What Is The 5E Instructional Model? The 5E Instructional Model In A Nutshell

The 5E Instructional Model is a framework for improving teaching practices through discussion, observation, critique, and reflection. Teachers and students move through each phase linearly, but some may need to be repeated or cycled through several times to ensure effective learning. This is a form of inquiry-based learning where students are encouraged to discover information and formulate new insights themselves.

Understanding the 5E Instructional Model

At its core, the 5E Instructional Model helps students understand new concepts in the classroom through active participation. By understanding and then reflecting on certain activities, students are better able to reconcile new knowledge with existing ideas. 

The model is a form of inquiry-based learning, encouraging students to discover information for themselves instead of having the teacher reveal information directly.

It is based on research conducted by science educators J. Myron Atkin and Robert Karplus in 1962.

Both argued the inquiry-based approach was more valid in science teaching, which until that point had been dominated by the rote memorization of facts.

The inquiry based-approach is a multi-faceted approach incorporating:

  • The posing of questions and the planning of investigations.
  • The examination of books and other sources of information to understand what is already known.
  • The evaluation of known knowledge in light of experimental evidence.
  • The utilization of tools to analyze and interpret data, and
  • The formation or proposing of answers, explanations, predictions, and results.

The 5E Instructional Model framework

To assist the teacher and the student in learning, both must move through a framework of five phases. 

While the framework should be followed in a linear fashion, the teacher may need to move back and forth between phases to ensure students understand and retain knowledge. 

Each phase begins with the letter E:


First, the teacher must understand the level of prior knowledge students possesses on a certain topic.

Then, they must identify any knowledge gaps.

Perhaps most importantly, the teacher needs to foster an interest in filling these gaps by ensuring students are in the right frame of mind to learn.


This phase provides students with a learning experience where they hypothesize, investigate, question, test, or communicate with their peers.

The teacher must avoid giving direct instruction during this process. Students should be free to conceptualize and collaborate in an informal setting.


Then, students describe their understanding of a topic and pose questions stimulated by their learning in the previous phase.

They must be allowed to express their own ideas and explanations before the teacher introduces factual scientific information.

Any misconceptions are clarified with definitions, notes, labels, videos, software, or other relevant informative materials.


During the elaborative phase, students are given the space to apply what they have learned while reinforcing previous knowledge.

Ideally, knowledge is broadened and deepened through further investigation, product creation, technology integration, or the application of knowledge or skills to other disciplines. 


Traditional forms of assessment involve examinations that test rote learning. However, the 5E approach favors both formal and non-formal evaluation methods.

This may include a portfolio or performance-based assessment, concept maps, physical models, or journal logs. In some cases, the student may also be allowed to self-assess or be assessed by their peers.

Key takeaways

  • The 5E Instructional Model is a framework for teaching science in a classroom setting. It was developed by educators J. Myron Atkin and Robert Karplus to replace learning based on the rote memorization of facts.
  • The 5E Instructional Model is a form of inquiry-based learning where students are encouraged to discover information and formulate new insights themselves. For much of the process, the teacher takes on the role of facilitator or consultant.
  • The 5E Instructional Model is based on five phases: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Teachers and students move through each phase linearly, but some may need to be repeated or cycled through several times to ensure effective learning.

Connected Brainstorming Frameworks


Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.


Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail. 

Lotus Diagram

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Futures Wheel

The futures wheel was invented in 1971 by Jerome C. Glenn while he was studying at the Antioch Graduate School of Education.  The futures wheel is a brainstorming framework for visualizing the future consequences of a particular trend or event.

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