An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Tullamore, County Offaly
Roll number: 65610S
Date of inspection: 1 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Choilm, Tullamore. 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Management at Coláiste Choilm is strongly supportive of the art department, appreciative of its work, and highly complimentary of its contribution to the academic, aesthetic and personal development of the students and its contribution to the cultural life of the school. The support of management has meant that the subject has become well established as an option in the school over the last five years or so.
Personnel and time allocated to the subject are adequate for the delivery of the courses and programmes involved. Budgetary arrangements also support the subject.
The art room is spacious and well appointed with an area where clay work and 3D can be pursued at the side. The school has a kiln, good storage space and extensive worktops, all of which facilitate 3D work and crafts. It is recommended that the kiln be made functional when opportunity and resources allow. Support to the art department in information and communication technology (ICT) use would enhance the good approaches to syllabus delivery being practised there.
Subject department planning for art has been developed in the school. Planning documents were available for the subject inspection: these are practical and supportive of the course and programmes delivered by the art department. It is recommended that planning documentation further extend the detail available on learning aims and outcomes for students, and how these aims and outcomes are to be differentiated for students of differing ability levels and motivational status. More information on the methods and resources used to teach different topics, aspects and components of the courses would enhance the planning work done and documented to date. Further expression of how ICT could be used in each section of the various courses and programmes to enhance delivery of courses should be considered. A commendable cross-curricular element was noted in the planning.
Delivery of the lessons was excellent with unambiguous directions given using correct technical language and vocabulary, along with clear communication to support the students in their work. Classes were well-organised and effectively managed. Learning activities were presented to the students in a clear, ordered way and were paced appropriately to support student engagement and learning. The lessons observed progressed logically and included personal attention for individuals as well as generalised advice and direction to the class as a whole. Discussion and critique were also given time: student contributions were welcomed and incorporated into the presentation of the learning materials. A very good learning atmosphere prevailed and students were affirmed in their learning.
There was good attention to detail in the delivery of the courses, balancing the students’ needs with the requirements of the curriculum. The art department operates in an inclusive and integrated teaching environment and students with special educational needs benefited from a very good approach to delivering the various art and design programmes to them. Delivery of all courses was very professional, well informed and practical. Students of all abilities and motivational profiles derived great benefit from this effective approach. During lessons students were affirmed, encouraged and advised, and two-way communication was good. The enthusiasm with which the courses were delivered was notable and the students benefited from this approach by being engaged and motivated. A range of crafts is practised and strong approaches to graphic skills and the art elements were seen. The art department contributes design and stage-sets annually for the school show. This practice might in future be dovetailed into the design options that Leaving Certificate students have available to them, by allowing them to build upon the practical experience of preparing a stage production in the classroom. It is recommended that this be given consideration in the future as a useful way of further utilizing work undertaken by the art department for the school show.
On the day of the inspection the themes for the Junior Certificate project were given initial attention by a junior cycle class group, under the teacher’s guidance. The way this was undertaken was quite productive, with students sharing their first responses to the listed themes. The emphasis was on concepts and verbalised ideas, rather than on quick thumbnail sketches, or a combination of both the verbal and visual modes of notation. It is recommended that in this situation students be guided as quickly as possible towards drawing, sketching and making maquettes, thereby basing even the initial part of their project work on visual notes rather than compiling a list of word-based ideas. The frequent tendency of Junior Certificate students to search internet and library for images that seem to ‘answer’ the problems and reflect the possibilities of state examination project themes should be countered in teachers’ guidance of the project by emphasising that these themes are a starting point only and do not have to be illustrated in a faithful and literal way. Progression of the project should be on visual development of the students’ objects through the various media and materials rather than on illustration of the theme. This is especially within the capabilities of students of higher aptitude and motivation in Coláiste Choilm, and this approach could valuably be reflected in future planning for the Junior Certificate course, to build on existing good practice.
It is recommended that a review be now undertaken of the way the art history and appreciation of art is delivered over the two years of the Leaving Certificate course. By rescheduling the sequence which the historical periods and their characteristic styles are presented to students, the course components can be made to fit better the fifth-year students’ previous experiences of art, and also their exposure to it. At present the history and appreciation component is presented to students in more or less historical sequence. It would be more useful, and also more student-friendly, to begin with the appreciation section, and by empowering students to develop essential perceptual and aesthetic skills, make the historical material easier to engage with later.
It is also recommended that art history be introduced by starting off with a painting and sculpture-rich period such as the Renaissance or Post-Impressionism, as students will have had some personal experience of seeing and working in paint and sculpture media themselves. Thus they will find engagement a more natural, accessible process, than the history and archaeology-heavy earlier part of the Irish Art section of the course.
From the evidence of the students’ work on display and in portfolios, there is a strong reliance on secondary sources for themes and subjects for their artefacts and projects. Primary sources should be the ever-present basis of drawing studies and expressive work in junior and senior cycle. The development of the secondary sources was often good, and primary sources are used but not to the extent that they could and should be. Widespread engagement with primary sources should now be developed from first year through to Leaving Certificate. It is recommended that the basis of this engagement with primary sources should be drawing and painting from observation in a wide variety of media. On the evidence of this subject inspection it is well within the ability and potential of the art department to develop a strong and vibrant approach to artistic education using mostly primary sources.
Transition Year (TY) provides good
opportunities for students to develop visual art knowledge through direct
experience of a set of stimulating and non-examination driven practical
activities. On the day of the inspection, a TY class group was studying
practical techniques as part of a weaving course which had been designed
in-house by the art department with advice and support from the arts officer of
Co Offaly County Council. It focussed on willow sculptures from
This weaving course both in conception and delivery was excellent, in that it created the circumstances whereby engagement with an art form was made possible through a stimulating and motivating approach. Many of the students in the TY class did not take art as a Junior Certificate subject and thus were encountering the subject without the familiarity of some of their peers who had. The teaching and learning were so pitched that this was not an issue, with group work and lots of personal advice and attention available to support their work.
The TY course in weaving as envisaged in the planning is an excellent skills-delivery device whereby the experience of making 3D and of engaging with sculpture in the environment is very well realised. This allows for both artistic and aesthetic skills acquisition, and fits into the philosophy of the TY as an exploratory year. There were large paintings by previous years TY classes on display in the classroom: an indication of the type of challenging work in 2D that TY groups have engaged in.
In TY, skills are being developed with the focus to date on basic competences. It is recommended that this sound approach to the practical part of the craft be balanced with an introduction to the wider culture of weaving and its expressive and aesthetic possibilities. To build on and extend this stimulating learning situation, it is recommended that TY students be given art, design and architecture books or periodicals to read at home over the two terms of the school year, and that they review the material and present it by PowerPoint to their peers at the end of each term. Given that many of the students have taken up art ab initio in TY, this would help to develop their engagement with wider visual culture, and encourage the development of aesthetic discrimination and self-directed learning with an increment of ICT.
Art reproductions were on display in the classroom. To enhance and develop this good practice, it is recommended that it be extended and developed, using often-changed displays on particular artists, designers, objects and styles. Because contact with art and design imagery creates in the students an awareness of the possibilities of visual culture which can effect their own work for the better, it is recommended that ways of encouraging students to engage with historical and contemporary art be devised. Students in the senior cycle classes could be assigned to research a topic or style in a pictorial way and to curate a display, accompanied by a short talk or PowerPoint presentation to their class at the end of the work. The idea of having an artist or designer of the week or month, as described during the inspection should be considered. This would enable all classes to have a few minutes introduction at the beginning of every class so that at the end of the school year their experience of artists, architects, designers and artefacts would be enlarged in an incremental and natural way. Such techniques of bringing students into contact with visual culture would further enhance the good work of the art department. It is recommended also that from the beginning of first year, practical learning activities be closely integrated with the appreciation of art, design and architecture, building on current good practice in introducing first years to the study of visual art and design.
Assignments are monitored and commented on and there is a sense of effective checks being kept on students’ class tasks and homework. Good records of marks and grades students attain in tests and examinations are kept by the art department. It is recommended that learning outcomes as outlined in the planning for assignment should be used as a basis for assessment and examination.
In order that differentiation between the needs of learners be accommodated by the assessment procedures in use in the art department it is recommended that basic minimum requirements in terms of skills demonstrated in artefacts produced be established for those student of lesser motivation and aptitude. To these should be added additional higher order attainment that can be expected from students of higher aptitude and motivation. In this way differentiation in teaching and learning can be applied to the assessment of student learning.
A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class-work, mock projects and invigilated examinations, reflecting the different skills and knowledge in different components of courses and programmes. Continuous assessment is particularly suited to the long-term assignments and project work undertaken by students in art and design and links well with assessment for learning techniques and practices. It is recommended that these be included in planning for assessment. State Examinations Commission (SEC) assessment criteria inform the work of the art department.
There are systematic records kept 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. The art department sees assessment as an integral part of the teaching and learning process.
In order to get students to take a visual approach to the answering of questions, the Leaving Certificate history and appreciation of art examination paper is presented by the SEC with photographic reproductions in colour. It is recommended that mock Leaving Certificate examinations in the history and appreciation of art always include illustrations in order that the precise conditions of the actual Leaving Certificate examination be replicated in so far as is possible, particularly in end of term assessments, throughout the two year course.
It is also recommended that some steps be devised to encourage an element of self-assessment by students, perhaps in the form of a questionnaire, to be integrated with the assessment carried out by the teacher. Further useful information on assessment for learning is available on the NCCA website at www.ncca.ie
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:
· Long-term planning for the further development of the subject should focus particularly on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for teaching and learning
· It is recommended that the appreciation component of the History and Appreciation of Art course be delivered early in fifth year, rather than later during the course.
· It is recommended that over time crafts available to students be extended especially where expertise available to the art department is not being fully used at present.
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, May 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board welcomes the report and acknowledges the positive tone of the report and vindication of the provision of the subject to a high standard throughout the school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection