An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Art
Dundalk, County Louth
Roll number: 63880O
Date of inspection: 20 November 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Rís. 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 students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teacher. 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.
Coláiste Rís has an enrolment of 379 males and 133 females. The school offers the following programmes: the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year (TY) and the established Leaving Certificate. Art is an optional subject on all of these programmes.
The art department is staffed by one permanent specialist art teacher. At the time of the evaluation, this member of staff was on leave and a temporary specialist art teacher was responsible for the art department. Senior management encourages subject department planning and the art department is involved in a local subject network. This is good practice.
Art enjoys a very high profile in Coláiste Rís. The communal areas of the school are used to display students’ work. This good practice serves to maintain the high profile of the subject in the school and also helps to build student’s confidence in their artistic abilities.
Timetabling for Art is good, with class periods being provided in ways that facilitate practical lessons. TY students who study Art are provided with a double and two single periods for the subject for the duration of the TY programme; this gives them a very good opportunity to experience the subject.
Access to the subject is good. At the beginning of both junior cycle and senior cycle, students are asked to make their subject choices from an open menu of optional subjects. Arrangements are made by school management to ensure that students and their parents are fully informed of the consequences of subject choice decisions. The school reported that various models of subject sampling are being considered to help further inform students’ choices. The uptake of Art is healthy at both junior cycle and senior cycle.
A large designated art room is provided for Art. At the time of this evaluation, displays of well presented students’ work around the room helped to create a warm and inviting learning environment for students. In line with good practice, the room is constantly used as a display area; to derive maximum benefit from this it is suggested that the room should be painted white when funding and the opportunity to undertake the work arise.
The art room is equipped with information and communications technology (ICT) including internet access, digital projector and a printer. These are very useful additions to the resources available for the subject. Evidence was provided during the evaluation to show that these resources are being used to good effect.
Requests for consumable materials are made by the teacher to senior management. This system appears to be working well. On the day of the evaluation sufficient materials were available to students.
A wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities is provided for students. These activities offer students further opportunities to use their skills and also allow their work to be seen by the wider school community. For example the department has been involved in the production of artefacts for liturgical events, shows in the school and images for the school magazine. In recent times senior-cycle art students have been taken to Florence on a specialised art trip. Such opportunities can be very beneficial in enhancing students’ learning in Art.
There was no subject department plan available on the day of the visit. It is important that a subject department plan is available in the school so that information such as the organisational arrangements regarding classes and access arrangements to art materials and other resources is at hand, in particular for new members of staff. It is regrettable that this was not found to be the case. It is recommended that the steps necessary and appropriate to addressing this be taken as soon as possible.
A learning plan for each year group had been developed by the current member of the department to guide teaching and learning in Art for the academic year 2009/10. This plan was presented during the evaluation. It correctly identified the students’ over-reliance on secondary source material and their limited approach to personal creative response as areas to be addressed. Commendably, this plan focuses on developing a wider range of artistic skills in order that students would achieve a more broadly based and expressive approach to their work. For example, students are highly proficient in the use of dry mediums such as pencils and colouring pencil, but are very reluctant to use paint or inks on their work. The plans presented on the day of the evaluation include work which will build on the high level of skill already attained by students but will encourage an exploratory methodology where students will be expected to try different materials and explore a variety of ways of making marks and applying colour. It would appear that students are very familiar with a structured design process towards a specific result and are unsure about taking other routes to making work. The new approaches outlined in the plan presented will help students to develop another set of artistic skills and will give them a wider base on which to draw when preparing for certificate examinations. This is good planning. Similar detailed planning for teaching and learning should be included and updated regularly in the subject department plan as it develops.
A good plan for TY students was also available. This plan included a variety of projects which allow students to explore their facture skills and their imagination. To further develop this plan it is suggested that students be exposed to a variety of artefacts and activities to help develop their level of appreciation and their critical faculties. It is further suggested that contemporary art should inform part of this process in order for students to be able to make links with current practice available to them in their environment and through ICT.
Very effective teaching was observed over the course of the evaluation. The lessons observed were well structured, had a good pace and were appropriately challenging for students. The teacher had high but realistic expectations for students and this in turn helped students to aim for high quality work.
The students’ behaviour during the evaluation was exemplary. Students were fully engaged during lessons and the atmosphere although very purposeful facilitated students’ comments and questions. During lessons the teacher monitored students’ work to ensure that all students were working effectively. Affirmation and encouragement was given generously and this was very effective. In summary, the rapport between teacher and students was very good.
In the lessons observed, information was presented in a clear, accurate and pleasant manner. Lesson outcomes were shared with the students at the outset and questions were used to ensure that students were motivated and engaged. This is very good practice. ICT was used well to display relevant exemplars to help inspire students. The choice of material as exemplars was very appropriate as it balanced educational relevance with motivating factors for students.
During the lessons evaluated some very good demonstrations were observed. Clear communication and explanation of the processes involved helped students to quickly understand the nature of the activities. It was noted that students enjoyed the demonstrations; in particular they enjoyed watching drawing.
Questioning techniques were successfully used at various points during lessons. The teacher’s careful and accurate use of language facilitated good questions about visual concepts. In their responses students were then able to use the terminology correctly and confidently. A variety of questioning techniques was used including asking targeted questions of individuals and seeking comments and answers from volunteers. Commendably, sequenced questioning was used to help students elicit information and come to correct conclusions. These questioning techniques were used during group evaluations of students’ work to very good effect. The inspector noted that students were challenged to find routes for improvement of the work. This is a very good strategy as it promotes independent learning and promotes confidence amongst students.
A senior-cycle class group were observed during the evaluation as they practised poster making. This group had a method for making posters which relied heavily on secondary source material and the rendering of a specific type of lettering. Whilst their approach had merit, it was limited as it focussed on the finished product without sufficient depth of investigation, experimentation or development. Commendably, this approach had been identified by the teacher involved and a very good lesson plan had been developed and was implemented. This challenged students to find better routes to poster-making. The ‘research, develop and realise’ model was shared and discussed with students. The merits of this approach to design as opposed to other methods were also shared with students so that they could understand how this change in approach could benefit their work. When this discussion was complete, students were directly encouraged to find source material that would be useful in the development of original and personal lettering. The resulting designs, although challenging for students, were of a very high standard.
The work observed during the evaluation showed that students have attained a most admirable standard in some areas. Students’ drawing was very strong and displayed practiced observation and confident realisation. The graphic design work available in the school was polished, clean and showed that students are highly skilled in the rendering of colour using colouring pencil, coloured paper and markers. The department’s commitment to graphic style communication was also observed in the quality of the good block-prints on display. All of the work on show in the school was well presented and this emphasis on good quality finish is highly commended.
Notwithstanding the very good work mentioned in the previous paragraph, there is an over-emphasis on developing a ‘house style’ in the art department. This style is technically very good and has allowed students to develop a crisp and clear approach to their work. However, it relies on the sourcing of secondary images and does not represent a broad and balanced interpretation of the syllabuses. The more expressive elements of these syllabuses and of art education in general are not being developed for students. For example, students are not confident or familiar with using paint, inks or any other ‘wet’ materials. There was little evidence of painting found during the evaluation. In addition, the evidence of emotive or expressive qualities in the work evaluated was very sparse. To fully develop students’ artistic skills and to better interpret the syllabuses, it is strongly recommended that a review of planning for teaching and learning should take place to inform the development of the subject in the longer term. This review should incorporate a better approach to developing fine art skills, which promotes a more authentic, expressive and tactile approach to making work.
Homework was given in both of the lessons observed. This homework was supportive of the activities in the classroom and was appropriately pitched. It was achievable and of sufficient duration.
During the school year, summative and formative assessments take place in the art department. Formative assessment during practical assignments is used to encourage students to find routes to improve their work and performance. In addition, peer-assessment, oral assessment, and assessment of finished project work, classroom activities and homework are also used to direct progress. Formal summative tests take place at Christmas and at the end of the summer term. It is recommended that more regular profiling of students’ work including homework is carried out to ensure accurate tracking of students’ progress.
Students are informed of their progress through school reports, comments on two-dimensional work and regular oral feedback. Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress through school reports, information evenings, parent-teacher meetings and the school journal.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Art enjoys a very high profile in Coláiste Rís.
· Whole-school support for the subject is good.
· A wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities is provided for students of Art.
· Individual teacher planning for lessons was found to be very good.
· Very effective teaching was observed over the course of the evaluation.
· The students’ behaviour was exemplary and the rapport between teacher and students was very good.
· Communication in the lessons observed was very good; explanations were clear, accurate and pleasantly delivered.
· Students have attained a very high standard of work in some areas and the emphasis placed on good quality finish is commended.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A written art department plan should be available in the school to inform and guide practice.
· A review of teaching and learning in Art should be held to help students incorporate a more authentic and expressive approach to making work over the longer term.
· More regular profiling of students achievements and homework should be carried out and recorded.
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 May 2010