How To Use The 5Es Effectively – Teaching Strategies And Instructional Moves

The 5E instructional model helps teachers incorporate organic learning into their lessons. Because this is an instructional design model, the 5Es themselves are not taught to students (we have something else we use for students, which we will share with you in our next few posts). Here, we wrap up our series on the 5Es and share how you can use the 5Es effectively in your classroom.

The 5Es Do Not Replace the Scientific Method

For most of us, our initial exposure to science came in the form of the scientific method. This process was taught in a linear progression, where you moved specifically from one step to another while performing an experiment. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) phased out the scientific method because it is not authentic to how science and engineering are actually done — rather, science and engineering are dynamic nonlinear processes.

While we have encountered teachers who have taught the 5Es to their students, we want to clarify that the 5Es is not a replacement to the scientific method — it is simply an instructional tool to help you plan your lessons by aligning them to how people naturally learn.

Although students generally start in the Engage phase, they will move in and out of each of the 5 phases throughout the learning process. If they discover a new concept while investigating something, they may dip back into the Engage phase. If they are trying to explain a part of their investigation to a peer, they may be in the Elaborate phase for a few minutes. Our goal is to help them move through all 5 phases so they get a complete and nuanced understanding of the new concept they are exploring.

Effective Strategies For Using the 5Es

Ask Open-Ended Questions – Guidance Instead Of Direct Instruction

As students are exploring new concepts, you can use open-ended to provoke further learning or deeper learning.  Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, for example, questions like:

  • How do you think that works?
  • Why did that happen?
  • Where are you confused?
  • What did you notice?

Open ended questions work as a formative assessment to help you see where students may be confused or need additional support. Although it takes time and effort to incorporate these questions at the beginning, this questioning technique becomes easier as you repeatedly incorporate it into the lesson.

Give Students Time And Space To Learn

Learning takes time. In general, people need time and focused moments to reflect, think about, and incorporate new topics into their existing knowledge.  Plan enough time in your lessons for students to reflect and think on what they have learned.

You should also revisit topics later in the week to help students remember and process new understandings.  We know that teachers are under a lot of pressure to get through subjects quickly and that it may be tempting to move through lessons without allowing time to process. However, this additional time helps your students make deeper, conceptual understandings of the topics you teach.  

By teaching students in the ways that they naturally learn, you are helping your students build a more intrinsic and internally motivated love for learning.  Peaking their natural curiosity and allowing them to explore concepts where they have some control over the experience can help build their confidence and encourage them to pursue further education in STEM subjects.

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