An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Music
Roll number: 62981P
Date of inspection: 23 January 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in music
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Éinde, Galway carried out as part of a WSE. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Music 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
The music department in Coláiste Éinde has had three changes in personnel over the course of the last four years. A temporary whole time teacher (TWT) of Music has now been appointed. However, at the time of the evaluation, this teacher was on temporary leave and a substitute teacher had been appointed. Consequently, this is the context in which the evaluation took place. Timetabling is in keeping with syllabus recommendations and the allocation of single and double periods ensures frequent contact with the subject. The continued professional development of teachers in the music department is supported by the school, which facilitates and pays for their attendance at conferences organised by the Post Primary Music Teachers’ Association (PPMTA). This is commended.
The commitment in the school to promoting students’ interest in Music is highly commended. First year students are commendably provided with the opportunity to sample all subjects until October. Students are initially provided with an open menu and then option bands are formed based on their selections. Students make their final subject choices for junior cycle in October. This system is very good and ensures a student-centred approach to subject choices. As a result, there has been an increase in student uptake of the subject. The ratio of boys and girls studying Music is in line with the overall enrolment in the school. Transition year (TY) is an optional programme and within this, Music is mandatory. TY students study Music for a full year. Such generous provision is very good as it affords students the opportunity to study a wide and varied programme. In fifth year, the music class consists of students who are part of an exchange programme and students whose enrolment is permanent in the school.
The music department has access to a large and spacious room which readily facilitates movement for practical activities. The positioning of desks around the perimeter of the room may need to be reviewed so that students can be observed more easily by the teacher at all times. Resources for Music are very good and include handcrafted posters illustrating various technical concepts, projects, and other student displays. At the time of the evaluation, it was reported that professionally produced print material had also been purchased for display. Other resources include keyboards, digital piano, large filing cabinet, a whiteboard, some CDs and books, a class set of percussion instruments and guitars. Consideration should now be given to the acquisition of a stave board, a stereo with correctly mounted speakers for optimal acoustical effect and an increased library of CDs and textbooks. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are currently used for TY projects and presentations. The computer room is available and can be accessed upon request. As part of future planning for the music department, an audit of training needs could be very useful in determining how teachers’ use of ICT to deliver the syllabus can be supported. This is recommended.
Students are provided with the opportunity to participate in a variety of school events including carol singing, concerts, religious services, the annual open evening, graduation masses and other celebrations. Plans are also in place to initiate a Battle of the Bands school-based competition. Management is very clearly committed to the establishment of a school choir and has facilitated this by the withdrawal of students from lessons every alternate Tuesday and Thursday. This commitment to the support of choral activities is highly commended. However, the present system of withdrawal from lessons will have to be reviewed so that students do not miss out on valuable instruction time.
Formal planning is well underway in Coláiste Éinde and has extended to subject department planning. The school has been provided with in-service by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). All subject departments are provided with the opportunity to meet at the start of the year. Commendably, the music department meets with the art department to share work practices and minutes of all meetings are kept. The school is developing an e-portal system so that all subject plans can be stored and accessed by all staff. This is commended.
Planning in the music department is progressing at a reasonable level given the context of this department. A plan for the year was available outlining the content to be taught, broken broadly into termly plans. This plan can now be developed further to include the overall aims and objectives of the music department, medium-term schemes of work with clearly defined timeframes for each topic, modes of assessment, and an outline of methodologies which should include the synthesis of the three disciplines—listening, composing and performing—where possible. A catalogue of all resources should also be included in the plan.
A TY plan was also available which was innovative and clearly designed to allow students to encounter a variety of music styles and experiences, including project work and music technology. Further help can now be obtained regarding the writing of the TY plan from the Second Level Support Service which is available at www.slss.ie.
Short term planning for all lessons was very good as was evident, for example, from the resources that had been prepared in advance. These included handouts, worksheets and PowerPoint presentations. The efforts involved in the preparation of these materials is acknowledged and commended. The board and stereo were also used in lessons.
Three lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, two at junior cycle and one at senior cycle. In all lessons, an atmosphere of mutual respect prevailed. All lessons were purposeful and focused. Aims were stated at the start of the lesson but overall, no indication of expected learning outcomes was given. Allowing students to know in advance what skills and knowledge they should attain is good practice as it provides a focus for their learning and a sense of achievement when the objective has been achieved.
In general, handouts and worksheets were integrated appropriately into lessons. PowerPoint was used as a means to present information on particular topics. All presentations were clear and logically sequenced but the timing of such presentations was not entirely suitable. For example, a lesson observed on Negro Spirituals began with a presentation and students documented notes before engaging with any music. Levels of teacher input were high. Consequently, opportunities for students to engage actively with this topic were missed. In general, the Sound before Symbol approach to music will help students to develop their musical knowledge combined with active music-making activities. This will also ensure that the balance between teacher and student input is more appropriate. This should be borne in mind.
Practical activities were integrated well in a junior cycle lesson. Students clapped and sang through warm up exercises in preparation for the main activity which was to learn and perform O When the Saints go Marching In. The main melody was taught in combination with counter melodies. Students were divided into three groups and moved to different locations in the room. This approach to singing activities is commended and encouraged. Students worked very hard to learn their different parts and made good efforts. Towards the end of the activity, percussion instruments were added to the performance which provided added enjoyment for all students while reinforcing their knowledge of rhythm. This is commended.
A lesson on Irish dance music provided an opportunity for performing to occur in what was essentially a listening lesson. Students clapped the patterns of the main dances, namely jigs, reels and hornpipes, to help them identify the different rhythms. Samples of pieces were then played to consolidate their learning in this regard. Students were also required to identify the main instruments playing. Levels of accuracy in tackling this exercise varied as expected in a mixed ability setting.
Students’ progress is assessed regularly throughout the year. In-class assessments are held for all students in October and February and more formal tests are conducted at Christmas, Easter and summer. Mock certificate examinations are also held for third and sixth year students in February. Reports are issued twice per year. Summer reports record marks achieved by students in all the formal assessments held at the various stages of the year. This allows students and parents to track their progress more easily. This is a very good initiative and, as such, is commended. Parent teacher meetings are held and the school journal is also used as an additional mode of communication.
Students were assessed in music lessons through questions which were either directed to the class as a whole or to named students. Students store work in copies and/or folders. The standards of presentation and the extent to which students maintain materials varied considerably. Some monitoring of students’ work has occurred and this looks set to continue which is commendable. Planning is in place to allocate a percentage of marks in school tests to students’ copies and materials in order to foster awareness among students of the importance of systematically maintaining all materials. This strategy is commended. Practical activities form a percentage of formal assessments.
Records of assessments, homework and attendance were presented and available on the day of the evaluation.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The music department shows signs of stabilising with the appointment of a temporary, whole-time, teacher.
· The uptake of Music by students is increasing.
· First year students are provided with the opportunity to sample all optional subjects.
· Attendance at conferences is facilitated and paid for by the school.
· Subject department planning is well underway and the school is developing an e-portal system so that plans can be stored and accessed by all staff.
· All lessons were purposeful and focused.
· Students are assessed through a variety of means and summer reports record marks from all assessments held during the course of the year.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The music department plan should now be further developed. An audit of training needs regarding ICT should also be undertaken and the outcomes included in the plan.
· It is recommended that the balance between teacher and student input in lessons should be improved.
· Further resources should now be acquired, including a stave board, CDs and text books and a stereo with correctly mounted speakers.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Music 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