An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Crumlin, Dublin 12
Roll number: 60800V
Date of inspection: 9 December 2008
Report on THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN ART
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Loreto College, Crumlin. 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
The principal’s good knowledge of the subject’s requirements, and a sound feeling for how conditions in the art department might, in the short and long term, be optimised, have ensured that there is excellent whole-school support for the art department in Loreto College, Crumlin. This support is a huge resource to the art and design education in the college and has resulted in a good, effective, positive and professionally run art department.
In the corridors and other public areas of the school, student artefacts are on display, some permanently. Of particular note in this regard is a series of works that highlight the schools considerably illustrious history. In the corridor between the two art rooms wall lights have recently been mounted to facilitate very professional display of student work. This has been excellently realised, and uses the output of the art department as a resource for the whole-school community. This annexure of a public space for exhibition compensates for the restrictions of wall space within the rooms themselves and adds to the strong communications the art department has forged through its work with the students at large, contributing in no small way to the cultural and artistic life of the school. The principal’s use of resources in developing the exhibition area affirms the importance accorded to the work of the art department, to teachers and students alike, and to the school community as a whole. In addition, students’ artefacts have been used in a complete and beautifully realised decorative scheme in the school prayer oratory. The work of all in this is highly praiseworthy and represents the energy and commitment of the art department in the creation of an aesthetically resolved school environment.
The budget available and the timetable, support the courses and programmes. Art is a core subject in first year. For junior cycle a choice of three from amongst the following non-core subjects is offered: Music, Art, French, Science, Business and Home Economics. In senior cycle a choice is offered from French, Biology, Chemistry, Business, Accountancy, Home Economics and Music. Transition year students have access to art, as do students following the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). Subject option bands are created, based on student preferences. First, third and fourth-year students are guided and supported in picking their subjects through seminars delivered by subject teachers in spring.
There are two full-time staff members assigned to the art department. Collaboration on planning, assessment, and in the general running of the department is practised. The art department has two classrooms available to it. Shelving and storage are good. This is an important consideration when artefacts and portfolios have to be safeguarded during the school year until examination during summer by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). The two classrooms are effectively managed; both support and facilitate all the practical activities that art and design education need. Natural light in these rooms is good. Though not large in relation to the numbers in class groups, the rooms have been organised to ensure that effective teacher and student circulation is possible. Students’ work is displayed on the walls.
Located conveniently close by the art classrooms are the information and communication and technology (ICT) facilities ideal for a visually mediated subject, and for PowerPoint presentations for the history and appreciation of art course. This is very good practice indeed. It is recommended that this excellent beginning be further progressed in the short and long term to develop the whole area of appreciation of art and design in both the junior and senior cycles, from as early as possible in the first term of first year.
The art department is now well established. To ensure its ongoing development, it is recommended that the art department create a long term plan for change. This should build on what the department has achieved to date, and ensure that it is active in providing as broad and experiential a visual arts programme as possible.
Students with part-time jobs, and often poor general attendance, are both a considerable challenge for the school and for the art department. Absenteeism can be a disruptive element where projects and practical assignment are concerned. Nonetheless the art department has managed to keep students engaged where at all possible, despite these difficulties, with the support of management and with the resources of the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. Batik, as an additional craft, was introduced to the school this year with the help of funds from the Trinity College Dublin third-level education access project. Introduction to art as a Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) project is to be extended, because of the good motivational and positive self-esteem outcomes that emerged from it. In general, over a long period, high levels of uptake by Loreto College Crumlin past pupils of art and design education in the third and further education sectors has been continuous, itself an indicator of quality outcomes from teaching and learning practices.
Collaborative planning has been developed: the art department meets for timetabled sessions, as well as very frequently on an informal basis, during the course of the academic year to plan and review. Planning documents were available for the subject inspection and these were useful, practical and supportive of teaching and learning. There is a written programme for transition year. The planning is practical and usefully detailed. In order to develop further the competence and strengths of this planning work, it is recommended that a greater emphasis on learning outcomes be added to the document and to any future planning. This would put an increased focus on the skills to be learned and on differentiation within the level of skills between students of high aptitude and motivation, students with much less aptitude and motivation and students who are quite challenged by the demands of the syllabus and the requirements of the state examinations. To further enhance existing good planning practice for the delivery of the curriculum, and in order to emphasise the differing learning needs of students in the mixed ability class groupings, minimum attainment expected and additional attainment for the highly motivated and higher aptitude sub-grouping of students should be added. Expected, desired and possible learning outcomes and assignments for differences in aptitude, ability and motivation should now be more extensively outlined in the planning for topics.
On the day of the inspection, a well-ordered array of tools and materials were to hand for the learning activities, and the students benefited from this level of preparation and organisation.
Good development of technical and perceptual skills is being fostered through teaching and learning. Though the class groups are relatively large and full, effort is made during instruction to ensure that the learning needs of individuals are effectively counterbalanced with the requirements of full groups. There is a good learning atmosphere in the art department and communication is supportive of questioning and comment. There is a good overall standard achieved in student work.
The skills and techniques dimension of lesson delivery is very good. On the day of the inspection very good lessons in crafts were seen and students were very well instructed and facilitated.
Artefacts on display, in portfolios, and work in progress indicated that a range of techniques, materials and media are being used in the delivery of the syllabus, courses and programmes. A variety of student artefacts on display revealed the breadth of the media, materials and crafts provided for art learning and engaged with by the students. Good work has been done in textiles and print.
To develop what has been achieved in the art department to date, and to balance the needs of the state examinations with the personal aesthetic and artistic nurture of the students, a larger and fully integrated use of the resources of visual culture – art, design, and architecture, both historical and contemporary – in teaching and learning is recommended. The school already has the ICT resources to begin to do this. Time spent planning how this can be done will be time well utilised in the service of a broad and balanced art and design education.
Good observation work was apparent in many drawings seen. This approach to direct observation could be followed through in crafts, print and the project work for Junior Certificate, where there was discernible reliance on secondary sources, with students basing their own artefacts on images collected from reproductions. During skills-building in second year, planning and delivery of learning experiences could valuably focus on the follow-through from observational work and its further development and use in the more complex arena of developing ideas for a project. Students of high motivation and ability particularly should be well capable of developing their Junior Certificate projects largely on primary sources, given their attainment levels in first and second year in the areas of working from imagination and from direct observation. Further planning for the management of the Junior Certificate should now be undertaken so that the learning gains students make in their first two years are used to their advantage when they come to the project in third year.
Classroom practice in the delivery of lesson material, and of the management and monitoring of student activities and learning was well handled in all the classes visited. Consideration could now be given to ways in which courses and programmes could be made more attractive, stimulating and productive for those students who have higher aptitude and motivation but have not yet become self-directed in, or artistically expressive personally, through their own classroom practice of art and design, despite having the potential to so do.
It is recommended that new, changed and different creative opportunities are a great deal more strongly emphasised when students progress into senior cycle, and for their Leaving Certificate examinations, when resources and opportunity allow for this. For example, if students spend time studying posters or graphic design for the Junior Certificate they should not be entered for this again in their craft or design examinations at the termination of their Leaving Certificate courses Over emphasis on examinations reduces learning opportunities and interferes with the desired breadth and balance within the curriculum. Given the quality of provision in Loreto College and the good delivery of courses this approach should not generally be necessary. It is possible to bring students to the same point, or higher, of examination readiness by developing better, less restrictive and more creativity-nurturing means. Students should be empowered to undertake new technical and artistic challenges after Junior Certificate. Transition Year will have facilitated many of the fifth years to experience active learning in visual art and this experience can valuably be drawn on during the Leaving Certificate course.
A list of art, design and architecture-interest websites should be devised and continuously updated, and put on display in order to start the process of students engaging in a self-directed way with digitally mediated art and design sources. Getting students to reiterate the classroom assignments as homework, using the standard ‘Paint’ computer programme, is recommended.
During lessons, assignments were monitored and commented on and there was a sense of effective checks being kept on students’ class tasks and homework. This is sound assessment practice and supports student learning. In order to develop and enhance this further, it is recommended that a focussed emphasis on learning outcomes be integrated into planning for assessment for all class groups, and that these outcomes be subsequently developed as assessment criteria for gauging student progress and attainment It is also recommended that the desired learning outcomes be shared with students as part of the learning process. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessemnt (NCCA) website has information about Assessment for Learning (AfL) which should be accessed at www.ncca.ie in relation to improved learning outcomes for students.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class-work, mock projects and invigilated examinations. Continuous assessment is particularly suited to the long-term assignments and project work undertaken by students in art and design. SEC assessment criteria inform the work of the art department. There are good 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 in writing to parents and guardians. Regular parent-teacher meetings are held and the art department provides discussion, feedback and advice at these. Assessment is seen as an integral part of the teaching and learning continuum and this is praiseworthy.
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, October 2009