Effective In-Class Demonstrations

A Simple Step To Maximize Learning

What are they?

Classroom demonstrations are a staple in many classrooms (especially in science and engineering disciplines). Further, students rate demonstrations as being one of their favorite types of classroom activities. However, discipline-based education research indicates that this teaching practice has intricacies that dramatically impact its effectiveness on student learning.

What’s the evidence?

Students who passively view a demonstration do not show a statistically greater understanding of the underlying concept compared to students who didn’t see the demonstration (Crouch et al., 2004). In one study, about 40% of them didn’t even remember the correct outcome of the demonstration the next day (Miller et al., 2013). Activities that engage and motivate students (as described below and in our upcoming workshop) are necessary additions that turn demonstrations into effective learning tools.



Just asking students to predict the outcome of a demonstration before observing it has a dramatic impact on their likelihood of remembering the correct outcome and being able to explain the underlying concept (Crouch et al., 2004; Miller et al., 2013). Have your students write down their predictions or submit them using a classroom response system.



Crouch, C., Fagan, A.P., Callan, J.P., Mazur, E. (2004). Classroom demonstrations: Learning tools or entertainment? American Journal of Physics, 72, 835.

Miller, K., Lasry, N., Chu, K., & Mazur, E. (2013). Role of physics lecture in classroom learning. Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 9, 3-5.