An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Malahide Community School
Malahide, County Dublin
Roll number: 91325R
Date of inspection: 2 October 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Malahide Community School. 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.
Malahide Community School has an enrolment of 1176 students of whom 517 are girls. The school is situated in a new purpose-built facility with excellent facilities for Art. Art is taught on a number of programmes and it is offered as an examination subject for both the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate. Art is an optional module on the optional Transition Year (TY) programme operating in the school. A Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) course in Art was introduced in 2007 for students with special educational needs.
Management is supportive of the work of the art department and this support is shown in a number of ways. Membership of the Art Teachers’ Association of Ireland is paid for by the school and teachers have been facilitated in attending in-service courses and programmes. The school has also supported collaboration with professional artists and craftspeople thus greatly enhancing the educational experience of the students. Timetabling for Art is fully in accordance with syllabus guidelines and a sufficient number of double periods have been allocated to all year groups. Extra support is provided for students outside of class contact time and this generous support for students is commended. The arrangements for purchasing consumable materials are satisfactory and working well.
Three well-appointed rooms with specialist equipment are provided for the delivery of Art. These rooms are very well organised and maintained to a high standard. This good management of the art rooms is very important, as it will extend the life of equipment and preserve the quality of the workspace. A high level of consideration has been given to the rooms as educational spaces as evidenced by, for example, the display of important images and terminology in all art rooms. Students’ work is also on show giving them the opportunity to celebrate their own work and to be inspired by the work of others. This very good practice extends outside the classrooms and into the school’s built environment which is decorated with student-generated high quality images.
Commendably, computers with internet access and printers are installed in each art room. These are used by students to research both the practical and academic aspects of Art; this is good practice. To enhance the potential for learning using art-related information and communication technology (ICT), it is recommended that image manipulation software should be obtained as funding permits. The seating currently being used at the computer benches is not ideal and is uncomfortable for students. As students are sitting at these benches for considerable lengths of time, it is suggested that management should obtain more suitable seating for students’ use.
Three art teachers operate the art department. A co-ordinator of art education has been appointed and this person also has responsibility for the visual enhancement of the school environment. Both formal and informal meeting are held and it reported that collaboration between teachers is a valuable source of support and sharing of information. Collaboration also takes place with other departments in the school and this is reported to be very productive.
Student access to Art is good. A subject choice booklet and the school’s website provide information to incoming first years and their parents. During an open night at the school, current students work on various art projects and displays of students’ work are exhibited. First year students at Malahide Community School have the opportunity to sample Art before they make a commitment to study it for their Junior Certificate. This arrangement is good practice. Art is a popular subject in the school and the numbers of students taking Art at both junior and senior cycle are good. Commendably, all classes are mixed ability with the exception of the special education class and the FETAC group.
The overarching vision for the art department is practical, ambitious and based on a very good interpretation of the syllabuses. In particular, links with outside agencies and the activities organised to support the work in the classroom are of great benefit to students. These high quality extra-curricular and co-curricular opportunities span a wide range of activities and are a testament to the dedication of the art department and to the success of the subject in the school. One of the most prestigious of these was the art department’s involvement in the ‘Percent for Art’ scheme; this resulted in a professionally produced piece of school-based artwork, part of which was designed by students. The department has also organised a very successful ‘Take pArt,’ an exhibition and auction of art works by students, well-known Irish artists and celebrities. A grant was secured by the department and used in a ‘Creative Engagement’ project, which has facilitated students to take part in design and mask-making workshops. The art department has also made hats for the local musical society and each year designs and makes the sets for the school musical. An enterprising approach has been taken by the department to celebrate students’ work and raise funds. A fine calendar of students’ artwork is produced and sold to the wider school community. The department also organises trips to Irish and international exhibitions and museums. These extra educational experiences have resulted in excellent work by students and such involvement with bodies outside of the school is optimal practice.
Collaboration with other departments is a feature of the work at the art department. Particularly, the excellent working relationships with Engineering and Construction Studies have been very beneficial for students.
An art department plan was available during the evaluation which outlined the main policies and procedures of the department. This document also included copies of the minutes of department meetings, detailing the good work of the department in assessing strengths, weaknesses and routes for improvement. Curricular planning was also addressed in this document. Ideas for lessons observed were good, educationally sound and designed to be of interest to students. As the school is in the welcome position of having access to a large range of specialist equipment as part of the furnishing of the new building, it is recommended that curricular planning should be advanced to extend the list of crafts and disciplines being offered to students. It is also recommended that strategies for developing the students’ drawing skills into crafts should be implemented. With regard to junior cycle, first year students should be introduced to the history and appreciation of art according to a pre-determined timeline. This will help students in third year with their support studies and also with their art appreciation and history work in senior cycle.
All of the teachers’ personal teaching plans were of a very high standard, outlining a logical, sequential, purposeful approach to attaining an ambitious art education built on sound principles. These featured specific learning issues such as learning targets, materials, approaches and techniques. The most useful planning documentation detailed the specific topics and skills to be taught as well as the assessment methods to be used, including marking schemes. This good practice should be extended to all lesson plans. Commendably, there was much evidence that the teachers engage in reflective practices on an ongoing basis.
The atmosphere in all five classes visited was good. Teachers taught lessons in a kind and supportive fashion. Lessons were focussed and purposeful and followed a logical structure with a variety of methodologies being used effectively.
Generally classroom management was very good. In one case, a few students were overly relaxed, easily distracted and inclined to talk to each other. When challenged, these students paid no attention to the comments made by the teacher and continued with their low-level disruption. It is recommended that in cases such as this, individual students should be isolated and perhaps spoken to after class. Assessment procedures can be used to ensure that students are continually aware of the need to remain engaged in the lesson so that their learning is up-to-date. In the event of this not working further steps should be taken.
Lessons involving the making of artwork used demonstration as the main mode of instruction. This worked well. Commendably, the quality of work was of a very good standard. Careful choice of good subject matter, methods and materials ensured that teachers were focussed on getting the best work from students. Colour studies of fish from life were particularly accurate and aesthetically beautiful. Students were able to make a good study relative to their ability and were very pleased with their work. In another lesson where students were less able, the lesson was appropriately pitched and the relationship with the teacher was supportive of students’ confidence and progress. This is good practice.
Students were found to be progressing well in art history and appreciation. The teaching methods used were good. These included affirmation, questioning, formative responses made about work, composing answers and explaining the use of key words. The techniques used made the subject accessible to the majority of students in the group. It is recommended that the art history and appreciation material prepared for students who are following programmes other than those leading to the certificate examinations should focus on the development of art terminology. The use of art terminology can be encouraged by describing and making personal responses to images, both spoken and written. Where possible, these students should study the same material as the other students in the group, albeit at a different level. To encourage integration, all students should sit within the class group.
There was a good quantity of work in students’ portfolios in a variety of media. These works are generally of a high standard and, in the main, students are reaching their potential.
Teachers keep records of students’ attendance and behaviour. Students are assessed using a system of grading at half-term and continuous assessment throughout the year. Formal house examinations are held at Christmas, Easter, summer and at half-term for first, second, TY and fifth years. Third and sixth years have house examinations as well as pre-certificate examinations in February. Informal assessment is on-going. Profiles of students’ achievement and efforts are maintained. It is suggested that this good practice be extended to include peer-assessment and other assessment methods to encourage students to describe and critique their work. It is also suggested that a mode of assessment using target art terminology should be developed to increase the use of art language.
Parents are kept well informed of their children’s progress. This is done through the school journal, parent/teacher meetings and reports which are issued five times each academic year.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Work is generally of a high standard and, in the main, students are reaching their potential.
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 September 2008