An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Grange Community College
Donaghmede, Dublin 13
Roll number: 70020B
Date of inspection: 29 September 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Grange Community College. 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.
Grange Community College has an enrolment of 122 students of which fifty-two are girls. Art is taught as part of the Junior Certificate, compulsory Transition Year (TY) and Leaving Certificate programmes. Art is also taught as part of a Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) in Child Care and also as part of a Back to Education initiative in the school.
The art department is well-established and staffed by two fully qualified specialist art teachers. Senior management is fully supportive of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers and financial support is available for teachers should they wish to pursue relevant CPD. Teachers from the art department have attended in-service relating to their FETAC work and the TY programme.
Students are organised into mixed ability groups for Art. This is good practice. Timetabling for Art is good with double periods being provided for all art class groups to facilitate practical work.
There are good arrangements in place in the school for informing students and their parents about optional subject choices. In addition to a parents’ meeting at which information is presented by the subject teachers and the guidance counsellor, the school provides a subject sampling system of four weeks’ duration to help first year students make more informed subject choices. This is a good support to students and their parents. However, the number of students taking Art in junior cycle is in decline and care should be taken that the programme implemented during this sampling period provides students with an adequate and enjoyable experience of the subject.
At the time of the evaluation, there were no class groups formed for Art in Leaving Certificate year one. This is a consequence of the recent introduction of a compulsory TY programme so that no students proceeded to the Leaving Certificate programme in 2008-09. A half-year module of Art is taught to TY students. This is appropriate provision for a compulsory TY programme. It is noted that the course is suitable for students who have not studied Art for the Junior Certificate; this inclusive approach is good.
The art department consists of two large rooms with ample natural light and a secure store room. It is recommended that the rooms be systematically cleared of obsolete materials during the year. The art department is well equipped and facilities available include a kiln, kick and electric wheels and batik equipment. There is also a printing press which has not been used regularly in the recent past. In order to broaden the range of learning opportunities available to students without any additional outlay, it is recommended that lessons be developed to allow all students opportunities to use this piece of equipment from first year. In the interests of health and safety, it is desirable that an extractor fan be obtained for the kiln when funding presents. In the meantime, all firing should be conducted when students are not present. Consideration should be given to obtaining the services of a qualified printer and ceramicist to help devise and implement appropriate lessons using these pieces of equipment. Consumable materials for teaching and learning are obtained through school management when requested by individual teachers. It is reported that this system has worked well to date.
A lap top computer and projector are shared between the art department and the science department. The school is networked for broadband. Class groups are brought to a computer room for research in Art when appropriate. It is recommended that a computer, printer and digital projector should be obtained for each of the rooms in the art department as the opportunity presents.
During the evaluation visit, a collection of artefacts was on display in the classrooms. Such displays are useful as they help students to aspire and be inspired. Collections of drawings, paintings and some three-dimensional work were observed in addition to some very high quality teacher-generated exemplars. It is suggested that displays of students’ work and exemplars be changed regularly and developed over time.
School management makes time available for regular subject department meetings. The provision of dedicated time in this way is a valuable support for planning. Other more informal meetings are also held and these tend to focus on operational rather than curricular and developmental issues. It was reported at the time of the evaluation that co-ordination of the department was shared by both teachers. From the evidence gathered at the time of the evaluation however, it was established that collaborative work practices have not yet been well established in the art department. Greater collaboration between the teachers of Art is recommended to facilitate better planning for teaching and learning in Art.
An art department plan was presented during the evaluation. This plan contained details of some of the organisational features of the department as well as some curricular planning for each year group. Curricular planning was organised using a framework which included details such as task, syllabus content and objectives for the class group for each month. It included some ideas for lessons such as drawing, painting, and three-dimensional work based on various themes as well as monoprinting, repeat pattern, and plein-air sketching. Planning for curricular work should now be developed further and learning outcomes for students should be the basis for all lesson planning. These learning outcomes should be sufficiently developed for each class group so that they can be shared with students at the outset of each lesson. Further development of this work should involve identifying differentiated learning outcomes and these would support teachers in addressing the needs of students across the ability spectrum. This work should be considered a priority as it is essential in developing good teaching and learning. The time provided by management for subject development planning should be used for this.
A written programme for TY was made available during the evaluation. This written programme is in a very early stage of development and the exact nature of the lessons planned was unclear. It is recommended that all lesson plans for TY identify learning outcomes for students as mentioned above. In addition, better use should be made of the opportunities for innovation in the delivery of art education that the TY programme offers; specifically, there is a need to include topics and methodologies aside from those used in the Junior Certificate and established Leaving Certificate programmes.
It was reported that some cross-curricular co-operation takes place in the art department including providing images such as posters for Home Economics, Science, History and Irish. Collaboration of this type is important as a means of promoting Art throughout the school.
It was reported that there was a safety statement available for the art department but it was not available at the time of the evaluation. The safety statement should be reviewed to ensure it includes procedures to ensure safe behaviour. These procedures should be familiar to staff and to students and they should be applied consistently in all art classes. Also, they should be clearly displayed in the art rooms.
Individual teacher plans were made available during the evaluation. These varied in quality. Where this planning worked well, learning outcomes were identified. To ensure that optimal use is made of the planning process, plans should be updated regularly to reflect the educational needs of the students currently studying Art.
Three class groups across both junior and senior cycle were visited during the evaluation. A variety of topics was addressed during these lessons including two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. The quality of teaching and learning observed varied and, in some instances, it was unsatisfactory.
The structure of some lessons helped to keep students focussed and resulted in purposeful lessons which developed in clear stages. This good practice included roll call at the outset, a sharing of the objectives of the lesson and appropriate demonstration. A positive classroom management style, when adopted, created a good working atmosphere and an expectation of pace and progress. However, in other lessons, these positive features were not present and the quality of learning suffered as a result. A structured approach to lessons which includes roll call and the sharing of learning outcomes with students should be adopted by the whole art department.
The atmosphere in lessons varied considerably from lesson to lesson and also as lessons progressed. At the outset, students in all groups were pleasant and eager to get to work. Most students were very well-behaved. Where this eagerness was harnessed and students were appropriately challenged, positive use was made of the time. In some classes however, students who were not appropriately challenged became frustrated and disruptive, particularly where the purpose of the lesson was unclear and the quality of teaching and learning was poor. This clearly pointed to the need for lesson planning to include clear and defined learning outcomes for students and this is now urgently recommended as a matter to be addressed. This planning should be firmly based in the relevant syllabuses and be appropriately differentiated to suit the ability levels of the students. Particular care should be taken to ensure that the subject matter and the methodologies chosen to teach particular skills and concepts are as relevant as possible and are not overly complicated. For example, a lesson in perspective might make use of images of buildings and perhaps examine the work of the Renaissance artists. Other elements such as colour should not be introduced into the lesson at the same time to avoid confusing students.
In one of the classes visited, careful monitoring of students’ progress, and their behaviour, was carried out as part of teaching activities. In other two, unhelpful comments and behaviour by students went unchallenged to the extent that one student’s behaviour had potential to put the health and safety issues for all of the people in the room at risk. It is essential that students’ behaviour is appropriately monitored at all times to gauge students’ response to activities and, in the event of work going badly, plans should be immediately amended to bring learning back on track. In doing this, attention should focus on enabling students experience success.
Where communication was successful, instructions were clear and relevant to the task in hand. This helped students to focus and progress appropriately. When communication difficulties were observed, these were exacerbated by a lack of clear instruction which led to students developing impatience and frustration. In one of the lessons, digression by the teacher further took away from the focus of the lesson. This should be avoided.
It is essential that students learn how to behave as a group in a practical class room. Where relevant, the teacher should establish clear expectations and should organise teaching to ensure that these expectations are met. Basic strategies such as clear communication, implementing the lesson plan, assigning seating to students and challenging those who are not working should be employed, as appropriate, to achieve this .
A lesson was observed in which a still life was prepared for students. While this still life was beautifully arranged, it was overly complicated and the objects used were small and too far away for students to see properly. When students are to engage in observation, care should be taken to ensure that the objects are suitably arranged and that they can be easily observed by students. For example, junior cycle students should concentrate on observing, and recording from, objects such as those prescribed by the Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design Syllabus and the list provided for the certificate examination by the State Examination Commission and these objects should be simply arranged.
Since whole-school support for Art is good, the teachers in the art department have specialist qualifications, the provision of materials and space for teaching and learning in Art is good and the students observed during the evaluation appeared pleasant and keen to learn, many of the basics essential to ensuring high quality learning in Art are already in place in Grange Community College. However, to achieve this it is strongly recommended that planning for teaching along with the approaches used in the delivery of lessons be reviewed and that the steps suggested in this section be implemented.
It was reported by the art department that students’ attendance is monitored but there were no records available during the evaluation. It is recommended that students’ attendance at lessons be recorded each day so as to facilitate student profiling by subject teachers who have primary responsibility for students’ progress and achievement in the subject.
The school has developed a whole-school homework policy. This emphasises the importance of assigning homework and outlines procedures to support students in their homework. The art department reported a variety of assessment activities used to evaluate students’ work including; peer-assessment, homework, portfolio assessment, and self-assessment. It was not clear how consistently the assessment activities are applied for all art class groups. Students are kept informed of their progress by means of oral feedback, comments on work and classroom activities, and marks assigned to work.
Formal assessments are held for students each year, in addition to pre-certificate examinations for those students sitting the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. Students who are in need of reasonable accommodation for the certificate examinations are provided with similar assistance during the ‘house’ examinations and this is good.
Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress through school reports, parent-teacher meetings and the student journal. To develop the assessment process further, and to put the student more at the centre of the assessment process, assessment for learning principles should be incorporated in the art department’s plan and used to inform the assessment process. Further information on assessment for learning can be accessed on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (www.ncca.ie). Regular recorded assessment processes should be developed and implemented by all members of the art department.
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 June 2009