An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Moyne Community School
Moyne, County Longford
Roll number: 91436D
Date of inspection: 1 April 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Moyne 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. 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 teachers. 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.
One full-time art teacher is employed in the art department of Moyne Community School, and at the time of the inspection a student teacher was contributing valuably to teaching and learning. Class groups are relatively large and the uptake for the subject is healthy. Delivery of courses and programmes are supported by an adequate budget.
The school building is a modern one, and use is available of the Latin School, a nearby historic building where the community school was originally housed and which now facilitates the school as a breakout space when required.
There is a very strong sense of community in the school. The art department contributes to this, providing design help and services for theatrical events, presentations, and class masses. It has contributed significantly to the decor of the school's oratory. Artefacts and paintings are on display in the public areas of the school, some of which had been specially made for permanent exhibit there. This is a whole-school integration of the work of the art department that benefits the schoolís larger cultural environment. For all these reasons, but more particularly for the great contribution it makes to students' personal artistic development and academic attainment, management holds the art department in high regard.
Access to the subject is good and it is in much demand by students. The timetable supports the needs of the subject adequately. Budget provision enables good breadth and balance in the types of crafts and media that students have access to.
Every third year, Art is offered on one subject line only, instead of the normal two, in order to balance access to optional subjects available in the school.
The art room is well equipped and has its own art library. A computer, data projector and screen have recently been provided by management for the art department and remain in situ there, solely for teaching and learning in the subject. There is a large art room with a lot of storage and circulation space. Wall space is excellently used for display. Storage of the projects and craftwork for the State Examinations Commission (SEC) assessments is secure.
Learning experiences delivered to the students are very well-planned, and the impact of this is seen in the high quality of students' artefacts. †
Planning documents providing outlines and details of the work to be done have been produced; these would be much enhanced by the development of more fully elaborated learning outcomes for students learning in technical exercises and in assignments and projects generally. A better correspondence between learning aims, outcomes, and assessment criteria would benefit assessment. It is recommended that the more elaborated learning outcomes are integrated into the existing plan, which should now be reviewed in the light of recommendations generally in the current subject inspection report. The learning outcomes should then become the basis for development of assessment criteria.
There was good preparation evident for the classes inspected and the required materials, equipment and tools were available for use during classes.
There was a good learning environment evident. High levels of hard work and positive rapport amongst the students created a pleasant and productive working atmosphere. It was evident, from the conversation with and artworks of Leaving Certificate students, that there has been a continual strong engagement by them with their learning throughout the years of their second-level schooling in the art department; there was an energy and maturity in their 2-D and 3-D artefacts. Students worked independently in class, and could converse fluently on their work and experience of art and design.
Exceptionally effective and creative delivery of courses and programmes is evident in the art department. Studentsí individuality is nurtured, and they are empowered to develop personal interests and approaches. Sequencing of topics, the need for variety and contrast as a device to motivate students, and provision of a range of media and crafts all combine to support high quality student engagement with the subject and consequent good levels of attainment. This was seen in the variety of media and materials used really well, technically and expressively, and the nature of the interpretations students made of assignment and project briefs and themes. The work that third years had done in creating their assessment artefacts represented a lot of empowerment and support of their efforts. There was no sense, in the classes inspected or in the artefacts, of imitative or formulaic practice. The spirit of the Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design course as a learning vehicle is extremely well actualised in the approach of the art department to the students' personal development and skills acquisition.
A range of different crafts are practised and this gives the students great opportunities to develop a wide range of skills. Very good 3-D was seen and ceramics made by second years were notable in their lively imagery, well-resolved technical problems and well-executed glazing.
Arrangements in relation to Art for Transition Year (TY) are extremely good, and activities in art and design are very much in the spirit of the programme. During the year, TY have a week-long painting course delivered by a visiting artist with a noted teaching profile. This course is held in the Latin School, a location which facilitates total immersion in the learning experience. This is an excellent vehicle for TY to encounter the art of painting and is highly commended. TY students have also benefited from inputs by other visiting lecturers, notably a professional potter from the locality. Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students have been involved in making jewellery, which has been motivating for them.
A computer, data projector and screen have recently been provided by management for the art department and remain there permanently. †During the classes inspected, a PC was available to the students in the classroom as they worked on their project-based tasks. It was clear that a practice of using the internet to check references, historical and contemporary, was a habitual practice and was carried out by individuals and groups in many of the classes inspected. Whilst doing this, students interacted with each other in a focused way, discussing the materials they had located and offering comments: an example of the extraordinarily well-developed culture of learning that was evident in the art department during the inspection. The use of information and communications technology (ICT) for support studies in junior certificate project was admirable.
There were group projects on display, some current and some archival. The fruits of group work were seen in TY and LCA, in computer use, and where students were in independent learning situations during classes. Both junior and senior cycle student worked on projects and assignments independently during the lessons.
The art department has developed cross-curricular links throughout the school which have resulted in creative opportunities in wood, metal and textiles for students, who benefit from specialist equipment and technical help in these disciplines. This has alerted and sensitised students to the possibilities inherent in a wider range of materials than there are facilities for, in the art room.
A wide range of techniques, materials and approaches were seen in the excellent life drawings of senior cycle students, which were strikingly displayed on the walls. Many of these had a confidence and energy not usually seen in work by students of this age and artistic experience. Again, considerable skill and effort over a long period had gone into bringing the students to this point of proficiency and creativity. However, it emerged that students had opted to use safer media and less adventurous, tidier styles of drawing in their mock examinations, despite the skill and confidence so obvious in the life drawings produced in class. In order to counter this understandable regression in the face of examination pressure to attain optimum marks, it is recommended that efforts are made to make students aware that drawing which avoids academic-style blandness is not a pre-requisite of success in the Leaving Certificate drawing examination, in order to empower them to be confident in their own artistic practice.
The learning environment that has been created in the art room is very good. In addition to having access to visual culture on the internet and from CD-ROMs, students have use of art books and a collection of other print-based resources. There were many reproductions of paintings and other artworks on view throughout the room. In order to further support and develop the excellent studio aspect of the departmentís pedagogic practice, it is recommended that the use of reproductions be further developed and extended as a tool to enhance studentsí awareness of the riches of visual culture. For example, it would be a valuable learning experience for students to curate displays of art, design and architectural images, either as individuals or groups, from early in first year right through to senior cycle, in order to create a culture of engagement with the visual, in parallel with the exploration of ideas, techniques and materials of their studio work. It is recommended that a small dedicated budget be focused on acquiring enough art postcards and inexpensive art books that can be cut up and utilised for this purpose. Developing this practice should serve to further extend students' awareness and engagement with the wider world of visual art beyond the classroom.
The larger environment of the school grounds and the adjacent landscape has been used for field work by students. They are brought out in their class groups to observe, draw and photograph it. Very good drawings derived from this outdoor art activity were seen during the inspection. Drawing outdoors appears to be motivating for many students, and it has provided a different type of art experience that has been advantageous to their learning. The use of the schools larger environment in this way is one of many examples of how, overall, students art learning is supported in an exceptionally effective way by the art department.
Effective assessment practices are in place in the art department. These practices support studentsí learning through oral questioning, grading, comments, feedback and the maintenance of records. Scores derived from homework and class assignments, as well as from invigilated examinations, are combined to provide marks and grades for students twice each year. This is good assessment practice. There are written examinations in the senior cycle history and appreciation of art.
Annual parent-teacher meetings for each year group are held and the art department provides information giving, consultation, advice and direction at these. Parents receive written reports twice each year about student attainment and progress in art and design.
The more fully elaborated learning outcomes discussed in the planning and preparation section should be used as the basis for development of assessment criteria.† These assessment criteria should be focused closely on the expected technical, artistic and perceptual outcomes inherent in the learning activities. An element of differentiation should also be included in the assessment criteria.
Students were preparing their assessment material for the state examinations at the time of the inspection. Most refreshingly, there was no sense of an examinations hot-house, but in the most natural art-based and aesthetically directed way, students had arrived at a point of examination readiness appropriate to their aptitudes, the creative strengths of their artistic personality and their own motivation.
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 and deputy principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, January 2010