The demonstration method of teaching has in the past been criticized for its perceived inability to develop scientific knowledge despite the time and effort required. The challenge identified with the use of demonstration is its inability to create the relevant knowledge in students, basically because students only get situational interest that diminishes soon after. This paper expounds on this and other challenges such as time, resources, and safety. Instructors are the main determiners for the success of a demonstration. Stella Alder (2000) points out that “on stage you cannot afford to be boring for even a moment” (Stella, 2000). Adequate preparation and understanding of the content and procedures minimize the risks, including instances where the demonstration fails to produce the expected results. Also, science demonstrations must be from captivating subjects, and must be presented with enthusiasm. Technology is increasingly becoming an integral element of modern education. Therefore, demonstrations need to tap this potential through the use of media such as Steve Spangler’s YouTube videos that are viewed online by over 100 million people (Ford, 2012). Resources are an integral element of any experiment/demonstration. Some experiments are easier to deliver because they only need readily-available resources such as chalk dust, furniture, water, or sunlight. Such demonstrations are important to prepare students for more complex experiments that require not easily available resources such as chemical elements and solutions (Kumar, Krishna, and Bhaskara, 2004). Therefore, demonstrations/experiments may be criticized for their inability to effectively deliver content but the challenge can be overcome by using the proposed strategies.
In teaching science subjects like chemistry, educators often have varying opinions over the best methods to use to maximize the attention of the students. The use of demonstrations is popular in the lower levels of learning. However, its use has been criticized in advanced classes because it is generally considered to be ineffective in the development of scientific knowledge (Lutz, 2015). Although demonstrations are efficient due to their practical nature, they often fail to work out as expected due to the challenges of setting up and delivering them effectively. Other concerned parties believe that some demonstrations require a lot of time and resources, only to transmit insignificant content (O’brien, 2011). The main task is for the instructor to incorporate as much content to a single demonstration so as to make the activity as productive and interesting as possible. However, the same cannot be said for simple demonstrations such as where students observe the characteristic behavior of elements, such as sodium which reacts explosively if put in water.
The criticism surrounding demonstrations can be addressed through strategies that maximize their effectiveness in creating student’s interest and knowledge while minimizing challenges of time and resources. The solution also lies in the adoption of newer avenues that modern-day students can relate. In the technological age students identify with demonstrations through the media such as the Steve Spangler’s YouTube videos that have over 100 million views (Ford, 2012). Therefore, such new avenues and technologies can be applied to increase the students’ attention in a classroom setting. Also, demonstrations need to be made in such a way that they are not too for-the-moment. For-the-moment demonstrations only spark situational interest in the student and are forgotten soon after they leave the classroom. Stella Alder (2000) advises that a demonstration is most effective if it emotionally engages the student. In her words, “on stage you cannot afford to be boring for even a moment” (Stella, 2000). Therefore, science demonstrations must also be from captivating subjects, and must be communicated with enthusiasm.
Educators have in the past attempted to create curiosity among students through practical demonstrations. In science subjects such as chemistry, a common challenge affecting this method is the lack of time and equipment (Kelter, Mosher, and Scott, 2008). Another common challenge is the fear that the demonstration may fail to produce the expected results, and in this case it may affect the knowledge of the student in the subject matter (Ford, 2012). However, these two challenges can be overcome through the use of simple demonstrations that do not take a lot of time, and that the teacher is confident in their success.
Resources are an integral element of any experiment/demonstration. Some experiments only require resources that are readily available such as chalk dust, water, tables, or sunlight (O’brien, 2011). These easily available resources make it easy to demonstrate simple concepts that can be difficult to grasp for some students. Furthermore, these simple demonstrations prepare students for more complex experiments thereby increasing the interest of students in the subjects.
Some experiments require resources that are not easily available such as chemical elements and solutions. For such experiments, the instructor needs to have technical knowledge and prior testing to maximize results (Ford, 2012). Preparation for the demonstration requires the instructor to also take time to collect the resource and set up the experiment. This way, challenges in the demonstration are minimized.