Introduction to Demonstration-Lecture

Demonstration-lecture is one of the Four Studio Structures described in Studio Thinking 3: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (2022). The Four Studio Structures are what the authors observed in visual arts classrooms when they sought to better understand what happens in a studio classroom. The structures are how they saw teachers organize their studio space, timing, and interactions in the classroom to nurture studio habits of mind (see previous chapter “The Studio Structures and Habits of Mind.”)

The demonstration-lecture structure of a studio classroom provides background knowledge and context for the art form or for the selected project. The teacher delivers necessary information regarding the problem or project to be addressed; describes and defines the requisite skills, processes, and tools that students will use; and, furnishes examples of work (either by professionals or by other students) that could inform the way students approach their work. Questioning strategies, anecdotes, and connections to prior learning experiences to extend understanding are also part of demonstration-lecture.  

Demonstration-lecture can introduce a project or be used to answer authentic questions as they arrive, providing a scaffold to propel the work as students create. It is essential that students know how to use the space and materials safely before they can begin. Early in the year, this type of instruction often comes first. As student skill and confidence grows, it might occur at the beginning of a project or lesson or be threaded throughout the art making as students navigate choices and more need information. 

The authors of Studio Thinking describe demonstration-lecture:

In the studio classroom, arts educators don't need to spend a lot of time providing direct instruction and presenting what to do or how to do it. They give just enough time to provide structure and support; a little goes a long way, especially if your hope is for students to take ownership, exercise their own creative choices, and assume the risk of exploration and experimentation.

Demontration-lecture and Lecture-demonstration

Demonstration-lecture should not be confused with the term "lecture-demonstration," which is a type of presentation or performance meant to inform a formal audience. Student work or performances can be accompanied with  narration to provide the audience with an explanation or “lecture” alongside the presentation.

Professional artists frequently use this same format in schools. See a list of arts organizations providing lecture-demonstrations in schools throughout the state of Utah at

Demonstration-Lecture in Dance

In dance, demonstration-lecture is often threaded throughout the session as the teacher provides content and information for movement problems to be explored when the students are at work. This is when background information is shared to help students build skill and refine their technique in the classroom activities that follow. 

The "demonstration" portion of demonstration-lecture includes modeling the desired movement or movement quality described by the verbal instruction. In dance instruction this strategy is referred to as "modeling.” A teacher might perform the series of movements assigned for students to replicate or model the energy quality they would like to see in the student's performance. When a teacher dances for or alongside their students they can inspire further creative exploration and boost student's motivation to explore movement with more energy and originality. Modeling can also be provided by selected students or videos. 

Demonstration-lecture in dance does not always propel students to work on choreography, improvisation, technique, or performance. Demonstration-lecture could probe learners to question dance works, analyze the role of dance throughout history, and appreciate the purpose for cultural and folk-dance forms.


Video Case of Demonstration-Lecture with Math

Kelleen Leslie, a fourth-grade teacher in Utah, leverages the studio learning structure of "Demonstration-Lecture." She reviews geometric terms and provides the students with giant rubber bands and verbal instructions on what geometric vocabulary word to creatively express.

Photo by Samuel Jake

Demonstration-Lecture in Drama

Generally, the initial experiences in a drama lesson are meant to help students authentically explore and discover the lesson objectives for themselves. The instruction the teacher gives related to the objective of that experience, whether before or after the experience, is the Demonstration-Lecture that either solidifies the ideas students discovered in their experience or propels them to explore in their next drama experience where the described drama concepts and skills can be practiced while the students are working. The demonstration-lecture also can convey the background information students need to connect to the historical or cultural significance of the piece they are exploring. 

Of course, students will need to receive directions from the teacher in order to participate in the initial drama experiences, but giving directions is different from the direct instruction or demonstration-lecture that follows these experiences. The demonstration-lecture clarifies and makes connections to the learning objectives that have been set for the lesson, not just setting parameters for the class activity or behavioral expectations. For example, while giving instructions would include inviting students to find three gestures for their character, the demonstration-lecture would further explain the purpose of gesture and strategies for improving gestural choices.


Video Case of Demonstration-Lecture with Process Drama

Watch the beginning of this video clip to see Evelyn, a drama teacher in New Zealand, set-up a process drama with a quick demonstration-lecture (watch from 1:58 - 3:28)        8 

Photo by Samuel Jake

Demonstration-Lecture in Media Arts

As in dance, demonstration-lectures in film and media arts are often threaded throughout the process of creating a finished work. One discrete session could have several demonstration-lectures, or one demonstration-lecture could generate exploration of a concept or topic for several sessions.


Demonstration-Lecture in Music

Demonstration-lecture in a music class often includes giving instructions for students-at-work activities that include singing, playing, listening, moving, creating/composing, reading, and writing music. Often the demonstration-lecture structure is interactive as students are encouraged to use active listening or participation as a teacher models, performs, or plays music. In music class, demonstration-lecture and students-at work structures usually switch back and forth throughout the entire time.    

During demonstration-lecture, the teacher is making concepts conscious, actively engaging students in developing their understanding of what is being shown and giving a framework for music-making activities. As soon as the students begin the process of making music it moves from the demonstration-lecture structure to the students-at-work structure.

Specific examples of demonstration-lecture found in music classrooms might include modeling singing versus speaking, naming specific musical elements found in the music, showing how to play a new singing game, giving initial experiences with part singing by singing something different from the students, modeling conducting techniques, and so on.  These demonstration-lectures offer just enough information to get students launched into making music themselves.


Video Cases of Demonstration-Lecture with Music

Watch Molly, a music teacher at J and C Academy in England, as she provides a demonstration-lecture for her students before they practice performing the difference between beat and rhythm (watch from 1:52-2:52)[a].

In this video Emily Soderborg and Brenda Whitehorse prepare an auditorium of educators to sing Shí Naashá through demonstration-lecture (start at 1:02)

Photo by Samuel Jake

Demonstration-Lecture in Visual Arts

As noted above, demonstration-lectures as part of visual arts curricula seem pretty clear-cut: the requisite skills, processes, and tools relevant to the project/problem at hand are demonstrated; models of similar work are explored; and often, the teacher/mentor provides a brief overview of how/where/when similar works occur in the visual arts canon, and by whom.


Video Cases of Demonstration-Lecture with Literary Arts and Visual Arts

In this video Cassie Stephens, elementary arts educator in Tennessee, demonstrates how she uses a poem, “Larry the Line,” to engage students as they are introduced to the concept of line (start at 1:21).

 Teaching Art: Line

And here she is again, dressed as a ninja turtle with a sequin bow in her hair, introducing kindergarteners to self-portraits, portraits, and Van Gogh (start at 3:10): Art Teacherin' 101: Episode 23 KINDERGARTENLAND 

Dem-Lec Visual

Photo by James Huston

Read about the other three Studio Structures for Learning:

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