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Instructional Model

"5 E's" instructional model

The Voyages Through Time (VTT) curriculum uses the "5 E's" instructional model developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) [Bybee, R. W. (Ed.). National Standards and the Science Curriculum: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt Publishers, 1966]. This guided inquiry approach involves students in actively developing their understanding of concepts or skills with the teacher acting as the instructional director.

The "5 E's" instructional model involves specified sequence of phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. Each phase has a particular purpose. The nature of the instructional task during each phase can and does vary from activity to activity, but the purpose of each phase remains the same.

The "5 E's" provides the framework for the VTT activities. In some VTT activities, the "5 E's" sequence plays out across two, fifty-minute classes, and there will be an additional "engage" for the second class. There are also a few activities that have a double explore-explain, such that the sequence is engage-explore-explain-explore-explain-elaborate-evaluate.


This phase initiates an activity. Its primary purpose is to introduce students to the concept, process, or skill that will be explored. The engage phase often involves one or more of the following, as well: making connections with prior instruction, anticipating the upcoming tasks, identifying learning objectives, and/or clarifying students' current ideas and skills.

Clarifying students' current ideas and skills may involve reminding them of or reviewing with them prerequisites necessary for the upcoming tasks. In some instances, it may involve making both the teacher and the students aware of potential alternative conceptions (a.k.a., misconceptions). Such conceptions are not corrected at this point; the exploration and explanation phases are designed to challenge alternative conceptions. It is important to bring these conceptions to the forefront so that they can be re-examined in light of new information developed during the exploration phase.


This phase provides students with a common base of experiences with natural phenomena. These experiences may involve observations of events or objects, manipulations of materials, work with simulations, examinations of representations, viewing a short video, or reading about a scientist's work. These experiences provide a common basis for all students that the teacher can use to assist them in identifying and developing concepts and skills. Students make records of their experiences during the explore phase and sometimes answer questions about them, although these do not go beyond initial analyses.


At the beginning of this phase in the instructional model, students are provided with opportunity to verbalize their understanding of their experiences from the explore phase. The questions and discussion lead students to patterns, regularities, and/or similarities and prompt them to describe concepts or skills in their own words. This largely student-directed portion of the explain phase may occur in small groups or as a whole class. The teacher then introduces a label or term and provides a formal definition or description for the concept or skill.


The next phase challenges students to extend their understandings or skills and/or to practice them. Through new experiences at this time, students develop deeper understanding, an extended conceptual framework, and/or improved skills. Some of the tasks, such as reading an article, may be done as homework and discussed during the following class period.


The final phase of the instructional model encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities and provides opportunity for the teacher to evaluate student progress toward achieving the learning objectives for the activity. The tasks may involve writing summaries, applying concepts and/or skills to novel situations, constructing a concept map, or taking a quiz. Some evaluate tasks are done as homework.

Group work in VTT

When students are not engaged in whole class tasks, teachers are usually directed to have them work in pairs or small groups of three or four. The VTT curriculum uses this organizational approach, rather than having students work independently, for two reasons. The first, practical reason is to reduce the amount of materials and equipment needed. The second, and more important reason, is to encourage students to talk with each other. Talking out loud about what one is observing and doing promotes attention to the task and its salient characteristics. Talking through the meaning of what one has seen requires putting one's ideas into words that can be understood by someone else. This promotes more careful reasoning and clarity of expression.

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Voyages Through Time is an integrated high school science curriculum for ninth or tenth grade based on the theme of evolution and delivered on CD-ROM.