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5E Model of Instruction

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The information in this evidence-based practice is adapted from BSCS and Rodger Bybee.

“The 5E Model of Instruction includes five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. It provides a carefully planned sequence of instruction that places students at the center of learning. It encourages all students to explore, construct understanding of scientific concepts, and relate those understandings to phenomena or engineering problems.” –Rodger Bybee

Key Ideas

  • Teachers use the 5E Model of Instruction to sequence lessons and activities which provide best first instruction for all students. Through this process they emphasize opportunities to personalize learning.
  • In each phase of the 5E Model of Instruction, teachers carefully consider how the evidence collected or information obtained builds student understanding of a phenomenon or a solution to a design problem.
  • The optimal use of the 5E Model is a learning sequence of two to three weeks where each phase is used as the basis for one or more lessons.
  • Using the 5E Model as the basis for a single lesson reduces the effectiveness of individual phases due to the shortening of the time and opportunities for meaningful and deep learning across a learning sequence.
  • According to research, there is the greatest impact on learning when phases are not omitted or their position shifted (e.g., Explain before Explore).
  • Phases can be repeated or looped as needed to create time or experiences to learn a concept or develop an ability (e.g., Engage, Explore, Explain, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate).
  • Activities in a 5E learning sequence should be designed to integrate the Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.
Elaborate, engage, explore, explain, evaluate

“The 5E Model of Instruction promotes active learning. Students are involved in more than listening and reading. They learn to ask questions, observe, model, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, argue from evidence, and talk about their own understanding. Students work collaboratively with peers to construct explanations, solve problems, and plan and carry out investigations.” –Rodger Bybee



The first phase of the 5E Model engages students by having them mentally focus on a phenomenon, object, problem, situation, or event. The activities in the Engage phase are designed to help students make connections between past and present learning experiences, expose prior conceptions, and organize thinking toward the essential questions and learning outcomes of the learning sequence.

The role of the teacher in the Engage phase is to present a situation, identify the instructional task, and set the rules and procedures for the activities. The teacher also structures initial discussions to reveal the range of ideas, experiences, and language that students use which become resources for upcoming lessons.

Student Behaviors

  • Asks questions such as, “Why did this happen?” “What do I already know about this?” “What can I find out about this?” “How can this problem be solved?”
  • Shows interest in the topic through curiosity and expression of wonderings
  • Demonstrates engagement by expressing ideas, sharing observations, and creating initial models
  • Expresses current understanding of a concept or idea

Teaching Strategies

  • Raises questions or poses problems
  • Elicits responses that uncover students’ current knowledge
  • Helps students make connections to previous work
  • Posts learning outcomes and explicitly references them in the lesson
  • Invites students to express what they think
  • Invites students to raise their own questions




Once students have engaged in activities, they need time to explore ideas. Explore activities are designed so all students have common, concrete experiences which can be used later when formally introducing and discussing scientific and technological concepts and explanations. Students have time to investigate objects, events, or situations. As a result of their mental and physical involvement in these activities, students question events, observe patterns, identify and test variables, and establish causal relationships.

The teacher’s role in the Explore phase is to facilitate learning. They initiate activities and allow time and opportunity for students to investigate objects, materials, and situations. The teacher coaches and guides students as they record and analyze observations or data and begin constructing models or initial explanations.

Student Behaviors

  • Tests predictions and hypotheses; Forms new predictions and hypotheses
  • Discusses problems with others
  • Plans and conducts investigations in which they observe, describe, and record data
  • Tries different ways to solve a problem or answer a question
  • Creates initial models
  • Compares ideas with those of others

Teaching Strategies

  • Provides or clarifies questions or problems
  • Provides common experiences
  • Observes and listens to students as they interact
  • Acts as a consultant for students
  • Encourages student-to-student interaction
  • Asks probing questions to help students make sense of their experiences and redirect them when necessary
  • Provides time for students to puzzle through problems




The Explain phase consists of two parts. First, the teacher asks students to share their initial models and explanations from experiences in the Engage and Explore phases. Second, the teacher provides resources and information to support student learning and introduces scientific or technological concepts. Students use these resources and information, as well as ideas of other students, to construct or revise their evidence-based models and explanations. In engineering, students design solutions to problems based on established criteria.

Student Behaviors

  • Shows models, explanations, answers, or possible solutions, to other students
  • Listens critically to and questions explanations offered by others
  • Explains using evidence from investigations
  • Uses labels, terminology, and formal scientific language
  • Compares current thinking with former thinking
  • Records ideas and current understanding
  • Adjusts ideas, models, and explanations as new evidence or reasoning is presented

Teaching Strategies

  • Encourages students to explain concepts and definitions in their own words
  • Asks for justification (evidence) and clarification from students
  • Formally provides definitions, explanations, and information through mini-lecture, text, internet, or other resources
  • Builds on student explanations
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with others and if desired revise their ideas




Once students have constructed explanations of a phenomenon or design solutions for a problem, it is important to involve them in further experiences that apply, extend, or elaborate the concepts, processes, or skills they are learning. Some students may still have misconceptions, or they may only understand a concept in terms of the exploratory experience. Elaborate activities provide time for students to apply their understanding of concepts and skills. They might apply their understanding to similar phenomena or problems.

Student Behaviors

  • Applies new labels, definitions, explanations, and skills in new, but similar, situations
  • Uses previous information to ask questions, propose solutions, make decisions, design experiments, or complete a challenge
  • Draws reasonable conclusions from evidence
  • Critiques the models, explanations, or arguments made by others using evidence and reasoning
  • Makes conceptual connections between new and previous experiences
  • Communicates understanding to others

Teaching Strategies

  • Expects students to use vocabulary, definitions, and explanations provided previously in new contexts
  • Encourages students to apply the concepts and skills in new situations
  • Provides additional evidence, explanations, or reasoning
  • Reinforces students’ use of scientific terms and descriptions previously introduced
  • Asks questions that help students draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data




It is important that students receive feedback on the quality of their explanations. Informally, this may happen throughout the learning sequence. Formally, the teacher can also administer a summative evaluation at the end of the learning sequence. The Evaluate phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities and allows teachers to evaluate individual student progress toward achieving learning goals and outcomes.

Student Behaviors

  • Gives feedback to other students
  • Evaluates progress or knowledge
  • Checks work with a rubric or against established criteria
  • Assesses progress by comparing current understanding with prior knowledge
  • Asks additional questions that go deeper into a concept or leads to additional learning
  • Demonstrates understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices
  • Answers open-ended questions by using observations, evidence, and previously accepted explanations

Teaching Strategies

  • Asks open-ended questions such as, “Why do you think…?” “What evidence do you have?” “How would you answer the question?”
  • Observes and records notes as students demonstrate individual understanding of concepts learned and performance of skills
  • Uses a variety of assessments to gather evidence of student understanding
  • Provides opportunities for students to assess their own progress



Sample Template for Developing 5E Learning Sequences

Prior to building a 5E learning sequence, teachers should consider learning goals and outcomes, select the phenomenon/problem, and identify the essential question(s) that will drive learning. The “Planning for Engagement with Big Ideas” tool can be used to help with this initial work.

5E Model Template


Evaluating a 5E Learning Sequence

Carefully evaluate a 5E learning sequence to ensure the three dimensions are integrated and related to the phenomenon or problem by answering the following questions:

  1. How does the 5E instructional sequence provide students the opportunity to explore, investigate, and explain the phenomenon or identify the design solution to a problem?
  2. How does the learning sequence help students demonstrate their understanding of the learning goals and outcomes?
  3. How does the 5E learning sequence ask for students to demonstrate the use of the Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts to explain a phenomenon or design solution using Disciplinary Core Ideas?
  4. How does the 5E learning sequence ensure access to learning for all students through universal design and best first instruction?