An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Music
Coolock, Dublin 17
Roll number: 70330Q
Date of inspection: 6 October 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Music
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Dhúlaigh. 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 teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Coláiste Dhúlaigh, Coolock, caters for 228 male and 198 female students. The school participates in the School Support Programme of DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Department’s action plan for educational inclusion. Music is available as an optional subject to all year groups and within all programmes offered in the school, including Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). Timetabling arrangements are in line with the recommendations of the syllabuses. There are a sufficient number of double periods timetabled for Music to facilitate practical work.
The arrangements in senior cycle for choosing optional subjects are appropriate. Students entering fifth year select all their optional subjects from a menu of subject choices prior to the commencement of the September term. The arrangements in junior cycle are not as satisfactory. Students entering first year sample all optional subjects until October. They then make their selections for the Junior Certificate examination from a restricted range of subjects. This system limits the extent to which the individual needs and preferences of students can be met. Therefore, it is recommended that it is reviewed.
The uptake of Music in junior cycle is good and numbers in sixth year are also good. However, due to insufficient demand, there is no fifth-year music class in the current academic year. It is recommended that the school examines the reasons for this and considers strategies to ensure that the uptake of Music in senior cycle is sustained.
Resources and facilities for Music are very good. Music lessons are held in a reasonably spacious room which is appropriately equipped including one laptop and two computers with Finale Notepad installed. Since music technology is available as a choice to students as part of the practical component of the Leaving Certificate examination, the additional facilities that are available in the school computer room should be used to enable a larger number of music students to access music technology more readily. There is no pre-determined budget for Music. Instead, direct requests are made to school management when resources are needed. This is reported to work well.
The music department comprises one, fully qualified, specialist teacher. The school is very supportive of continuing professional development. The teacher is a member of the Post-Primary Music Teachers’ Association (PPMTA) and has attended many conferences hosted by the association. These conferences offer opportunities for teachers to engage in constructive dialogue with fellow professionals, to remain abreast of all information pertaining to music education at second level and to keep up to date with ongoing curricular innovation.
In addition to the curricular aspects of the subject and preparation for certificate examinations, a variety of additional music activities is available for the students. These include participation in all liturgical ceremonies and trips to concerts and workshops. There is also a school choir and a teachers’ choir, both of which are formed on a needs basis. The commitment of the music department in facilitating all these activities is commended.
Formal opportunities are provided to subject departments to meet twice per year. To date, the music teacher has used these occasions to plan for the music department. However, arrangements have now been put in place for the music teacher to meet with other similarly sized subject departments. This should be mutually beneficial during the planning process and for the sharing of good practice.
A music department plan has been developed and was presented on the day of the evaluation. This contained programmes of work for all year groups. This plan also included an estimated timeframe for the completion of topics. In some of the written programmes of work, music department planning is based on the Sound before Symbol approach to Music including the integration of the three disciplines of Music—listening, composing and performing—into music lessons. For instance, the transition year (TY) plan includes a good balance between practical music-making activities within the listening and composing disciplines. This approach is a good foundation for the music plan and should be adopted in planning for all classes.
In order to progress the plan further, it would be useful to include information regarding the organisation of the department. The template which has been developed by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) is a helpful reference point and is available at www.sdpi.ie. All topics should be linked to methodologies, expected student learning outcomes and modes of assessment. The inspectorate report Looking at Music (available at www.education.gov.ie) provides useful advice for developing a music department plan.
Preparation for all lessons was good. The music teacher has spent time and effort in developing resources which have been tailored to the needs and abilities of students. These were integrated into lessons at suitable points.
Three lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, one in junior cycle and two in senior cycle. A caring atmosphere was created by the teacher and students’ responses were warmly welcomed. Lessons were logical and sequential and pacing was appropriate.
The quality of teaching and learning was not consistent across the lessons. For instance, in one class visited, the topic at hand was a study of the biography and music of Michael Jackson. Information and communications technology was used effectively to display information which the students read and recorded. Questioning strategies deployed by the teacher helped the students to process the information and good discussions took place. Students’ learning was subsequently assessed using a quiz. These questions were prepared using an interactive DVD. This resource was particularly relevant to the students and was enthusiastically received by all. More importantly, it was effective in determining the extent of their learning.
During this lesson, students also watched video clips of various Michael Jackson songs. This can be an appropriate learning activity as the content can complement the historical component of a lesson. In this instance, however, it was of limited value. Students were not afforded any opportunity to engage meaningfully with the music and the purpose of the inclusion of this activity in the lesson plan was not clear. It is essential that there is a clear learning objective when planning for the integration of any activity in a lesson. This is important when planning any lesson. In this case, this could have been achieved by requiring students to analyse particular features of the performance.
In all classes visited, appropriate links were made with previous learning. For instance, in one lesson observed, students reinforced their knowledge of their prescribed work by creating booklets containing key analytical features of the music. However, since all the information had been supplied by the teacher previously, good opportunities for students to work independently from the teacher were lost. For instance, students could have been encouraged to determine the content of these booklets. This approach would foster the development of their critical thinking skills, provide opportunities for differentiated learning and ensure that all students are being challenged at a level appropriate to their ability. Once again, their learning was assessed through a quiz. On this occasion, students were divided into teams and a healthy competitive spirit was created. Students collaborated and worked very well together. Their responses indicated that some good quality learning had occurred.
In some lessons observed, there was a notable level of poor punctuality. The school also reported that there is a high level of absenteeism. Poor attendance and punctuality can prevent students from reaching their full potential in Music and the latter can also be a distraction to other students in the class. If this trend continues, students will miss out on valuable educational experiences within Music and there may be a substantial impact on their learning. The school reports there is a DEIS plan in place to address this issue. The school is encouraged to track the results of this plan and revise it as necessary.
Formal house examinations are held for first-year, second-year and fifth-year students at Christmas and summer and “mock” certificate examinations are held for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students in the spring. Reports are issued following all formal assessments.
The music department requires students to maintain all handouts and worksheets in folders. The music teacher has established a practice to address the difficulties some students have with maintaining their materials. In these instances, the teacher stores the students’ folders and manuscripts in school. This is good as it ensures that students are fully prepared for lessons.
Homework was not set in all the lessons observed. The school has developed a homework policy but this is not being implemented consistently in music lessons. This is a serious issue as students must develop an ability to tackle assignments independently from the teacher. It is essential that appropriate homework be assigned to reinforce the learning undertaken in lessons. Where challenges are likely to arise in the completion of homework, thought should be given to devising strategies to encourage students to complete homework. For example, a merit award scheme might be considered.
A review of certificate examination results indicates that there has been some improvement in uptake and achievement at higher level and this is commended. The school should conduct an annual audit of certificate examination results, examine the uptake by students of higher-level and ordinary-level courses and analyse the internal trends over a period of time. This information should be used for planning and setting learning targets in the music department. This would also ensure that all students are challenged to achieve the highest possible level. This is recommended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Timetabling arrangements for Music are in line with the syllabus and there are a sufficient number of double periods to facilitate practical activities.
· Resources and facilities for Music are very good.
· The teacher is a member of the Post-Primary Music Teachers’ Association (PPMTA) and has attended many conferences hosted by the association.
· A variety of additional music activities is available for the students.
· In all classes visited, appropriate links were made with previous learning.
· The music teacher has addressed the difficulties that some students have with maintaining their materials in folders as required.
· Creative in-class modes of assessment were used in some lessons to check on students’ learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The school should review arrangements for subject choice on completion of the first-year taster programme.
· It is essential that there is a clear learning objective when planning for the integration of any activity in a lesson.
· Homework should be assigned more regularly in order to reinforce the learning undertaken in lessons.
· Students should be provided with more opportunities to work independently from the teacher.
· The school should conduct an annual audit of certificate examination results, examine the uptake by students of higher-level and ordinary-level courses, analyse the internal
trends over a period of time and plan actions to address any issues that arise.
A post-evaluation meeting was 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 June 2010