3 Managing demonstrations

Mrs Mohanty had to manage the resources and the students when she did her demonstration. She made sure that every student could see. Allowing your students to crowd around the demonstration will mean that some will not be able to see, so you will need to think about how close they need to be and check that all students are included. It is easy to overlook the students from marginalised groups at the back who are being disadvantaged or excluded – you have a duty to ensure that this does not happen. Mrs Mohanty made sure that the vulnerable students were at the front. She also included those who she knew had learning difficulties – these students were seated near the front so that she could give them more support. You also need to pay attention to students’ comfort. For longer demonstration, students may be better seated, as it is hard to concentrate if you are uncomfortable. In some situations, students can stand. In all cases, you must ensure that students are able to watch in safety and take any precautions necessary. With large classes, you might want to do the demonstration twice so that everyone has the best chance to see what you are doing and what happens.

As you undertake the demonstration, you should explain what you are doing. It is important to carry out the demonstration systematically without cluttering the table. Not only is clutter distracting, but it provides a bad example to your students if they are to complete the activity themselves. Be sure to draw your students’ the attention to important aspects such as a perceptible change or a safety precaution that must be taken.

Questions will help you capture students’ interest and develop their understanding (see Resource 1, ‘ Using questioning to promote thinking’). Using the blackboard skilfully is also important during demonstration. You can use it to highlight the main points of a process, record observations and note the responses made by students. Seeing their responses on the blackboard will also help motivate students and encourage continued interest in the lesson.

Pause for thought

What evidence was there that Mrs Rawool and Mrs Mohanty succeeded in keeping their students’ attention and interest?

Asking your students about their experience at home, what they feel and think, and focusing their observation are all important ways of gaining their interest. How your students react also tells you as a teacher whether they are interested or not. Bored students are more likely to misbehave than interested ones. Focused students will be quiet in concentration, but there may be more talk when questions are answered. Uninterested students will not be motivated to ask questions or contribute answers.

Activity 1: Planning a classroom demonstration

Planning your demonstration carefully will contribute to its success. Mrs Mohanty’s plan (Resource 2) will help you plan your own demonstration and think about the steps as a guide. When you plan, include the learning objectives of the demonstration:

  • what you want the demonstration to achieve
  • how you will introduce the demonstration
  • the equipment and materials needed
  • the steps you will take when carrying it out
  • the key questions you might ask at each stage
  • how you will arrange your students so all can see
  • how you will support those with special educational needs
  • any teaching aids such as charts, pictures and models to highlight any key learning points
  • the safety precautions you will take
  • ways of involving the students at each stage of the demonstration
  • how you will know what the students have learnt.

Write out your plan and any questions you might ask so that you have them ready to use. If you have another science teacher at your school, share your plans with them to help you clarify any questions you may still have.

Video: Planning lessons

The importance of good planning cannot be overstated if you want your students to achieve their potential. As you become more expert at planning demonstrations and identifying the learning intentions, this process will be much quicker. Sometimes it is helpful if you practise doing a general demonstration on your own first. To help you with your planning and to understand the process better, read Resource 3, ‘Planning lessons’.

Activity 2: Practising demonstrating

One of the most challenging tasks is combining useful questioning techniques and appropriate explanations while demonstrating a concept or process.

A fun way of building your confidence with combining these skills is to practise them informally in relation to a relatively familiar task at home.

  1. Choose a suitable activity to practise the demonstration. You can start with demonstrating something quite simple, such as sweeping a room or peeling a particular fruit, and then move onto more complex activities such as making roti, cooking a particular dish or fixing a bicycle puncture, or even doing the food test demonstration. Try to do the demonstration in front of a small audience, such as members of your family.
  2. Collect together the tools and materials that you will need.
  3. Talking out loud, explain what you plan to do and the intended learning outcomes.
  4. Start by asking some initial questions to ascertain what your audience – imaginary or real – already knows about the process.
  5. Give the demonstration, providing explanations as required, asking questions to check their comprehension and mentioning any precautions as necessary.
  6. End the demonstration by briefly recapping the main points or inviting your audience to provide these.
  7. Finally, ask for feedback if it is available. List the ways in which your demonstration went well and what you could have improved.

Having tried a demonstration in a safe environment, it is now time for you to teach your lesson.

Activity 3: Using demonstration in your teaching

You are now going to teach your lesson with your class.

On the day of the lesson, check that you have all of the equipment and materials you will need. You could prepare the chemicals beforehand if necessary to save time.

Introduce the topic, relating it to what has been covered previously and establishing the students’ prior knowledge of the subject by asking them questions. Explain the purpose of the demonstration to the class.

As you conduct the demonstration, explain any key points, check that they understand and encourage your students to ask you questions. Involve them in POE, where relevant.

After completing the demonstration, think about and make notes on the following questions:

  • How much planning time did you need to prepare the demonstration? How does this compare with your other lessons, such as those whose content is based primarily on the textbook?
  • Did you find practising the demonstration useful? How practical is this for you?
  • What went well with your demonstration?
  • How did the students respond to your demonstration?
  • What do you think your students learned from the demonstration? How do you know this?

What could have been improved? How would change it?

Demonstration is a strategy that can be used in the teaching of many science topics and in many contexts. Demonstrations can be used with all ages of student, from very young children to adults. The Predict-Observe-Explain technique is particularly useful when you are teaching challenging concepts such as forces, electricity, photosynthesis or pressure. By using demonstrating and POE, you can find out what ideas your students already have about these science concepts and provide an experience that will extend or challenge the non-scientific ideas they may have.

2 Students’ engagement and learning