An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Coláiste Phádraig CBS
Lucan, County Dublin
Roll number: 60264A
Date of inspection: 23 January 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Phádraig, Lucan. 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.
Management is conscious and appreciative of the high quality contribution the art department makes to the personal and academic development of the students, and to the life of the school.
The subject is well catered for in terms of space and budget, and time provision for the mainstream traditional junior and senior cycle courses is good. The classroom is well equipped, and has good and complete clay craft facilities. It has been equipped with information and communications technology (ICT) recently, and this enhancement of students’ learning opportunities and teaching tools was well utilised on the day of the inspection. It is recommended that ICT be continually developed as it facilitates visually based learning and experience of visual culture in a unique and unprecedented manner which empowers great engagement by students with art, design and the built environment.
Numbers in the senior classes are relatively low. The access paths to the subject and the information-giving and guidance procedures that support student choice-making should be reviewed in relation to Art in order to ascertain possible causes of this low take-up. It appears too that most of the art classes cater for the middle-to-low end of mixed ability, certainly in the senior cycle. Some questions could be asked about what guidance and subject-selection advice is available to students, and whether there are any barriers to potential high achievers taking up Art as a subject.
Transition Year and Leaving Certificate Applied students have not for some years been timetabled for the study of art and design. These programmes once had provision for Art. The hours available of art department personnel are at present fully utilized, and it is not therefore possible to offer the subject as part of these programmes. It is desirable, in the interest of curricular breadth and balance, that students on these programmes have access to art and design. It is therefore recommended that employing a part-time teacher would allow for this curricular enrichment.
In order to support the development of support studies and appreciation of art, design and the built environment, it is recommended that a small dedicated budget be made available to the art department in order that photographic reproductions be procured for frequently changed wall-displays in the art department, and as class materials.
There is a high degree of professionalism and a working atmosphere of enthusiasm and commitment in the department. Art is affirmed by management for the educational opportunities it offers to students and for the motivational effect that participation in its activities has.
The art department has been involved in subject planning and a well-constructed document has been developed covering activities for all year groups. It is recommended that this very good basis for teaching and learning in the art department be further developed, in particular the aims and objectives. The cultural aspect of the subject, which is developed through the appreciation of art, design and the built environment, should be integrated into the planning process and included in the documentation. Learning outcomes for students of different aptitude and motivation should be developed and specified in the planning document. These developments of the current planning will allow for current strengths in teaching and learning to be further enhanced. Planning for the specific classes observed during the inspection was good.
Preparation, always particularly important in the practical dimension of a subject, is effective and on the day of the inspection a range of necessary tools and materials was readily available.
There is a good learning atmosphere in the art department; student-teacher interaction was particularly supportive of clear understanding and effective use of time. Students worked consistently at their tasks, and there was a sense of purposeful engagement with their assignments.
The practical aspects of delivering classes were very well managed. Communication was concise and effective; advice, encouragement and direction were clear, unambiguous, friendly, and to the point. The classroom was arranged for maximum efficiency, convenience of circulation, class discipline, and student field of vision, all of which contributed to high quality teaching and learning. The art room is well ordered and storage of completed artefacts and the management of works in progress are good, allowing full usage of available space and worktops. This facilitates efficient working by students on the practical aspects of their courses.
Demonstrations were given of craft skills during the course of the lessons and these were excellent, not least because several students were drawn in to the process and asked to do part of the demonstration under the direction of the teacher.
Students’ practical work in all areas should be enriched by integrating appreciation of art and design material into it, on a constant basis from first year onwards. Encounter with pictures, sculptures, architecture, and design and craft artefacts integrated in this way gives student a broad experience of visual culture which repays any time dedicated to it. It enriches their practical work and enhances the personal development contribution that the study of art and design can provide. This element is available to students at present, but needs to be more strongly emphasised as a learning activity.
In order to promote active engagement with the history and appreciation and support studies elements of the courses, the following strategy is suggested. Students could be assigned an artist, designer, artefact or building to research, and asked to present their findings, if possible with PowerPoint to their class. They could then prepare a short photocopied résumé to be circulated as part of their presentation. This strategy is dependent on aptitude and motivation, but it should be considered to get more engagement and self-directed learning into support studies and history and appreciation of art and design. It is recommended that the appreciation of art be taught as a block very early in fifth year to help students to develop skills of visual perception which will make access to the historical dimension of their course naturally easier.
While there were reproductions of artefacts on display in the art department, it is recommended that more of these be displayed, and a wider range and variety of them, in order that the students are constantly exposed to the visual culture that is at the basis of the art programmes taught in post-primary schools. Ways of using this material should be creatively based, with an emphasis on increasing student engagement with art and design of all sorts, and on student self-directed learning. For example, asking students to ‘curate’ a display of art reproductions on a wall or notice-board, and to give a brief presentation about it is a good way to help students to develop taste, exercise choice and engage with aesthetic knowledge that is task-driven and not textbook derivative.
Very good artefacts that had been modelled by the students with clay were on display. Many of these had been fired and glazed to a high standard; there was impressive technical and expressive qualities exhibited in these works. Many students had good glazing skills. The 3D quality of the artefacts was notable. There is an opportunity here, where standards are so good, to develop the appreciation of ceramics parallel to the practical making of them, in order to highlight the aesthetic value and expressive importance of clay-based crafts across different cultures and historical periods. Clay modelling and ceramics are a real strength of the art department and it is recommended that this should consciously be developed further as the major defining characteristic of the schools art programmes, and as a selling point for both the subject and the school itself.
Good use of colour was notable in the 2D work seen displayed and in students’ portfolios. Graphic design skills have been well developed as evidenced by the work on display in the classroom. The habitual use of a wide range of drawing materials should be promoted as an integral part of student learning, in order to ensure that students develop comfort-zones in a more diverse range of drawing materials, as students tend to rely too much on pencil. It is recommended that, from the earliest weeks of first year, strategies be put in place to develop student skills and confidence with as many other materials as possible.
During class, questioning was used well to assess students’ understanding of concepts and processes. A mid-class review of material under discussion was undertaken, representing very good practice in highlighting what should have been learnt to that point of the lesson. Homework was given and is monitored. A system of follow-through has been developed; students who miss the exercise or test are given it to do themselves outside of class time.
It is recommended that the good work done in planning be developed into the assessment area. Learning outcomes, when included in planning, should be used to build assessment criteria for assignments, assessments and examinations. Thus, it is recommended that the links between outcomes and assessment criteria be made overt in the planning for assessment. It is also recommended that where possible, some form of self-assessment procedure is included among the students’ experiences of art and design learning, along the lines of exemplars discussed on the day of the inspection. Assessment criteria were communicated to students during several of the lessons inspected, and this practice should be continued and developed further.
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 State Examinations Commission (SEC) assessment criteria, 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 and 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:
· There were very high standards of lesson delivery and demonstration.
· Students were highly engaged with the work assigned during lessons.
· The expressive and technical quality of the students’ clay-based modelling and ceramic artefacts was impressive.
· The art department receives good support from management and ICT is being developed as a teaching and learning tool.
· There was a good learning atmosphere, and the art department was well equipped, well-run and well-maintained.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that 3D, modelling and ceramics be further developed as the key characteristic strengths of the art department.
· It is recommended that planning be developed further to include more detailed aims, objectives and learning outcomes, and that these are then further developed to become assessment criteria.
· It is recommended that the cultural and aesthetic aspects of the subject be further developed through focussed teaching and learning of the appreciation dimension of art, design and the built environment from early in first year right through to the end of senior cycle.
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.