To be honest, demonstration is not the easiest teaching strategy about which to blog. While there are many teaching strategies currently focused on today, demonstration, sadly, is not one of these. However, I believe that while it should not be used exclusively, using demonstration in instruction can have a lot of benefits.
In my past few blog posts, I gave some ideas about how to use demonstration as a school media specialist. As I was reading my fellow classmates’ blog posts, I was particularly inspired after reading some written by my fellow school media classmate, Kyra, on flipped classrooms. While reflecting on flipped classrooms and many of the things that I learned in my IST 611 course, Information Technologies in Educational Organizations, I began to think about how video-recorded demonstrations could be used in a flipped classroom to explain background content that students would need to know prior to participating in class. In this way, demonstrations can be an excellent means of sharing content and preparing students to participate more fully in a lesson. Additionally, if students did not understand parts or all of a demonstration, having a video demo nstration allows them to watch it multiple times in order to gain a more full understanding or develop questions to ask the school librarian.
When examining a teaching strategy, it is important to consider how that strategy relates to best practices in education. One concept that is being heavily discussed in education, especially the area of school media, is inquiry learning, in particular the contributions of Barbara Stripling and her Stripling Model of Inquiry (see below).
However, when the word “demonstration” comes to mind, it often is associated with the very hands-off lecture-style traditional model of teaching. At times, benefits of demonstrations are overshadowed the negative connotations associated with this style. While demonstration is typically viewed as a “hands-off” approach to teaching, there can be some real benefits in using demonstration as a part (but not all) of lessons.
One of the courses I took as a requirement for my undergraduate degree in Education focused on inquiry learning in the realm of science curriculum. In the course, demonstration was a HUGE component. In fact, everyone in the class had to come up with a short, engaging demonstration and explain how it could be used in the beginning of a lesson. Our professor explained how using a demonstration at the beginning of a lesson could be an excellent anticipatory set, and that it could help capture the attention of students. When connecting this idea to Barbara Stripling’s model, I am reminded of the “wonder” phase, where children develop questions and hypotheses. An exciting demonstration could be very effective in engaging students.
One teaching strategy often seen in the fields of science and technology is that of demonstration. One of the most common ways to use demonstration as a teaching strategy is for procedural learning. Eley and Norton (2004) have studied procedural learning (as opposed to declarative learning—the learning of facts). They identified three steps to learning a procedure:
(1) Construction of a representation of the to-be-learned procedure
(2) Representational transition
For this first stage of procedural learning, Eley and Norton (2004) state that teacher plays a critical role as learning a procedure without having a model can be particularly challenging.
When I think of demonstrations in the context of our school media curriculum, I am reminded of the “mini lesson” or “direct instruction” components of the lesson plan. During this portion of the lesson, the school librarian might use demonstration as a teaching technique. The host librarian for my elementary fieldwork shared with me that a good amount of her instructional time is spent teaching procedures for learning how to use technology and Web 2.0 tools. Therefore, knowledge of the best ways to teach procedural learning is a key understanding that all school media students should have. While demonstration should not be the only form of instruction (for example, guided practice, I feel, is equally important), it is important to acknowledge that demonstration can and should be used as teaching strategy.
Eley, M. C. & Norton, P. (2004). The structuring of initial descriptions or demonstrations in the teaching of procedures. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 35(6), pp. 843-866.
As was discussed in my other blog posts, one of the central focuses of Piaget’s theory is that children construct their own knowledge through interacting with their environments (child-centered approach). His work has strong parallels to current focus in education on inquiry-based learning. When examining Piaget’s work through the lens of a school library media specialist, it is helpful to use Stripling’s Model of Inquiry as analysis aid.
As one can see, the first step in this inquiry model is when students Connect. During this phase, students gain background context and connect information to themselves and their previous knowledge. Piaget would say that students are assimilating and accommodating information to related schemas during this stage.
Wonder and Investigate
When students wonder, the develop questions and make predictions based on the information they have been provided, and they then use this information to investigate. As I stated in my first blog, Piaget believed that curiosity was a key motivator for learning. During this stage of inquiry, Piaget would advocate for the use of real-world problems to help motivate students.
During the Construct phase, students connect new knowledge to previous knowledge and draw conclusions about the predictions they wondered about and investigated. Piaget would have said that students initially experienced disequilibrium (state of dissonance when new information did not integrate with the existing schema), but equilibration led to the integration this new knowledge through accommodation.
Express and Reflect
While there are not as many strong parallels to Piaget’s work in these stages of inquiry, it could be said that these phases represent the assimilation of new knowledge.
In addition to developing the four stages of cognitive development, through his observations of his own three children, Piaget developed several concepts as a part of his cognitive learning theory.
One of these concepts is that of “schema.” According to the International Centre for Educators’ Learning Styles (2014), “A schema can be thought of as a unit of knowledge, relating to one aspect of the world including objects, actions, and abstract (theoretical) concepts.” Essentially, a schema consists of an individual’s interpretations of the world based on knowledge and experiences. Piaget believed that as children gained new knowledge, new schemas were created and/or existing schemas were modified.
The Four Processes
Related to the concept of schema is that of the four processes. These processes include: assimilation, accommodation, disequilibrium, and equilibration. The International Centre for Educators’ Learning Styles (2014) provides some clear definitions for each of these processes:
Assimilation: the process of taking in new information and fitting it into a preconceived notion about the world
Accommodation: the process of adjusting to new experiences or objects by revising the old plan to fit new information
Disequilibrium: a state of confusion, dissonance, or discomfort when new information does not integrate with existing structures. This confusion motivates us to achieve the new challenge and restore balance between assimilation and accommodation, which when achieved, is equilibration.
Equilibration: the balance between the processes of assimilation and accommodation. It is the force that drives the learning process to restore balance by mastering the challenge (information) presented.
Example of assimilation. A child sees a man with a long white beard and says, “Santa Santa!”
Example of accommodation. The child’s father explains that not all men with white beards are Santa Clause; Santa Clause has a special outfit that he wears, too.
International Centre for Educators’ Learning Styles. (2014). Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. Retrieved from http://www.icels-educators-for-learning.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=61
This week in class, we were asked to come up with a mnemonic device and share it with the class. I seriously wracked my brain trying to think of something—it was pretty difficult. I have often used mnemonic devices when studying, but I feel like the things that I make up usually don’t make sense to other people (but they certainly help me!).
Here’s a mnemonic device I created to help students when they are preparing to do homework. I thought that this could be used when teaching upper elementary students study stills.
Distractions: Eliminate distractions that may make it difficult to work.
Organize: Organize to make sure you have all materials needed.
Niche: Find a comfortable space where you can focus.
Expectations: Make sure you understand your teacher’s expectations before you start.
While I don’t know if it necessarily related directly to inquiry, it is certainly necessary when doing research and work.
Jean Piaget, one of the foremost educational theorists, was a Swiss epistemologist who lived in the early part of the 20th century. Piaget’s background was in science, and he earned a doctorate in biology. While standardizing intelligence tests for Alfred Binet, Piaget developed an interest in how children learn, particularly in how children create knowledge and how thought processes change as children age. As a result, Piaget developed a theory of cognitive development that has been used extensively in educational theory and practice (Mooney, 2000, pp. 59-61).
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
According to Piaget, people go through four consecutive stages of cognitive development (see table below). While Piaget believed that children develop at different rates, there are certain ages that are associated with each stage.
To learn more about these stages, check out this YouTube video by Texas A&M University’s Dr. Waller.
Piaget on Teaching and Learning
Piaget believed that children construct their own knowledge; this knowledge construction, he believed, is best done when children interact with their environments (as opposed to simply hearing about it) (Mooney, 2000, pp. 61-62). He also believed that curiosity was a key motivator for learning, and that, as much as possible, teachers should provide their students with real-world problems and experiences (p. 62, pp. 75-76). Lastly, Piaget believed that children should be provided large periods of free time to play and explore, and he encouraged open-ended questioning and activities (pp. 74-77).
Citation: Mooney, C. G. (2000). Theories of early childhood: An introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget, and Vygotsky. St. Paul, MN: RedLeaf Press.