifeí and a very good collection of images was presented to students for comparison and evaluation. Some of these images were generated by the teacher and this added greatly to the interest and curiosity of students. Students were asked to consider the works as metaphor, which led to a very interesting conversation in which students used their observation skills, knowledge of the art elements and historical knowledge to ascertain the purpose of works. After the lesson was introduced by the teacher, students did most of the talking. The discussion addressed symbolism, representation, different types of still life, contemporary work and the need for abstraction. At the conclusion of the lesson, students had a very good understanding of the genre being used. They were also keen to explain that their views were limited by their exposure to Art in general and were eager to investigate other types of art work. This approach made the lesson a very successful learning experience. As well as addressing the academic aspects of the genre, this lesson in art history was most useful in examining the practicalities of creating a still life and should be of benefit to students when creating their own still life paintings. It is suggested that this type of lesson should precede practical lessons in still life and that particular attention should be paid to the links between the specific objects chosen and to the composition of those objects.
ICT was used to very good effect by magnifying the image to examine more thoroughly the compositions and paint quality of the reproductions. Each student was then given the images on CD to facilitate homework. The homework given was very appropriate; students were invited to choose a painting to analyse, sketch and discuss based on the conversation held during class.
Assessment is ongoing in the art department at Franciscan College Gormanstown. A combination of summative and formative assessment is used to record studentsí achievement and inform student progress in Art. Commendably, marking schemes used to assess studentsí artwork and these schemes are shared with students.
There are no in-house end-of-term examinations in Art for students. However, detailed profiles of their achievements in the subject are created for each student. This is good practice. Parents are kept informed of their childrenís progress using parent-teacher meetings and by means of four school reports 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 teacher 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