An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Limekiln Avenue,Greenhills, Dublin 12
Roll number: 70130I
Date of inspection: 22 January 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Greenhills College, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. 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 two days 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.
There is good support for the teaching of art in the school. Generous allocation of space and a facilitative budget are notable. Management has been pro-active in developing the spatial allocation available by refurbishing a former metalwork room for Art. The remodelling of this room has been well carried out and represents improvement on previous accommodation. There are two art rooms, each in different buildings. One is used largely but not exclusively for adult education and PLC courses. While these rooms are at a distance from each other, this has not interfered with the development of a cohesive art department of two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher.
The second art room is of the customised type supplied by the Department of Education and Science when schools are being funded. As such, it has a customised 3D and pottery area complete with kiln, sink and tiled floor for ease of maintenance. At the time of the inspection this area was in partial use, mostly for display and storage. It is recommended that this area, customised as it is for the use of 3D materials, is put into fuller timetabled use for the post-primary students for 3D and ceramics and pottery. Currently and successfully, teachers have base classrooms for Art and it is recommended that, where possible, Junior Certificate and senior cycle students have timetabled access to the room with the specialised 3D facilities for classes at certain times during their courses. As there is specialist expertise in 3D available to the art department, this facility should be made to impact significantly on the type of art-learning activities students encounter. It should also have a significant impact on the technical quality of the artefacts they produce.
Data projector and other ICT facilities are available in the school, and these are a key way of bringing the world of the visual arts, both historical and contemporary, into the classroom from first year through to sixth year. It is recommended that these facilities are now incorporated into the delivery of post-primary art and design courses, and into informing and supporting the type of encounter students have with art, design and architecture.
Collaborative planning is practised, with both formal and informal meetings held throughout the year.
There is a documented department plan that has been well structured, covering many important areas of the teaching and learning continuum. Some of the planning materials are more developed than others but overall it is a useful and practical document that gives a picture of the type of approach taken to delivering courses and programmes. While activities for learning and the various media are well outlined, and an appropriate level of variety in approaches is evident, further detail would be valuable, particularly the learning outcomes that students should, could and might attain. This focus on learning outcomes should take account of differences in students’ aptitudes and motivation, and the expectations teachers would have in relation to their learning outcomes. It is recommended that the addition of more developed and specific learning outcomes be added to existing planning to enhance current good practice and support student learning.
Collaboration and co-operation are a feature of the art department. Learning outcomes, appreciation of art, design and architecture across all the year groups, and the enrichment and review of current approaches to delivery of courses and programmes should be the topics for planning activity in the short and medium terms.
Teaching and learning
Good quality teaching and learning was seen during the inspection. Delivery of content was well handled and the lessons were managed excellently. Relationships were cordial and communication and rapport with students was excellent. The lessons proceeded at a good pace and there was a sense of order and method. In all classes there was an expectation that all students would be productive and this expectation was habitual. The learning atmosphere was good. Students are personally known to the teachers and their current progress at tasks and attainment level, generally, are also well known.
Active learning is the main approach taken in delivering courses, and students engaged directly with materials, drawing and idea-generation for the assignments set during the evaluation. Students also engaged in group work, and this is commended.
Team teaching was in place to support third-year learning in sculpture and 3D as part of Junior Certificate project preparation. There was good co-ordination and teamwork evident in the task of supporting and facilitating 3D work during the inspection. Team teaching is particularly useful in the mixed-ability context, and where students have been encouraged to develop their ideas in a personal individualistic way, as in Greenhills College. This use of team teaching in third year is highly commended as it promotes engagement with learning through 3D and form-making that enables creativity and personal expression. If this team support was available to first years for 3D, for even part of the year, it is likely that they would be more self-directed in their learning by third year, having attained more skills. With this in mind, it is recommended that team teaching be extended to first year for 3D whenever opportunity and resources allow.
Information and communications technologies (ICT) have a relatively underdeveloped status in the department to date. As part of, and in enrichment of, the current good in-class practices, it is recommended that the use of ICT be developed in the delivery of class content, especially around appreciation of art and design, during both senior and junior cycles. Initially, certain areas could be enhanced with the use of ICT and then, as experience and confidence grows, this can be extended. It is recommended that some support in the basic utilisation of available ICT be given to the art department as individuals and as a group, perhaps through mentoring by an in-house colleague.
Very good work was seen in the area of 3D, notably in LCA, which is a success story for the art department. Students’ motivation, engagement with, and sense of achievement in, their work is noteworthy.
Students are encouraged to participate in art and design competitions. The way that these are integrated into the syllabus and courses, and as an application of syllabus-based learning, makes for a valuable tool with which to motivate and engage students. Recently, a poster jointly designed by two third-year students won a prize in a national competition, whose participants were mostly art and design professionals. This example of success shows how successfully the art department has promoted group work, independent learning and creative thinking. Ways of making these dimensions of visual art learning work as effectively for students of all abilities should be considered in the further development of current good practice. It is recommended that strengths such as the delivery of learning opportunities in 3D be built upon. It is also recommended that a review of all practices, in the light of learning outcomes, be undertaken during planning sessions over the next eighteen months.
A printmaking lesson observed was well managed and students participated in line with their levels of aptitude. The task was designed to allow basic skills, which had been introduced at an earlier stage, to be used in a more complex and challenging task. The progression inherent in this was good and it is recommended that similar tasks that elaborate upon simple skills be continued in all crafts studied.
Good practice is a characteristic of the art department: it is recognised that it has achieved much in a short time and that it has great long-term potential. To add value to what has already been achieved, a balance of technical and perceptual skills development, to nurture artistic sensibility and creative imagination, should be a key approach to developing learning opportunities for students in the future. It is recommended that collaboration take place amongst art department personnel, to start and maintain new review-focussed dialogue about how developing this balance should be approached and achieved.
Art elements, basic drawing skills, composition and colour theory are prominent in teaching and learning, and these are effectively delivered. It is strongly suggested that, if the art department were to work out a drawing policy, it would be useful in enhancing current good practice. Problem areas, such as the tendency of students to habitually work with pencil, could be tackled by developing strategies to counter them. This could be done in practical and consistent ways that could be established in the delivery of courses and programmes in the long term. There were a lot of signs, charts and notices used to convey information in the art department. This is good practice. A further development of this would be the use of flip charts for writing as an alternative to blackboard or whiteboard, as written material can then be retained and made available in class for students to refer to later, and for revision.
Standard assessment practices are in place, with good record keeping and reporting of results in evidence. Planning for assessment should try to build on the efficient structuring of the methods currently in use. The use of learning outcomes in drawing up assessment criteria would establish a close alignment between what is taught and learned and what is examined, and the way in which it is examined. Thus, it is recommended that learning outcomes be used to structure assessment criteria for a more enhanced fit between learning and assessment.
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 the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, January 2010