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Interactive Lecture Demonstrations

This approach is equally viable for demonstrations done in lecture as it is for teaching labs. The basic idea is to use demonstrations to elicit student ideas and then guide the students to modify these ideas by discussing them with peers and by observing data. The procedure consists of eight steps:

  1. Describe: The instructor describes the demonstration and does it for the class without measurements displayed.
  2. Predict initial: The students are asked to record their individual predictions on a Prediction Sheet, which is collected and identified by students’ names (the students are assured that these predictions are not graded, although they are typically given some small course credit for handing them in).
  3. Discuss: The students engage in small group discussions (2-3 student groups).
  4. Elicit ideas: The instructor elicits common student predictions from the whole class.
    • The instructor may also discuss certain student predictions from the prediction sheets collected.
  5. Predict final: The instructor asks students to record their final predictions on the Prediction Sheet.
  6. Perform: The instructor performs the demonstration with measurements (typically graphs) displayed.
  7. Describe and discuss results: Students describe the results and discuss them in the context of the demonstration. They may fill out a Results Sheet, identical to the Prediction Sheet which they can take home for further study.
  8. Make analogies: Students or the instructor discuss analogous physical situation(s) with different “surface” features, i.e., different physical situations based on the same concept(s).
The important aspects of this pedagogical approach which help improve student learning are the following:
  • In step 2, students’ predictions are collected because this creates an incentive for students to provide thoughtful predictions. This in turn, helps animate the student discussions in step 3.
  • In step 4, it is very important that the instructor does not comment on the correctness of any predictions. The purpose of this step is to make students aware of all the different possibilities and ideas that should be considered in order to validate the different ideas and help students consider predictions that they may have not thought about.
  • In steps 7 and 8, the instructor’s task is to guide students to give the correct answers. The instructor therefore has a definite agenda and often must be clever his/her approach of guiding the discussion. Lecturing should be avoided as much as possible as the source of knowledge should be the experimental results rather than the instructor. At times, the instructor may need to fill in some gaps.
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