The BSCS 5E Model was developed in the late 1980s and built on the work of other educators, particularly the Karplus and Thier learning cycle. It approaches education from a constructivist perspective and is rooted in the works of John Dewey.
Constructivism is essentially a theory about how people learn. According to this theory, people construct their own understanding of the world through their experiences and reflections. It is the role of the teacher to help students construct accurate understandings.
The 5E Model is a framework created to help teachers design instructional sequences that guide students through the necessary steps toward the construction of new knowledge. The creators of the 5E Model wanted a framework that was easy to remember (thus the 5 E’s) and relatively self-explanatory — Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.
In this post, I will briefly introduce each stage. In subsequent posts, we will delve deeper into each stage, as well as some of the common misunderstandings about the model.
The purpose of the Engage stage is simply to catch the student’s attention. It may be a situation or event, a problem or puzzle, or an interesting demonstration. The Engage activity, which may or may not be a full lesson in length, is designed to pique student interest and get them thinking about relevant content. It can also be a great opportunity for teachers to assess prior knowledge and identify misconceptions.
In this phase, students are given the time and opportunity to “explore” their current understanding and demonstrate what they already know as they attempt to make sense of the Engage activity. Students are investigating phenomena, discussing their ideas, and beginning to formulate possible explanations. The teacher’s role in this stage is to provide the appropriate background information and materials for students to carry out the activity. Then, the teacher becomes a facilitator — listening, observing, and guiding students as they attempt to make sense of what they had observed.
In the Explain phase, the concepts introduced in Engage are made clear and understandable. At this phase, scientific vocabulary is applied and the explanations formulated in the Explore phase are refined. The teacher’s role is to guide students’ attention to key aspects and elicit their explanations. The goal is to guide students to construct an accurate understanding independently, but when that is not possible, the teacher should clearly and explicitly present the key concepts. This can be done verbally or through videos, readings, websites, or other technologies.
The goal of the Elaborate phase is for students to apply their understanding of the basic concepts to similar but new situations. The activities should be challenging but still within their reach. This can also be the stage where students independently practice and apply what they have learned.
In the Evaluate phase, students are engaging in activities that are consistent with those presented in prior phases but with the goal of assessing their explanations. As with all assessment, teachers should have a clear understanding of evidence of student learning and what to “look for” in student work.
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