An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Deanstown Avenue, Finglas West, Dublin 11
Roll number: 60571J
Date of inspection: 20 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Patrician College, Finglas. 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 contribution of art and design to the educational and personal development of students is valued by the senior management in Patrician College, as are the SEC examination successes attained in the subject. There is a good demand for art amongst students. Appropriate arrangements are made in the timetable to support delivery of the subject.
Art has a good profile in the public areas of the school building, with many artworks by students displayed prominently. Investment of resources by the school to make the display viable is apparent in the glassed notice boards that have been provided to show off paintings and drawings, and this effort is greatly commended.
Two classrooms are at the disposal of the art teachers and there is also a storeroom. The ground floor classroom is purpose built with kiln and clay facilities; the first floor one is a general purpose room with a belfast sink installed to customise it for art and design. The lack of facilities in this room makes 3D work with clay or plaster quite unmanageable, but a disused science classroom nearby is sometimes used by the teacher based in this room for clay-based work with students. That the two art classrooms are on different floors makes collaboration and sharing between teachers difficult and makes a cohesive art department problematic in the physical sense.
The space and facilities of the ground floor art room are not well managed; it needs to be emptied of unnecessary stored materials and furniture, and following that, the spaces should be properly organised for pottery, modelling and life drawing. Reorganisation is necessary too to ensure effective use of shelving for display of student artefacts. Recommendations have been specifically made for this clearance and reorganisation under Teaching and Learning below. A time-frame for this reorganisation should be set by management, who should oversee the process, because, at present, the students’ learning opportunities are hampered by the disarray and clutter that exists in this art room.
Art materials and equipment are provided to the art teachers as required and the teachers are very positive indeed about the support they receive from management in this and other areas that affect delivery of the art and design courses.
There is a need in the near future to provide resources for ICT in the art rooms and to develop the use of these in relation to the history and appreciation of art and, in junior certificate, in relation to support studies. A scanner, laptop and multimedia projector are necessary to modernise the delivery of these course components and to create a richer learning opportunity with relative ease for all years and classes, and for all levels of ability and motivation. An up-to-date PC in the classroom would be a most valuable tool for allowing reference to CD-ROMs (such as the National Gallery of Ireland’s disc of the highlights of the national art collection) and other independent learning activities by students. It is understood from conversations with management that these facilities will be provided when resources eventually become available.
Planning documentation was seen on the day of the inspection; and the quality and quantity of this was variable. One portion of it was relatively detailed and there was a logical and appropriate follow-through between an activity and what followed it. The other portion had little detail and was more like a record of what had been covered in class since September. Neither had dates or timeframes and both would have been greatly enhanced by the inclusion of some learning aims and objectives for students of differing aptitude and motivation. Using a diary, dated class periods to be devoted to specific course elements such as life drawing should be drawn up, ensuring that a combination of blocked periods and recurrent weekly slots are assigned, particularly throughout the two years of senior cycle. Planning should be undertaken next year in such a specific way so that the maximum number of topics possible can be delivered to the students over the two years of their course. Documented planning for art education activities that exist at present should form the basis of more detailed future long- and short-term planning specifically for design, life drawing, various crafts, appreciation of art and support studies.
The existing planning documents are not rich in information related to teaching methods and learning outcomes and these should be included, even as the briefest of statements. Collaborative planning is recommended in the future on areas of shared interest between teachers. Review of teaching activities should be collaboratively worked on at the end of the academic year in order to identify priorities for the planning of the next year’s programmes.
For the two years that span first and second year, reasonably detailed time frames, along with aims and objectives should be included in the plans to ensure that crafts in 2D and 3D, art appreciation, drawing from the model and objects, and Art Elements are covered for all classes and levels.
It is recommended that the low motivation of some members of the sixth year class should be taken into consideration in the variety of tasks and media used, and appropriate approaches in the delivery and management of the learning activities provided. More emphasis on craft, some negotiated learning outcomes and a focus on the variety available in the leaving certificate curriculum need to be considered to help solve whatever difficulties low engagement presents for the delivery of learning activities and for student attainment.
A checklist for planning for next year’s senior cycle should be: life drawing, object drawing from primary sources, the development of skills in a variety of drawing media, the appreciation of art with an emphasis on working from reproductions of artworks, clay modelling, and pottery.
More information about the teaching methods to be used when delivering the various courses and programmes, if included as part of the planning documentation, would put an emphasis on devising new, and extending current ways of providing for the learning needs of students of different aptitudes and motivational profiles. It is recommended that learning aims and objectives be devised for both students of highest and lowest aptitude and motivation in order to maximise the potential learning opportunities of these two sub-groupings who are side by side in the mixed ability classes.
Preparation, always important in a practical subject, is good; there was a well-managed array of the necessary materials available for the classes inspected, including books, tools and materials.
Good work is being done in the art and design classes and students are benefiting academically and in their personal development from the learning activities they encounter there. There is a practical and caring approach to the needs of individual students, and all students are encouraged and supported in their learning.
The school has a good customised space in one of its classrooms for pottery/ceramics and clay modelling. The space housing these pottery facilities needs to be ordered and organised so that it can be used on a daily basis for learning activities by students of all years and classes. Clay dust is a health and safety hazard and higher standards of cleanliness and tidiness are necessary to keep this to a minimum. There was evidence on the day of the inspection that pottery/modelling facilities were not sufficiently at the disposal of students to enable learning and development through hands-on engagement with materials and techniques. The expertise available to the art department in this craft area is at present a largely untapped resource and this should be remedied through planning for the remainder of the present academic year, and for the next one. This expertise should be made central to the delivery of courses in both junior and senior cycle, both for itself as a craft and as an expressive fine-art medium.
Furthermore, access should not be restricted for SEC examinations in craft activities and pottery/ceramics/clay modelling merely because there is a small risk that the kiln firing might not be successful. The risk element is there for all schools in this regard, but perhaps less so for Patrician College because the kiln is new. Frequent firing of the kiln is recommended during the school year so that personnel become totally at ease with it and that any unpredictability with its setting operation becomes well known to the teachers well in advance of the examination, so that this can be remedied. Expensive kiln and pottery equipment has been provided to support learning: it is most strongly recommended that focused use be made of it in teaching and learning visual and tactile skills.
The ground floor art room has an area inside the door that is used for storing materials and unused furniture. If it was cleared out and set up for life drawing it would be spacious enough for groups of students to draw from the model, as the leaving certificate requires of all students. It is recommended strongly that this section of the room be cleared, the objects stored elsewhere in the school or removed for dumping/recycling and the space put to the use for which it was originally intended as usable classroom space.
It was noted that the portfolios of sixth year students didn’t have recent or current life drawings in them and as we are now within two months of the leaving certificate examination this needs to be addressed by making well-structured learning opportunities available to the students. Short term planning for the time left in this academic year should be undertaken to provide the students with skills necessary to work competently from the live model. Furthermore, life drawing should be integrated into the yearly work scheme for all classes, and that drawing in as large a variety of media as possible is always emphasised for both senior and junior cycles.
On the day of the inspection, sixth year students were preparing posters, which had been selected as the area they would work in for their leaving certificate design examination. All the students, it appeared, were being prepared for the design exam in this area, despite the fact that there is a choice of at least twelve areas. Given that the group of students in this class is relatively small, it is likely that it would be more motivational for them to have some choice and variety in the crafts and design they are doing for the examination, given that a group of boys were not engaged to any great degree with the art and design learning opportunities that were available to them in class. Next year consideration should be given to the possibility of allowing more choice to individuals, and also to facilitating students to do the poster under the Craftwork section of the examination rather than the Design section.
This sixth year group, in general, didn’t show a great deal of skilled and practised use of the materials they were using and there was little or no variety in the materials among individuals, though some students had a good grasp of the principles of layout, and several had achieved interest and drama in the imagery they had devised. None of them was using paint, even though the type of imagery they were developing in their posters would have been enhanced by the kind of colour and texture effects easily attainable in acrylics or tempera paints. The educational experience of designing and executing these posters would have been enriched if they had been guided in the direction of visual enhancement of the imagery by the materials best used to communicate that image.
There is a light-box in storage in the ground-floor classroom too and this tool should also be put back into use, as a lot of poster design, and thus lettering, is done there; it would be of particular advantage to senior-cycle students to have this device to help them.
Good communication between teachers and students was observed during classes, and a good learning atmosphere, enhanced by the quality of the focus on students’ needs, was evident. Students worked at their own pace and were encouraged and advised as they progressed through the tasks in hand. Questions they asked and difficulties they encountered were all attended to most professionally, and their work on the walls/shelves indicated that they do achieve and progress in art and design, some developing good art and design skills.
There was variability in the motivation levels and learning needs of students in the classes inspected. Because of the appropriateness of the task assigned to them, the language used to frame and explain it, and the pace of delivery, there were good levels of participation and engagement by most students. In all classes there were students engrossed and engaged in their work, particularly a third year group who were making 3D constructions, where it was evident that the way they had been prepared up to that point was motivating and empowering. Again, more use of the expertise and equipment for clay-based crafts available to the school would have profited these students in their junior certificate project.
Project work is central nowadays for the state examination at the end of junior cycle. It is recommended that all second years should be given a number of skills-learning opportunities to prepare them for the self-directed project work that follows in third year. Most students need this in order to support their creativity at this stage and it recommended that ‘mock project’ type activity be reduced to a bare minimum until the last term of second year. Where mock project activities are given at this stage, they should be specifically used as a diagnostic tool to ascertain where individuals will need extra support, tuition and guidance; detailed records should be kept of such outcomes and these should be used as the foundation of lessons to help students sort out weaknesses in skills areas. As drawing is central to project work, this area should be given much attention in first and second year. Primary sources, including the figure, and man-made and natural objects should be the foundation of learning skills in this area, with less and less recourse being made to photocopied materials. It should be remembered in delivering learning experiences to junior certificate students that the Junior Certificate syllabus emphasises primary sources in the development of skills, and that SEC favours primary sources as the foundation of project work in the art, craft and design project. The SEC art, craft and design marking scheme has recently been rebalanced to reflect the syllabus requirement for primary sources.
There was a wide range of posters, postcards and reproductions of artefacts and design objects displayed on the walls of one classroom and this essential good practice should be extended to the other one as such imagery supports all aspects of visual art learning. It is recommended that the appreciation of art be given much attention in the earlier part of fifth year, and the use of pictures displayed in the classrooms for observation and discussion is essential for this. ICT is also an ideal vehicle to deliver and enhance appreciation of art and Support Studies and where possible it should be used to deliver history of art class materials also. ICT should become a part of teaching and learning in the art department as soon as resources become available as it has many applications in the delivery of the practical, technical and cultural aspects of the subject. There should be a renewed emphasis on the use of primary sources in both junior and senior cycle, particularly in the support studies component of junior certificate.
There are various examinations and assessments throughout the year, and mock examinations are given also to help students prepare for the SEC examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the leaving certificate programme. Systematic records are kept of students’ during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessment/examination results. End of term and end of year results are communicated to parents and guardians. Regular parent–teacher meetings are held and the art department provides discussion, feedback and advice at these meetings.
In the medium to long term, learning aims and objectives should be further developed and documented as part of assessment for learning in the art classes. Information on assessment for learning is available on the NCCA website.
The students are observed, monitored and advised whilst working on their junior certificate project. As they progressed with their classwork, students were monitored and given feedback; this is good practice and helps students to profit from instruction given.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· Artworks by students are displayed in the public areas of the school, and the contribution the art teachers make to the academic and personal development of the students is appreciated and affirmed by management.
· Students are encouraged and affirmed in the way art and design learning activities are delivered to them and there is good engagement with the subject at both junior and senior cycle.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· In order to utilise fully the learning opportunities that the students have available to them and to extend their craft choices for SEC candidature, the ground floor art room needs to be decluttered and reorganised to facilitate pottery, clay modelling and life drawing.
· Planning work, and documentation of this planning, for the various crafts, drawing from primary sources, appreciation of art at both junior and senior cycle, and for clay-based 3D learning should be undertaken for the next academic year.
· Learning in life drawing should be facilitated at all stages of the junior and senior cycles.
· ICT should be integrated into the delivery of the art and design programmes offered as soon as resources become available to make this possible.
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.