An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
Skerries Community College
Skerries, County Dublin
Roll number: 76078Q
Date of inspection: 26 November 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Skerries Community 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 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Skerries Community College has an enrolment of 614 males and 323 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 two permanent specialist art teachers. At the time of the evaluation these members of staff were on leave and three temporary specialist art teachers were managing the art department. These teachers were relatively new to the school. The evidence provided during the evaluation showed that these teachers have been successfully integrated into the school and that they are fully supported by senior management in ensuring that they have all necessary resources available to enable good teaching and learning in Art. Evidence was provided to show that these members of staff work in a collaborative fashion. The co-ordination of the department is currently shared between all of the teachers. To facilitate this, formal meetings are held once per term and informal meetings are also held on a regular basis. This is good practice.
One of the teachers in the art department is a member of the Art Teachersí Association of Ireland Consideration should be given by all members of the art department to joining the association in order so that they can benefit from the continuing professional development opportunities available for art educators at post-primary level.
Timetabling for Art is good, with appropriate time periods being provided to facilitate practical lessons. TY students who study Art are provided with a double period 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. Students who have not studied Art in junior cycle and wish to study it in senior cycle are facilitated. This is good practice. The uptake of Art is healthy at both junior cycle and senior cycle.
Two large and bright designated art rooms with storage rooms are provided for the art department. These rooms are well maintained and tidy. Storage units are labelled and studentsí work is stored in an appropriate fashion. Collections of art books and relevant stimulus material have been amassed to enhance studentsí access to the subject. During the evaluation exemplars and displays of studentsí work were used to make the rooms stimulating and inviting learning environments. This is good work and is encouraged.
The communal areas of the school are also used as display areas to good effect. At the time of the evaluation these included temporary exhibitions of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work as well as more permanent displays of studentsí work around the school. This is a very good way of helping students to build confidence in their abilities and to highlight their achievements.
An annual budget is provided by senior management to fund materials and equipment for the art department. In addition, students pay a voluntary contribution to support the acquisition of consumable materials. This system appears to be working well. On the day of the evaluation sufficient materials were available to students.
Evidence was also provided to show that the art department is proactive in developing the resources available to them. For example, the department has organised the re-commissioning of ceramic equipment and a digital projector was obtained for the art department in the recent past. This is good practice.
Each year a wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities is facilitated by the art department. In spite of the fact that the three art teachers were relatively new to the school, the art departmentís policy of extending teaching and learning in Art beyond the art room has been maintained. Examples of these activities include the design and execution of large scale murals, exhibition of student-generated artefacts around the school as well as the design and creation of props and sets for the schoolís musical events and for local parades. The dedication and generosity of the teachers in the art department to providing extra opportunities for students to use their artistic skills is commended.
The art department presented a subject department plan during the evaluation. This plan was recently updated by the current members of the art department which is good practice. The organisational and structural elements of the art department plan were well developed. This included lists of teachers, timetables, class organisation and rules and procedures. This document also included the schoolís code of behaviour and procedures around studentsí absences and lateness. The inclusion of such documents is very useful for new teachers to the department.
In line with good practice, the art department plan includes a note on the syllabus content for each year groups. Topics and activities are outlined for students for each month of the year. The topics chosen for teaching and learning in both junior cycle and senior cycle are relevant to the syllabuses and appropriate to the needs of the students. Commendably, these plans also include access to a wide range of topics and materials in both two and three dimensions for students.
There is still some scope for development of these plans to enhance teaching and learning in Art in the school. It is recommended that the lists of topics and activities be developed into learning outcomes for students to help focus the activities in the classroom. For example, the programmes of work for fifth year and sixth year list the range of topics with which students should be familiar for the certificate examination. This is accurate but does not constitute a plan for the development of the skills required. The use of learning outcomes would help to clarify the objectives of lessons and also help to develop clear strategies for students in need of specific differentiation. It is recommended that this process of developing learning outcomes for students be initiated with the work planned for sixth year.
In general, the work planned for senior cycle needs to be reviewed. It should focus on the Ďresearch, develop and realiseí model discussed during the evaluation. The findings and recommendations in the reports of the chief examiners in Art as published periodically by the State Examinations Commission should be consulted during this review to help students achieve to their potential.
To help students at all levels to develop more familiarity with and understanding of art history and appreciation, it is recommended that the provision for this section of the syllabuses should be reviewed. Art history and appreciation should be introduced to junior-cycle students from first year and the emphasis should be on studentsí use of subject-specific terminology and on helping them to form confident and well informed opinions on artefacts from a range of disciplines. This approach would enhance studentsí projects in third year and would also impact positively on the work of those students who study Art at senior cycle.
It is recommended that the TY programme, which is currently based on group work and the production of artefacts, should also include some more specific lesson plans to build studentsí interest and ability in the history and appreciation of art and design. It is suggested that lesson planning for the history and appreciation of art could focus on contemporary art and its methodologies. This would enable students to come to an understanding of contemporary art and those who have little or no previous experience of using research skills such as drawing would have the same opportunity to excel as their peers.
Individual teachersí lesson plans were also provided on the day of the evaluation. The best of these had outline plans for specific class groups, based on the subject department curriculum plan. It is recommended that this good work should be developed further by using the lesson outcomes for class groups as outlined in a previous paragraph rather than lists of topics and activities.
Three lessons were evaluated; one in junior cycle and two in senior cycle. The quality of teaching and learning in Art, as observed during this inspection, was of a fair standard.
During all of the lessons observed, affirmation was generously used to help students remain enthused and to support their progress. Teacher movement was good and individual students were helped as necessary. This is good practice.
Studentsí behaviour in general was good. During the evaluation, a sense of purpose and an atmosphere conducive to work characterised most of the lessons. Teachersí implementation of measures to maintain student discipline was observed to be firm and fair. This is good practice. Where students became disengaged a range of strategies was used to help them return to task. In the main these strategies were successful. For example, students were asked to move seats, teachers used proximity control and students were urged to work. However, in one of the lessons observed, students became disengaged and the teacher involved employed strategies which were successful in that they limited the levels of disengagement. This lesson was one of a series in a creative scheme of work which involved a good approach to investigative drawing. The earlier lessons in this scheme of work had helped students to produce some high quality work. However, the final part of the scheme of work was unsuitable for the group at their current stage of development. The level of challenge posed by the lesson tasks was not appropriate and this contributed to the disengagement noted. It is recommended that the scheme of work should be immediately amended to a more appropriate level. It is also suggested that students be shown examples of what the final artefact will look like to help keep them on task.
The structure of the three lessons observed adhered to the art departmentsí policy of including roll call at the outset of lessons and requiring students to help set out materials and equipment. This is good practice. Two of the lessons were well structured in that the time available was appropriately divided into tuition time and time for students to engage in practical work. This division of time ensured that the pace of work was good. In one lesson the introduction to a task involved lengthy didactic instruction. It is recommended that the introductory phase of lessons should be carefully planned so that tuition is concise and studentsí engagement is achieved as quickly as is possible.
The good practice of sharing the intention of the lesson with students was observed during one of the lessons. This worked very well as teacher and students were focussed on a specific learning endeavour. This clarity ensured that students could gauge whether or not they were successful at the task and if their work required more effort. This approach facilitates clarity of purpose and encourages students to be more responsible for their own learning. It is recommended that this approach be used for the majority of lessons in the art department.
It was noted during the inspection that teachers in the art department are very concerned for the academic progress of students. As a consequence, teachers are very generous with their time and are very keen to help individual students. This is good practice. However, to avoid students relying too heavily on teachersí energy and ideas, it is recommended that teachers in the art department explore and integrate strategies for independent learning into lessons. This would support more responsibility and ownership of work amongst students.
During lessons teachers asked a range of question types. Where this worked best, individual students were challenged appropriately and given sufficient time to respond. It is recommended that the good practice of asking students questions targeted to named students is extended to all lessons. In this way all students can be challenged positively regardless of ability and motivation. This process would also provide opportunities for students to form opinions and to use the relevant terminology.
At the conclusion of one of the lessons observed a critique of the work was held. This is a very good way of helping students to assess their own work and to find routes to improvement in a positive way. The use of this methodology in tandem with targeted questioning is very effective and is encouraged.
A variety of good quality teaching resources was used during the lessons observed. These included presentations using ICT and teacher-generated visual aids. This is good practice.
The quality of studentsí work observed during the evaluation points to a good level of teaching and learning in Art relative to the abilities of students. In particular the studentsí observational drawing was of a good standard.
Homework was given in all of the lessons observed. This homework was relative to the topics addressed in the lessons.
During the school year summative and formative assessments take place in the art department. Students are encouraged during practical assignments to find routes to improve their work and performance. Formal summative tests take place at mid-term and at the end of the summer term. Students are also assessed on their work throughout the year. Those who intend to sit the certificate examinations are provided with authentic examination experiences to help them practice their examination techniques. Good profiling of studentsí work including homework ensures that accurate tracking of their progress is maintained.
A variety of assessment methods is used, including peer-assessment, self-assessment, and assessment of practical work, classroom activities and homework. Students are informed of their progress through school reports, comments on two-dimensional work and regular oral feedback. Parents are kept informed of their childrenís progress through school reports and parent-teacher meetings.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Three temporary art teachers currently staff the art department. These teachers have been successfully integrated into the school and are fully supported by senior management in
ensuring that they have all necessary resources available to enable good teaching and learning in Art.
∑ Whole-school support for Art is good in terms of timetabling, access to the subject, and the provision of designated art rooms.
∑ The art department is proactive in developing the resources available.
∑ A wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities is provided for students to extend their learning in Art.
∑ An art department plan was presented which included good organisational and procedural details as well as an outline of curriculum content.†
∑ Affirmation was used to enthuse and support students during the lessons observed.
∑ During lessons a variety of good quality teaching resources was used.
∑ Good profiling of studentsí progress ensures that accurate tracking of studentsí progress is maintained.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ The list of subject topics that forms part of the art department plan should be developed using learning outcomes for students of each year group. This process should start with a
review of senior cycle and should refer to the recommendations made in the reports of the chief examiners in Art as published periodically by the State Examinations Commission.
∑ The history and appreciation of art aspect of the art syllabuses should be introduced to students as a discrete topic from first year. It should also be included as a discrete topic
in the TY programme and focus students on contemporary art and contemporary ways of making art. †
∑ Where students become disengaged, the lesson should be reviewed †to identify any contributory factors and future learning plans should be amended as appropriate.
∑ The expected learning outcome should be shared with students at the outset of each lesson.
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 April 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1:† Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board notes the details of the Inspection Report and in general is pleased with the results.
Area 2:†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the†† inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection