Constructivism and the Five E's
| Engage | Explore | Elaborate | Evaluate | Navigate
Constructivism. The philosophy about learning,
that proposes learners need to build their own understanding
of new ideas, has been labeled constructivism. Much has been
researched and written by many eminent leaders in the fields
of learning theory and cognition. Scholars such as Jean Piaget,
Eleanor Duckworth, George Hein, and Howard Gardener have explored
these ideas in-depth. The Biological Science Curriculum Study
(BSCS), a team whose Principal Investigator is Roger Bybee developed
an instructional model for constructivism, called the "Five
Briefly, this learning approach as it relates to science can
be summarized as follows: Learning something new, or attempting
to understand something familiar in greater depth, is not a linear
process. In trying to make sense of things we use both our prior
experience and the first-hand knowledge gained from new explorations.
Initially, our curiosity about a science topic is stirred, as
we are stimulated by some intriguing phenomena, such as a rainbow,
we've noticed. We poke, probe, inquire about and explore this
phenomena until it becomes less mysterious. As we begin to investigate
new ideas we can put together bits and pieces of prior explorations
that seem to fit our understanding of the phenomena under present
investigation. In the case of the rainbow, for example, we may
realize that there is an association between sunlight and water
vapor. Piece by piece we build knowledge. Sometimes when the
pieces don't fit together, we must break down old ideas and reconstruct
them. (Following a rainbow to find a pot of gold doesn't work
easily!) We extend our conceptual understanding through discussions
and creative efforts. We validate our theories as we solve problems.
In our rainbow example, we may realize that if we position ourselves
properly, we can create a rainbow by spraying a water hose in
sunlight. The clarity we've gained in understanding a concept
gives us the ability to apply this understanding to new situations
and new mysteries. It is a continuous and a very individual process.
We bring to each learning experience our developmental level,
our personal story and our personal style.
It is up to the teacher to facilitate the constructivistic
learning process. The structure of the learning environment should
promote opportunities and events that encourage and support the
building of understanding.
We have used an adaptation of BSCS's model to introduce the
pH factor. Our instructional model is called the "Seven
Es". Investigations and activities are included under the
headings of each E. They are presented to be taught either in
sequence or independently, at the teacher's discretion. Each
investigation is designed to stand on its own and be introduced
when deemed appropriate.
A convenient format to view constructivism has been defined
by Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS). In this models
the process is explained by employing five "E"'s. They
are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.
Engage. In the stage Engage, the students
first encounter and identify the instructional task. Here they
make connections between past and present learning experiences,
lay the organizational ground work for the activities ahead and
stimulate their involvement in the anticipation of these activities.
Asking a question, defining a problem, showing a surprising event
and acting out a problematic situation are all ways to engage
the students and focus them on the instructional tasks. If we
were to make an analogy to the world of marketing a product,
at first we need to grab the customer's attention. We won't have
their attention unless they have a need to buy the product. They
may be unaware of a need, and in this case we are motivated to
create a need.
Explore. In the Exploration stage the students
have the opportunity to get directly involved with phenomena
and materials. Involving themselves in these activities they
develop a grounding of experience with the phenomenon. As they
work together in teams, students build a base of common experience
which assists them in the process of sharing and communicating.
The teacher acts as a facilitator, providing materials and guiding
the students' focus. The students' inquiry process drives the
instruction during an exploration.
Explain. The third stage, Explain, is the
point at which the learner begins to put the abstract experience
through which she/he has gone /into a communicable form. Language
provides motivation for sequencing events into a logical format.
Communication occurs between peers, the facilitator, or within
the learner himself. Working in groups, learners support each
other's understanding as they articulate their observations,
ideas, questions and hypotheses. Language provides a tool of
communicable labels. These labels, applied to elements of abstract
exploration, give the learner a means of sharing these explorations.
Explanations from the facilitator can provide names that correspond
to historical and standard language, for student findings and
events. For example a child, through her exploration, may state
they have noticed that a magnet has a tendency to "stick"
to a certain metallic object. The facilitator, in her discussion
with the child, might at this stage introduce terminology referring
to "an attracting force". Introducing labels, after
the child has had a direct experience, is far more meaningful
than before that experience. The experiential base she has built
offers the student an attachment place for the label. Common
language enhances the sharing and communication between facilitator
and students. The facilitator can determine levels of understanding
and possible misconceptions. Created works such as writing, drawing,
video, or tape recordings are communications that provide recorded
evidence of the learner's development, progress and growth.
Elaborate. In stage four, Elaborate, the
students expand on the concepts they have learned, make connections
to other related concepts, and apply their understandings to
the world around them. For example, while exploring light phenomena,
a learner constructs an understanding of the path light travels
through space. Examining a lamp post, she may notice that the
shadow of the post changes its location as the day grows later.
This observation can lead to further inquiry as to possible connections
between the shadow's changing location and the changes in direction
of the light source, the Sun. Applications to real world events,
such as where to plant flowers so that they receive sunlight
most of the day, or how to prop up a beach umbrella for shade
from the Sun, are both extensions and applications of the concept
that light travels in a straight path. These connections often
lead to further inquiry and new understandings.
Evaluate. Evaluate, the fifth "E",
is an on-going diagnostic process that allows the teacher to
determine if the learner has attained understanding of concepts
and knowledge. Evaluation and assessment can occur at all points
along the continuum of the instructional process. Some of the
tools that assist in this diagnostic process are: rubrics (quantified
and prioritized outcome expectations) determined hand-in-hand
with the lesson design, teacher observation structured by checklists,
student interviews, portfolios designed with specific purposes,
project and problem-based learning products, and embedded assessments.
Concrete evidence of the learning proceed is most valuable in
communications between students, teachers, parents and administrators.
Displays of attainment and progress enhance understanding for
all parties involved in the educational process, and can become
jumping off points for further enrichment of the students' education.
These evidences of learning serve to guide the teacher in further
lesson planning and may signal the need for modification and
change of direction. For example, if a teacher perceives clear
evidence of misconception, then he/she can revisit the concept
to enhance clearer understanding. If the students show profound
interest in a branching direction of inquiry, the teacher can
consider refocusing the investigation to take advantage of this
high level of interest.
Viewing the evaluation process as a continuous one gives the
constructivistic philosophy a kind of cyclical structure. The
learning process is open-ended and open to change. There is an
on going loop where questions lead to answers but more questions
and instruction is driven by both predetermined lesson design
and the inquiry process.
[ Classroom Use | Why
the Seven E's | Constructivism and the Five E's ]
CLICK on one of the Seven
E's below to learn more about the rationale behind it.