An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Coachford, County Cork
Roll number: 70960D
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coachford 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, deputy principal and subject teacher.
Art is an optional subject on the curriculum at Coachford College and has traditionally been offered as part of the Junior Certificate programme. In recent times, Art has been added to the subjects available to students in senior cycle. This allows students to experience the subject to Leaving Certificate and is a very welcome development. Currently, Art is not included in the optional Transition Year (TY) programme. As Art is very well placed to fit with the spirit and intentions of the TY programme and can integrate very well with the other subjects on offer, consideration should be given to its inclusion.
The art department is staffed by one specialist art teacher. This member of staff engages in continuing professional development particularly in the area of information communication technology (ICT) and also benefits from the teaching support offered by the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland. In the year 2006/07 the art department welcomed a third-level student to work on animation with students for ten weeks and it has also invited art-related experts to speak on relevant topics. This type of enhancement to the provision of the offerings of the art department is very good and should be encouraged.
In recent years, significant development of the space and equipment available for teaching and learning in Art has taken place. The art department is accommodated in a room, separate from the rest of the school building, which was converted from its previous use as studentsí changing rooms. Although the room is relatively small, the art department has made very good efforts to make the space comfortable and educationally stimulating. The room has not been fully equipped according to the guidelines specified by the Department of Education and Science. However, the art department has access to an in-class art library, audio-visual equipment, batik equipment, a small printing press, easels and general drawing and painting materials. The school should explore all options available to it to equip the art room to the standard recommended in Department guidelines.
Materials and equipment are obtained by application to the principal and it is reported that this system works well. It is suggested that, as part of long-term planning for the department, plans should be made to extend the list of crafts and disciplines offered to students and that provision be made to obtain the relevant materials and equipment over time.
The art department has a digital projector and laptop computer with wireless internet access. It was reported that internet access can be unreliable in the art room and during the evaluation school management indicated its plans to have this issue resolved. The art department has made good use of these resources to date and during the evaluation clear plans were voiced as to the future use of this equipment. This is very good work and the art department is commended for using ICT to improve teaching and learning in the department.
There is very little storage space available in the art department to facilitate the secure keeping of candidatesí work and art materials. Currently a folder press, filing cabinets, and storage along the walls are used to store the necessary items. There are some unused rooms, situated next to the art room, which are ideally placed to be developed into secure and valuable storage space for the art room with little investment. In time this space could be used to extend the art room to include both a storeroom and also a wet area for clay. Consideration should be given to the use of this area as a possible solution to the storage issue for Art.
It was reported that at times the art room is timetabled for non-art activities. This should be avoided as much as is possible because equipment, materials and studentsí work are, of necessity, freely available in the room and they are at risk of being damaged or of causing damage.
In the current academic year 2008/09, there are no students taking Art in third year. School management explained that normal subject-choice arrangements were made in first year for this group of students but that not enough students chose Art to be able to form a class group. This would suggest that the arrangements for students to make subject-choice decisions require review. To help students make more informed subject-choice decisions, it is suggested that a short subject-sampling system be put in place in first year. The number of students taking Art is in line with the national averages. However, the number of boys taking the subject in junior cycle is low and there are no boys taking Art at senior cycle. During the review of the subject-choice arrangements, particular attention should be given to see if steps can be taken to achieve better gender balance. A review of the practice of offering students choices from pre-arranged subject option blocks to a more open menu system should help to alleviate some of these issues.
Lessons are generally forty minutes long and students in all year groups have access to a weekly double period which facilitates practical lessons. Currently, first-year students are provided with one double period and one single period for Art each week. It is suggested that consideration be given to increasing this provision to four periods per week so as to better facilitate the delivery of the first year art programme.
A set of planning documents was available during the inspection. These documents outlined the curricular plans for all year groups in the art department and were organised as lists of content for each term. The lessons plans available also detailed the resources to be prepared, such as equipment, materials and ICT. Some of the plans incorporated strategies for the evaluation of studentsí progress. This is good practice.
The ideas for the lessons observed were good, based on the syllabuses and designed to be appealing to students. Some very interesting lessons were prepared for students, for example, the creation of an image using string to focus studentsí attention on line. It is recommended that this good work be developed further by building curricular planning around studentsí learning outcomes. The use of statements of learning outcomes would facilitate the planning of lessons for students across the ability spectrum. It is also recommended that the learning outcomes should be used in the creation of evaluation criteria and that they should subsequently be shared with students.
The sequencing of activities to develop studentsí skills in individual lessons was good. Consideration should be given to the complementary sequencing of lessons and lesson outcomes, for example, a lesson in drawing could lead to further development such as printing. It is important to think in terms of learning outcomes for students in the longer term. In this way a series of individual lessons can be managed to achieve the best possible educational benefit for students.
Bearing in mind the limitations regarding space and equipment, the art department provides a very good range of crafts and disciplines for students of Art. These include: papier m‚chť, wire and nylon sculpture, sketching out-of-doors, clay work, glass painting and batik as well as a range of drawing, painting and graphic work. Although it is noted that class-contact time is currently somewhat limited in first year, it recommended that the core skills of observational drawing and painting be emphasised from early in first year. This would help students to benefit better from the learning opportunities available in later, more complex, projects.
It was noted that the plans for life-drawing in senior cycle were compressed into modules. At times it can be useful to give students some extra practice in life-drawing and therefore, there are some benefits to a modular approach. However, as life-drawing is a skill which requires regular practice and development, it should be incorporated into the regular activities of students during the year.
Junior cycle lessons incorporate appropriate references to the history and appreciation of art. Some lessons are based on the study of famous works, for example, making a painting based on the style of an important artist from a particular period in history. This is very good work as it teaches students how to research and is also a very good way of encouraging students to carefully observe an image. It is suggested that students should be introduced to dedicated lessons on the history and appreciation of art from first year. In this way students will develop confidence in their perceptions and in the use of terminology. This will enhance their work and their experience of the subject both in junior and senior cycle. As this approach is developed, lesson planning for the history and appreciation of art in senior cycle should include more emphasis on the teaching methodologies to be used.
A strong feature of the work of the art department is the emphasis placed on developing the range of teaching and learning resources available. The art department is compiling a very useful set of documents detailing various ideas and teaching aids from the internet. This is very good work. It is suggested that this bank of teaching aids should be developed to include short demonstrations which can be projected during the relevant practical lessons. The art department has also produced a list of useful terminology for students. It is suggested that some of the most essential words should be exhibited in the art room alongside relevant visual aids to help reinforce meaning for students with literacy difficulties. A very useful collection of resources such as images based on individual themes, books and information on particular techniques has been gathered. The art department has also collected a store of appropriate stimulus material for students. All of this work reflects a high level of concern for the educational welfare of the student.
The art department is very welcoming of students with special educational needs and liaises with the special educational needs department of the school to better determine the needs of the students. This liaison includes the sharing of appropriate and useful information. The efforts made to accommodate these students are commended and fully reflect the aspirations of the schoolís mission statement.
Three lessons were visited as part of the evaluation, comprising one junior cycle group and two senior cycle groups. In all lessons observed, the rapport between teacher and students was characterised by respect and a professional friendliness. This served to keep a sense of purpose in lessons and also encouraged students to ask questions when appropriate.
The lessons observed were well managed. Preparation for lessons included organisation of materials and very good use of the resources available. These included the display of relevant images and the arranging of materials for students to avoid the time loss that can be associated with students collecting their own materials for work. Information was communicated using a variety of methods including demonstration, description, and images. Of particular note, the ICT equipment available was very well used to display both images of artefacts and relevant historical facts.
All communication was clear, succinct and delivered in a pleasant manner. In a history and appreciation of art lesson, a good choice of slides was used to demonstrate the differences between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Additional interesting information was shared with students to help contextualise facts and to help students stay focussed. Whilst this choice of methodology can be very useful at times, it is suggested that students also be encouraged to use their observational skills and their prior knowledge to come to conclusions. Using a series of guided questions, students can discern much of the information relevant to a piece of art. This technique can also be used to compare, contrast and discuss art works, which builds studentsí confidence in those skills that will be tested in the Leaving Certificate Art Craft and Design examination.
To help students of all abilities and developmental stages understand the expanse of art history, it is suggested that a timeline be displayed in the art room. To help students put their more detailed knowledge of art history and appreciation into context, it is suggested that some contextual information based on important eras and artistic movements should be prepared and shared with senior cycle class groups.
The structure and pace of lessons was good. Lessons began with a recapitulation of previous learning, which set the context for the new knowledge. The objectives of lessons were shared with the students and, in the case of practical classes, students were shown by example how to proceed. Students helped in the clean-up process at the end of lessons, which is good practice. At the conclusion of the lessons observed, the objectives of the next lesson were shared with students so that they had a clear sense of how their work was expected to proceed.
Classroom management was good. Students were accurately monitored and affirmation was regularly given as the teacher circulated around the room. Where necessary, individual students were given extra help and were encouraged. This movement and monitoring helped to keep students focussed. In one lesson, the teacher identified a problem that was affecting a majority of students as they worked on the task assigned. This issue was successfully resolved by demonstrating to all students how to overcome the problem and manage their work.
In all lessons observed, students were engaged and happy in their work. A good level of affirmation was used to keep students interested and on-task. During a practical lesson where some students doubted their skills, they were told that their work was individual, unique and that the fact that it was hand-made gave the work a certain prestige. This type of encouragement serves to increase studentsí confidence and also helps to create an awareness of craftwork in comparison to mass-produced items.
During a senior cycle lesson, a small group of students who were developing their craft skills was observed. Students were encouraged to experiment with the different crafts available so that they would be fully confident in their choice of craft skill for the certificate examinations. This approach, which offers students flexibility and choice, is good. The work observed in this lesson was at a very early stage of development. Whilst it was evident that students were able to develop images for their chosen crafts, an emphasis on choosing more appropriate subject matter would give those students a better collection of visual material from which to develop their work. Where possible, some primary source material should be used. It is also recommended that studies of subject matter in line, tone and colour should be prioritised before more elaborate development of the image takes place.
Homework was checked during the lessons visited. In the case of one of the practical lessons, the assigned homework was to collect images which would be useful in terms of inspiration for students. This is a very good idea. Although in this particular case the images were of limited use to students as their skills were at a very early stage of development, the collection of relevant images is a very good learning tool for students and should be encouraged. Homework which was relevant and useful was also given during the lessons observed.
A variety of assessment methods is used to monitor and assess studentsí progress. These methods include ongoing formative assessment whilst students work on their practical work. To help students improve their performance, formative comments are also written on studentsí written and two-dimensional work. Projects are assessed summatively upon completion. Summer and Christmas tests are held for students to help monitor their progress. In addition, pre-certificate examinations are held for those candidates sitting state examinations. To help senior students focus on the important issues in their work, they should be encouraged to use the marking schemes from the State Examinations Commission to assess their own and their peersí work.
The art department maintains accurate records of studentsí progress. †Parents are kept informed of their childrenís progress using a variety of communications, including school reports, parent-teacher meetings, student journal, information evenings, and homework copies.
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 teacher 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, November 2009