In order to properly prepare students for mastery and meeting the NGSS performance expectations, we must change our perception of the 5Es from a linear process to an iterative spiral. As you will see, each phase now includes multiple Es each, linking together one to the next. When you reach the 5th stage, the cycle is not “complete,” but ready rather to inform a new iteration. The breakdown goes like this:
In nonfiction reading, students ENGAGE with complex real-world anchor phenomena as well as EXPLAIN different connections within the phenomena to demonstrate their conceptual understanding.
When we move to Socratic dialogue, students ENGAGE in critical and reflective group dialogue by making concept-concept, concept-self and concept-world connections. They then EXPLAIN how elements of anchor phenomena may be explored and perhaps explained scientifically. Teachers coach students to ELABORATE on their ideas to make additional connections, while students EVALUATE their ideas and the ideas of others with factual evidence as they move toward deeper understanding in the dialogue. Students then prepare to EXPLORE ideas that they identify as weak or lacking evidence.
Next it’s time for planning and carrying out investigations. In this phase, students ENGAGE with investigative phenomena that provide real-world contexts for what they will investigate, presenting a question to answer or problem to solve. They also EXPLORE the investigative phenomena, working independently or in teams, and EXPLAIN how they will investigate the phenomena and the kinds of data they will collect.
Afterwards, students have an opportunity to share their conclusions – the results from their investigation, experiment or engineering lab – to EXPLAIN the investigative phenomena scientifically by forming a conclusion, complete with a claim reasoned with evidence gathered during their investigation (both in writing and verbally).
Lastly, debriefing and transition are opportunities for students to ELABORATE on their conclusion, making connections back to the anchor phenomena and the big-picture questions the investigation addressed. Teachers EVALUATE student understanding, assessing for misconceptions before moving onto the next lesson.
As you can see, this is a much more dynamic process both in terms of how the 5Es get delivered as well as in terms of how they interact with the curriculum and the learning environment. Throughout the year, the teacher’s role changes. At the beginning of the year, students have a significantly less well-developed skill set in relation to higher order questioning and Socratic dialogue, so teachers play the role of coach much more. They ask more questions, they encourage discussion. As students learn the skills to argue scientifically and ask the questions themselves, however, the teacher is able to step back. The students have built a habit of elaborating that they can employ on their own.
Sharing conclusions is an opportunity for students to explain their reasoning and learn scientific argumentation, and it is a critical skill. The same goes for making connections back to original hypotheses and evaluating one another’s work – having scientific discourse, in other words. Unfortunately, many educators go wrong with these steps because they fall back on canned “experiments” and that desire to create listeners rather than experiences.
Scaffolding enables educators to tie lessons and units together over the span of a year as well as between grades, helping tie together the disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts. In this way, content and subjects are not a product of a certain time in school – like Earth Science in middle school – but are threads pulled throughout the educational experience.
If your curriculum is designed appropriately, though, there is far less chance of this happening. When you're not teaching rocks and minerals all year, it’s much easier to take an integrated approach, to scaffold material from September to June and year to year.
Think about space, where we have our home in the solar system. Then think about the Earth. What's unique about Earth versus the other planets? Well, it possesses water in the right amounts, the right temperature and weather patterns – all the right elements for life. How is that and why is that? What can we learn about the requirements for life and how ecosystems change over time, and how changes in the environment can impact the types of life? These questions, of course, have no easy answer. Instead, they can be woven into a spiral that goes lesson to lesson all year long.