An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Moate Community School
Moate, County Westmeath
Roll number: 91501L
Date of inspection: 2 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Moate Community School. 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ 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.
Two staff members are assigned to the art department in Moate Community School. There is a Post-Leaving Certificate Portfolio course available in the school, and one of these teachers is almost entirely assigned to delivery of that course, with some junior cycle classes in the second-level school under her tutelage. Timetabled hours for art are supportive of learning and teaching, although the frequency of single periods makes sustained work in practical classes difficult.
There are good physical surroundings for students in the art department. A high-ceilinged art room and a smaller en suite room for storage, which could be set up as a classroom, if this were necessary, make up the spatial allocation. This is well maintained, ordered and managed. The art department is well supplied with materials and has a good range of tools and equipment. Information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and facilities are available in the school and in the art room.
Further elaboration of the excellent whole-school support for the art department and for the promotion of engagement with visual culture could be brought about by liasing with the arts officers of Westmeath and Offaly County Councils in relation to schemes and initiatives such as visits, projects, and talks by artists and film-makers
The two art teachers collaborate on the running of the department, and on planning. Planning is good and contains a comprehensive outline of the topics and content of the programme and courses. Further development of this would enhance current strengths. It is recommended that there be a stronger focus in the overall planning for the outcomes envisaged for students of different aptitude and motivation levels, particularly for students of the highest and lowest profiles along these dimensions.
Planning for the subject is thorough, practical and collaborative. In the planning documents, there is ample evidence of the type of approach taken in the delivery of the programmes, and of the blocks of time available to these. Future planning should emphasise further development of computer usage for delivery of class materials and student exploration of ICT for both the information sourcing and expressive aspects of art and design. Inclusion of fuller learning aims and objectives in the planning documents for students of high aptitude and motivation and for students who, for whatever reason, are challenged by course requirements, is recommended.
On the day of the inspection there was a well-organised array of tools and materials available to the students, which supported their learning activities.
The art department provides a good learning environment with a friendly, purposeful and professional ambience. There was good communication between the teachers and students and vice versa. In conversation, students were articulate about their artistic intentions and their experiences of materials, methods, and the creative process. Great credit is due to their teachers for creating an art and design-learning environment for students of all aptitudes and motivations. Students with special educational needs are well accommodated. Good basic skills were being imparted. Classroom management, attention to the learning needs of individuals and the communication with and guidance of students on all aspects of this class were excellent. The teaching and delivery of class material was extremely good, and students were supported admirably in their learning as individuals, as a whole-class group, and as smaller groups within the class. Students were engaged and worked productively under the guidance of their teachers. Good instructions were given to students; the clarity and detail of these were notable. Good management of group work ensured that students were productive without being micromanaged, and this is an essential stepping-stone for students to develop their artistic autonomy and their creative confidence.
There was a sense of hard work and enjoyment evident in the art lessons seen on the day of the inspection. Co-curricular and extra-curricular learning opportunities are available during the school year.
The inspection revealed that the students were being encouraged, motivated and nurtured in a variety of media and modes of artistic activity. Creative and well-realized packaging assignments combined fine-art and graphics techniques. Very good work was seen in graphic design, notably in Transition Year (TY), and other class groups. Exploratory work in etching was impressive and well developed. Exploratory work as evidenced in students’ assignment was very much in tune with what students were motivated by and capable of. Puppet making was particularly excellent in terms of design and expressiveness as these had clearly not been made to a formula, but had been created and constructed as the expression of an individual’s interpretation of the brief. Papier-mâché and ceramics were used well to introduce students to the basics of modelling and construction, and artefacts seen in these media showed good handling of the materials, a good approach to and application of design knowledge, and strong expressiveness. Block printing is a notable strength of the department and many impressive well-composed images created by using multi-block techniques were seen.
Impressively, one class of junior cycle students was involved with creating their own artefacts based on that of a well-known artist of their choice. The artefacts they produced were a good example of the use of meta-art in the classroom-learning context. To develop good practice in this area, planning for the use of ICT, to help afford students of all aptitudes and motivations easy access to contemporary and historical art, design and architecture is recommended during the next academic year.
There is a good uptake of art in TY. In the past there was a big interest in the ‘Form and Fusion’ competition for TY. The students still do a form and fusion-type project in TY, and the educational strengths of this are evident in the ambition, variety and high quality of the work, which the students were engaged with on the day of the inspection. Development of creativity and acquisition of technique were going hand in hand in the work students had undertaken. The costumes created in teams by the TY students of art were destined to be part of a show presented to parents by TY at the end of the school year and this focus, along with a competitive element, was very motivating for both boys and girls.
A wide variety of materials and approaches was in use in making the artefacts for this assignment and the learning curve was steep. On the evidence of conversations with students they were aware of what the assignment had given them in terms of artistic learning and personal growth. The work done with TY and indeed with all other lessons observed is highly commended. TY students produce a cross-disciplinary show, which is performed for parents at the end of the year. The students had explored a range of materials in an experimental way and had evolved creative and adventurous solutions to the problems posed by the brief. As the backbone of the TY art course appears to be the costume making it would be an appropriate extension of this mode of exploring visual art to look at how clothing and theatre costume designers work and to explore the oeuvre of several notable practitioners in this field.
One of the junior-cycle class groups was engaged in a ceramic sculpture exercise. Traditional French relief modelled plates acted as models and inspiration. The class created plates embellished with relief sculptures of shellfish, lizards and fruit in low relief. This mixed-ability class group were enthusiastic and focussed in their engagement with the assignment, which was a continuation of a previous lesson. Design skills, modelling techniques, exploration of materials and the development of manual control and precision were some of the many facets of the learning involved in this imaginatively conceived and well-delivered assignment. All of the students had developed the basic concept of the brief in line with their aptitude and skills. Good levels of engagement were evident and the assignment was well pitched in terms of the students’ abilities, age and experience, and it was challenging without being intimidating.
In order to further the development of senior cycle students’ engagement with the history and appreciation of art component of their course, it is recommended that strategies which nurture some level of pro-activity be developed. Examples of these are curating wall displays of reproductions on themes or artists/designers/architects or promoting class research on personally chosen topics/art style with a view to sharing the findings as a presentation or photocopied handout. Students could valuably be assigned particular artists, designers and architects to research, and as part of their learning could be empowered to make a PowerPoint presentation of their findings to their class group. Appointing a class secretary to record points made during class discussions about history/appreciation topics is a useful way of collecting together insights and commentary that would otherwise be forgotten. The main points are written up, photocopied and circulated to the class group, and used as part of the revision of the topic. The class secretary should be rotated among the students in alphabetical order, as a learning exercise that enhances higher levels of engagement and pro-active involvement with the course materials. Finally, by featuring an ‘artist, designer or craftsperson of the week/fortnight/month’ that is the subject of a small display of reproductions which are viewed and discussed by every art class that uses the room is a simple way of highlighting the cultural content of junior and senior cycle courses. This method presents material in a ‘little and often’ framework that allows students of all aptitude and motivation levels to become comfortable with formulating and expressing their own aesthetic opinions and reactions to art and design artefacts.
Good student life drawings, and well-finished observational exercises were seen in the classroom. There was a good range of drawing techniques used in the students’ portfolios. It is recommended that, in order to further encourage and nurture the confidence of students in incorporating a wide range of media approaches and materials into their habitual practice of drawing, a range of strategies be devised and implemented from very early in first year that push students out of the comfort-zone of the ubiquitous graphite writing pencil. This will help their technical and perceptual development and their expressive, design and state examinations work.
It is recommended too that 3D work be integrated as perceptual training into learning about life-drawing: maquettes of plasticine on a very small scale should be made from the posed live model occasionally in order that students have a direct experience of the masses and forms that they must depict in 2D through drawing.
The use of secondary sources should be carefully monitored on an ongoing basis. Work based on direct observation and from imagination should also be developed. Secondary sources from magazines, books or the internet are often used by students as a seemingly readymade answer to a brief. The skills necessary to use secondary sources are an important element in successful and acceptable use by students. For students of average and above average aptitude and motivation, work from secondary sources is not challenging enough. The wide range of learning outcomes that are desirable in junior and senior cycle are not strongly enough supported by copying and recasting imagery from secondary sources. Work from secondary sources does not develop a confident and self-determining approach, nor does it help the student become truly creative. Thus it is necessary that planning for teaching and learning take place in order to develop strategies for a programme of class work that minimises the use of secondary sources, and emphasises skills and procedures that make such reliance unnecessary. A conscious de-emphasis on secondary sources can only enhance good practice in teaching and learning in the art department and contribute to even better creative and artistic outcomes for students.
Homework journals are in use and well monitored. Good records of assessment are kept. The progress of students’ class work is checked constantly, and this good practice of assessment for learning could be valuably informed by the assessment for learning information available on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie.
Group work should be assessed in ways that evaluate the individuals within the groups as well as the collective achievement of the group itself. Some form of self-assessment should be incorporated into the process also, perhaps as a work sheet that focuses on aspects of the work processes involved in visualising, creating and finishing the artefact.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class work, mock projects and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the Leaving Certificate programme. A strong consciousness of assessment criteria for the state examinations, and of the associated practical requirements, informs the work of the art department. There are systematic records of students’ during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessment/examination results. 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:
· The subject is supported by good classroom spaces and well-arranged and managed facilities.
· Students are benefiting from the art and design learning opportunities provided by the school.
· A professional and well-structured approach to the delivery of art courses, programmes, and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is in place in the art department.
· Professionalism and enthusiasm combine to enhance all aspects of course delivery and student support in the art department.
· TY group work on costume making was well managed and very productive.
· The art department provides a good learning environment with a friendly, purposeful and professional ambience.
· Great credit is due to the teachers for creating an art and design learning environment for students of all aptitudes and motivations.
· Classroom management, attention to the learning needs of individuals and the communication with and guidance of students on all aspects of the lessons were excellent.
· The teaching and delivery of lessons was extremely good, and students were supported admirably in their learning as individuals, as a whole-class group, and as smaller groups within the class.
· Good management of group work ensured that students were productive without being micromanaged, and this is an essential stepping-stone for students to develop artistic autonomy and creative confidence.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Future planning needs to emphasise further development of computer usage for delivery of class materials and student exploration of ICT both for the information sourcing and expressive aspects of art and design.
· Inclusion of fuller learning aims and objectives in the planning documents for students of high aptitude and motivation and for students who, for whatever reason, are challenged by course requirements is recommended
· It is recommended that a variety of strategies be developed and implemented which nurture pro-active engagement with senior cycle history and appreciation of art course materials.
· The use of ICT should be furthered developed for teaching and learning and for making the delivery of the history and appreciation of art course more visual.
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 October 2008