An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Mallow, County Cork
Roll number: 71020G
Date of inspection: 25 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Davis 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 teacher, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí 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.
Davis College has an enrolment of 114 girls and 186 boys. Art is taught as part of the Junior Certificate, optional Transition Year (TY) programme and the Leaving Certificate programmes. These programmes were used as the basis for this evaluation. Art is also offered as part of courses awarded by the Further Education and Training Awards Council in the Post- Leaving Certificate (PLC) part of the school. There is a very strong tradition of art education in the school.
The art department is staffed by one specialist art teacher. The department is very well established in the school and Art is appreciated for its unique contribution to studentsí education both by senior management and students. Students from Davis College have established a strong tradition of pursuing their art education at third-level following their second level experiences of the subject. This is a tribute to the work of the art department in the school and an indication of studentsí positive regard for Art.
An important feature of the work of the art department at Davis College is a very strong ongoing commitment to continuing professional development (CPD). This includes a welcoming of innovation in all aspects of art education including research and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in image production and manipulation. As part of this welcoming of new ideas and methodologies the school regularly supports and facilitates third level students who are training to become art teachers. This support of emerging teachers helps to keep the art department up-to-date with new methods and processes. Further support for teaching and learning in Art is maintained by membership of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland.
The uptake of Art is good. The arrangements for studentsí choice are good at both junior cycle and senior cycle. Students choose their preferred subjects from an open menu from which option bands are generated.
Timetabling for Art is generally good.† However, first and second year students are timetabled for four single periods of Art per week. Whilst the duration of the time provided is appropriate, double periods would better facilitate practical work. During the evaluation, senior management indicated that double periods would be provided for Art in the coming year. This would be a very welcome development.
A purpose built room is provided for teaching and learning in Art. This room is large and bright with a lockable store room and other storage areas. The room also accommodates a wet area, a kiln and the equipment usually associated with a purpose built art room. This room is very well organised and managed. Materials and equipment are appropriately stored and are accessible to students. Guidelines for studentsí behaviour in the art room are clearly displayed to help promote safety.
The art departmentís plan to develop studentsí visual awareness is given expression by the maintaining of a visually stimulating environment for students of Art. During the evaluation a wide range of studentsí work was displayed in the art room. This included elements of life drawing, still life, graphic design, print, painting and ceramics. The displays also included important images from art history, teacher-generated images and images of specific interest to students.
Materials and equipment for Art are funded by a budget for the art department. During the evaluation, sufficient supplies were available for use by students.
There is very significant expertise available to the art department in terms of ITC. Six computers, a digital projector, scanner, printer and relevant software packages for image manipulation are situated in the art room. This provision of ICT in the art department ensures that the expertise available can be easily employed for the benefit of students. Very good use is made of the ICT resources available in the art department including studentsí use of ICT as a tool in image production and manipulation.
Students of Art benefit from a wide range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities which support their classroom-based studies. This includes the production of material for school art exhibitions, visits to galleries and museums and the production of artefacts for school activities.
Planning in the art department is both well-established and well-informed. The departmentís over-arching educational aim for students is to help them develop a deep interest and appreciation of Art for life. The strategy chosen to develop this interest and appreciation is facilitation of positive engagement with the subject using a variety of challenging and enjoyable tasks. This excellent approach to teaching and learning in Art successfully informs all of the activities planned in the art department.
The art departmentís written work to support and record planning was of a very high standard. The documentation available during the evaluation showed evidence of high quality long term subject development and curricular planning over a number of years. Regular and rigorous review of the work of the art department informs all planning. In particular, the weekly evaluation and recording of the work of each class group is noted as very good practice. The presentation of the planning documents was of a very high quality and structured using written notes and relevant photographs to facilitate clarity.
Curricular planning is highly developed for Art. A set of learning outcomes based on the various syllabuses has been established for each of the programmes delivered in the art department. Junior cycle students are encouraged to develop finished work from observation whilst senior cycle students are encouraged to enhance their acquired skills so as to be able to better able to realise their creative ambitions. The history and appreciation of art is taught to students as a discrete topic and visual literacy and visual awareness are integrated into lessons. The learning outcomes for the various programmes are strategically developed so that they build on skills, thus ensuring a spiral and developmental approach to teaching and learning. This is noted as very good practice.
A written programme for TY was provided which introduced students to a broad range of art and design principles through ceramics and digital media. This plan takes account of the fact that some students have not studied Art in junior cycle and is designed to ensure that all students are challenged by new and stimulating material. The programme is written with a full understanding of the potential of the TY programme to address topics using innovative methodologies and approaches. The digital media aspect of the programme is a particularly noteworthy as it promotes critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.
Two lessons from junior cycle and one lesson from senior cycle were visited as part of the evaluation. The atmosphere in all lessons visited was respectful and the teacherís kindness and concern for studentsí welfare and learning set the tone for interactions between students and also between students and teacher. Affirmation was regularly given to students. Respect for and a strong appreciation of the subject was evident amongst students during all of the lessons evaluated. Overall, very good practice was observed.
Studentsí behaviour in the classroom showed that they were familiar with working in a studio environment. Students in both junior and senior cycle were responsible for finding their own materials and clearing away their own work. This was carried out in a very organised manner which helped lessons to run smoothly. Senior cycle students were afforded a higher level of autonomy over their materials and work commensurate with their maturity. This approach to teaching students how to use a studio environment is very good and promotes student responsibility.
A range of resources were used to aid teaching and learning. These included visual aids such as teacher-generated images, studentsí work and professional imagery. The images were carefully chosen to illustrate the necessary visual concepts whilst at the same time capturing the interest of students. This is a very good way of maintaining studentís interest and motivation. The resources used included ICT which ensured that the images were shown in a very professional manner. This enhanced the lesson. Students were then shown how to use this equipment so that they could show their work to similar effect. This also had a very positive effect on student motivation.
The lessons observed addressed a number of topics. The topics were contextualised for students by references to important relevant works and by describing the history and development of materials and techniques. This helped to maintain studentsí interest during lessons. A particularly good example of this was when a collection of animations were shown which showed the development of the medium from its earliest incarnation to contemporary computer generated animation.
The pace of lessons during the evaluation was good. All of the students in the groups were challenged and were very keen to progress along the various stages. Both teacher and students shared a clear expectation of progress. Tasks were differentiated to match the abilities of students. For example some students were asked to make monochrome prints whilst others were asked to use more colours.† Monitoring of the class group helped to keep students on task and afforded opportunities to help individuals.
The inspector noted that during the lessons evaluated, students in both junior cycle and senior cycle regularly engaged in critiquing their own and othersí work. During these lessons, some students made striking changes to their work based on these critiques. Discussion with students found that their reasoning for these changes was informed and appropriate. This approach to teaching which encourages and values the studentsí individual ability to learn fosters a very deep engagement with topics. This approach also promotes opportunities for students to become capable, self-reliant, self-motivated and life-long learners.
Demonstration was used as the main teaching methodology. The demonstrations observed were well-organised and the instructions given to students were clear. During demonstrations, questions were asked to maintain interest and focus. Students were also given the opportunity to ask questions so that they could clarify any issues. During a lesson in block print-making a demonstration was given to explain to some students the process of rolling out ink, registration and printing the image. This demonstration was very good and clear. It was noticed during the lesson however, that students who had previously been given the demonstration did not fully employ the appropriate methods of using the cutting tools. To ensure safety, it is recommended that when students are using tools that safe working practices are revisited regularly. In some cases such as with using tools to cut lino, revision of safe working practices may have to be addressed during each lesson until students have fully integrated these practices into their activities.
Verbal communication was very effective during the lessons evaluated. Challenging concepts were broken down to very small elements and carefully described to enable all students to learn. Questioning techniques were used to good effect and included differentiated questions for students. Questioning techniques were also used to encourage students to use correct terminology and to be very specific in their descriptions. This approach helps students to create informed opinions and also helps students develop confidence in their critical abilities.
The studentsí work observed during lessons was bold and showed a confidence in composition and ability. Examination of studentsí portfolios showed that their finished work was of a very high standard.
Evidence was provided during the evaluation to show that assessment is an important consideration for the art department.† Regular assessments during the year include a series of formal assessments as well ongoing formative assessment. A variety of assessment methods are used including observation of classroom activities and practical work as well as assessment of homework and portfolios. Students preparing for the certificate examinations are provided with the opportunity to practise their examination techniques in authentic conditions. During the evaluation, the introduction of assessment for learning principles was declared as a priority for the art department. This approach to including students in their own assessment and evaluation is most welcome and fits very well with the established practices of encouraging independent learning in the art department.
Students are kept informed of their progress via oral feedback and written comments on their work. Parents are informed of their childrenís progress via school reports, parent-teacher meetings, and the student journal.
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, November 2009