An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Saint Mogue’s College
Roll number: 70360C
Date of inspection: 31 March 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
Subject inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Mogue’s 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 the 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 board of management 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.
Subject provision and whole school support
St Mogue’s College is a co-educational school with an enrolment of 84 boys and 72 girls. The school offers the following programmes: the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year (TY) programme, the Established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Art was introduced to the school’s curriculum in September 2007. This is a most positive addition to the range of subjects on offer to students in the school.
A fully qualified specialist teacher operates the art department. To benefit from the continuing professional development support available, membership of the Art Teachers’ Association of Ireland is recommended.
As Art is a developing subject in the school, the provision for Art on the timetable is limited. The school allocates one double period for the subject per week to students of Art in first year. There is a similar allocation to Art on the TY programme. Students in second year and third year are combined for Art so that they have access to three periods of Art including a double period. This good use of the resources available ensures that the maximum number of students can benefit from access to Art. The provision of double class periods can facilitate practical work. However, the amount of class contact time provided for Art is not sufficient for the delivery of a full art education as outlined in the various syllabuses. The continuing efforts of senior management to develop the subject in the school and to increase the time allocated to Art are acknowledged and encouraged.
In spite of limited provision, the uptake of Art in junior cycle in St Mogue’s College is improving and the numbers of students taking Art in first year are good. The arrangements for access to Art in junior cycle are good and include a subject sampling programme. Information and advice on subject choice, including an input from the guidance department, is provided by the school for parents and their children in junior cycle and senior cycle. To broaden the educational experience of all students on the TY programme, Art is compulsory for the duration of that programme.
It was noted during the evaluation that there was an adequate level of materials available for students. Consumable materials for use in art lessons are obtained as necessary through the principal and it is reported that this system works well. It is suggested that, when funding presents, card and coloured paper should be obtained specifically to enhance the presentation of exemplars and of students’ work.
The small prefabricated room provided for Art is far from ideal as an attractive and secure educational environment. This is acknowledged by members of school management who have indicated that the long-term vision for the subject includes new accommodation. In the meantime, it is recommended that the accommodation currently provided for the art department be improved. Repairs should be carried out to the floor to make the room secure and it should be repainted as soon as it is possible. In addition, the school’s health and safety officer should be consulted to ensure that all health and safety requirements are met particularly in relation to electrical fittings.
The storage space currently available in the art room is limited. This limitation is particularly confining for the art department as at times the room is used for subjects other than Art. The general security of equipment and materials is an issue and in particular, the effect of limited storage on the work to be submitted for the certificate examinations is of concern. To improve the storage arrangements available to the art department and to meet the requirements laid down by the State Examinations Commission, it is recommended that secure storage units be put in place as a matter of urgency.
A document outlining the rules of the art department is displayed in the room. This is good practice. It is suggested that this document should be revised as the changes outlined in the refurbishment recommended above are made to the art room.
There are two obsolete computers situated in the art room, taking up room in what is already a limited space. At the time of the evaluation, the school was developing its information and communications technology (ICT) facilities. School management indicated that there are plans in place to remove the obsolete computers and to install up-to-date ICT facilities with internet access in the room. This would be a very positive addition to the resources available to the art department.
Planning and preparation
The art department is aware of the need to develop the profile of Art in the wider school community. Commendably, plans for this are already in place. Some plans have been implemented including the provision of a range of art-related activities to give students the opportunity to practise their skills. The art department has also been responsible for the development of a competently executed mural in the main part of the school. This is very good work.
As the art department is very new to the school, planning should address the development of a visual culture, with an emphasis on promoting an appreciation of high quality visual imagery. During the evaluation, students’ work and exemplars were displayed in the art room. However, there is scope to improve the quality of presentation of this work. It is recommended that this should be addressed and that the display should be a combination of important images from art history, teacher-generated exemplars and students’ work.
Currently, students’ work is displayed in the main building of the school. This is a very good way of promoting the work of the art department and of building students’ confidence. It is suggested that a set of picture frames should be obtained as funding presents in order to further enhance the presentation of students’ work.
As a further measure to help students develop to their potential, consideration should be given to encouraging students to complete their work to a high level of finish and presentation. For example, the introduction of a ‘student of the month’ programme to promote the efforts of students whose work displays high quality finish would help develop students’ confidence in their artistic skills.
Confirmation of some good planning practices was provided on the day of the evaluation. For example, the planning documentation available for first-year students included lesson plans specifically developed for the subject sampling programme. An overview of the plans for first year outlined topics, objectives and learning emphases using a timeframe. A more detailed set of documents elaborated on the focus of lessons and included a description of tasks and various methods of assessment. The variety of tasks designed for first-year students addressed a range of appropriate skills. This is good practice. This work integrates art history with the practical work and includes the use of a wide range of resources to enhance students’ appreciation of the subject. The plans also included a list of helpful comments regarding the groups’ learning needs. This is very good work.
Lesson plans for third-year students were similarly laid out. However, there is scope to develop curricular planning further to clarify the objectives of lessons and to establish clear assessment procedures for each plan of work. It is suggested that lessons be laid out using a weekly timeframe so that best use is made of the time allocated. It is also suggested that statements of learning outcomes be developed in conjunction with assessment methods to facilitate students’ involvement in the assessment of their work.
It is recommended that a similarly comprehensive set of lesson plans should be developed for second year and all other year groups as the department develops. For example, the plans for lessons for second-year students should be developed further to take account of the students’ particular stage of development, so that they are not overly concerned with the need to produce a large body of work similar to the Junior Certificate art, craft and design project. Planning should also take into account the findings and recommendations in the reports of the chief examiners in Art as published periodically by the State Examinations Commission.
A written plan for TY was available during the evaluation. This plan included topics such as the examination of the work of an important artist, interior design, Christmas decoration making, mask making and graphic design. Whilst individually these topics have educational qualities, they do not take sufficient advantage of the opportunities available in the TY programme to address more innovative topics and concepts. Care should also be taken to plan for lessons which will facilitate students who have no previous experience of Art in junior cycle to succeed. It is recommended that the plan of work for TY be reviewed to focus on students’ knowledge and appreciation of art and aesthetics. For example, students could make a study of their environment and use the work of environmental artists to inspire a piece of ‘eco sculpture’ or site-specific works. Students could look at the work of famous artists and recreate them using photography. A teacher-led examination of ‘popular culture’ could also be included. Assessment of this work should also be based on learning outcomes and should be clear and unambiguous.
A wide variety of resource material for lessons was also included in the planning documentation. Visual aids, information on methodologies and useful approaches to integrating the history and appreciation of art have been gathered to create a useful resource for teaching and learning. This is good work.
Teaching and learning
One of the two junior cycle lessons taught in the school was visited. This represented one third of the art lessons available in the school each week. During this lesson students were pleasant and well behaved.
At the outset of the lesson, demonstrations were successfully used as the main method of communicating processes and skills. During demonstrations students were particularly impressed by evidence of the teacher’s skills and the wide variety of high-quality teacher-generated exemplars used to illustrate processes. This is a very good approach to engaging students and helping them to aspire to high levels of achievement.
Health and safety was addressed in the lesson by showing students how to use the necessary tools. During the lesson students were monitored to ensure that they followed the safe procedures. This is good practice.
The style of class management used was relatively relaxed. After the initial demonstrations the teacher focussed on giving individual tuition to students. This approach worked relatively well in this instance as the group was small. However, the pace of work by students was slow. It is recommended that group instruction be used as the main teaching methodology, as it facilitates maintenance of a good pace and is a more effective way to share information. Individual students should be then supported as necessary. To further develop the students’ pace, it is recommended that the structure of lessons be reviewed. Learning outcomes should be shared with students at the beginning of lessons to ensure clarity of purpose and to create an expectation of progress. As part of this process students should be given short timeframes within which specific tasks should be completed. Conclusion of lessons should involve both teacher and students in establishing whether the learning objectives have been achieved. Group critiques can be effectively used to evaluate the work completed. Key words should be emphasised so as to give students the language with which to be able to discuss their work.
During the evaluation a sample selection of students’ work across all art groups was examined. This work comprised drawings in pencil, colour studies using paint and collage and three-dimensional works. The quality of a majority of this work was fair, but observational drawing and life drawing in pencil was of a very high standard. This was a result of accurate observation and a good understanding of pencil as a medium. To achieve this level of quality in all media and materials used by students, it is recommended that students are shown how to explore the capabilities of each individual medium and material in specific lessons. For example, if students are to use colouring pencils in their studies, specific lessons on the use of colouring pencil should be held. As outlined in the planning section of this report specific reference should be made to the finish of students’ work.
Assessment practices in the art department involve formative and summative practices including summer examinations. Currently, formative assessment using verbal feedback on work-in-progress is the most common type of assessment method used. Whilst this is a useful tool for improving students’ performance, more regular, recorded, assessments are required to better monitor students’ progress. This is recommended. Consideration should also be given to facilitating students’ involvement in the assessment process. This would ensure that students are more aware of the need to work in a consistent manner and also ensure that they are aware of their progress and achievements. Examples of possible approaches include group critiques and the use of marking schemes with individuals and groups. The use of such approaches in addition to the consistent use of clearly defined learning outcomes recommended earlier in this report would also help to consolidate learning.
Parents are kept informed of students’ progress through school reports, parent-teacher meetings and messages in the school journal. Other communications such as phone calls are used as necessary.
Summary of main findings and recommendations
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The introduction of Art to the school’s curriculum in September 2007 was a most positive addition to the range of subjects on offer to students in the school.
· The uptake of Art in first year in St Mogue’s College is good. The arrangements for access to Art in junior cycle are good and include a subject sampling programme.
· School management plans to install up-to-date ICT facilities with internet access in the art department.
· The art department is actively developing the profile of Art in the wider school community including displaying students’ work in the main school building.
· Confirmation of some good planning practices was provided on the day of the evaluation.
· During the lesson evaluated, students were pleasant and well behaved.
· In the lesson observed, the demonstrations given by the teacher were successful and students were particularly impressed by evidence of the teacher’s skills.
· Observational drawing and life drawing in pencil was of a very high standard.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The safety concerns discussed by inspector in relation to electrical fittings should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
· The accommodation currently provided for the art department should be improved at the earliest opportunity and secure storage units should be put in place as a matter of urgency.
· Curricular planning should clarify the objectives of lessons and to establish clear assessment procedures for each plan of work. Planning should address the development of a visual
culture, with an emphasis on promoting an appreciation of high quality visual imagery.
· The plan of work for TY should be reviewed to focus on students’ knowledge and appreciation of art and aesthetics.
· Group instruction should be used as the main teaching methodology and the structure of lessons should be reviewed.
· More frequent assessments should be carried out and recorded. Consideration should also be given to facilitating students’ involvement in the assessment process.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher 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 November 2009
School response to the report
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The timetabling provision for Art is directly linked to the school’s allocation of teachers.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Transition Year – Curriculum content and assessment methods have been addressed in relation to Transition Year.
Electrical Fittings – this issue was being addressed at the time and is now completed.
Accommodation – An application is being prepared for the D.E.S. for additional accommodation to replace prefabricated building.