The Constructivist philosophy of learning is based on the understanding the learning is not linear. We jump back and forth from our own background information to results from new exploration. The new information is a synthesis of what we already know with what we are adding to it now. The 5E’s of learning are one way of applying constructivist thought to a classroom.
The 5 E’s of learning are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. They can overhaul the classroom considerably!
In this type of classroom, the teacher is a facilitator.
Engage: The teacher is a guide who facilitates student inquiry while solving problems. The teacher helps the student to find new patterns of thinking while working together without direct instructions.
Explore: In this way exploration is not linked to a cookie cutter direction sheet. The teacher observes student interaction and listens to their discussions without giving away any expected outcomes. The teacher can guide the conversation by asking questions but allows the students time to puzzle through the problem on their own.
Explain: The teacher is once again the facilitator; asking for evidence and clarification as needed, providing definitions explanations only formally, and explaining concepts based on the students’ previous experiences.
Elaborate: The teacher expects the students to elaborate on their work by using formal labels, definitions and explanations. The teacher, encourages and reminds students while referring them to existing data and evidence.
Evaluate: The teacher observes the students’ application of the new concept and skills. Questions that are posed by the teacher are open ended and open minded.
On the other hand, the student has a completely different role.
Engage: Students are expected to ask questions and work with hands-on activities.
Explore: Students are then exposed to raw data, primary sources and interactive material. They think freely, predict and hypothesis around the limits of the activity itself. Over the course of the class, students may form new predictions and hypothesis while discussing and trying alternatives. The raw data that the students work with is their own that is gathered through their own explorations.
Learning is no longer a matter of memorization but it becomes the accumulated and evolving knowledge that grows and changes over time.
Explain: students explain possible solutions and answers. They listen and question each other while trying to comprehend what the teacher offers. Students refer to their own background knowledge and use the recorded observations in explanations
Elaborate: Students apply new information to previous understandings in new and similar situations. They ask questions based on what they already know then propose solutions and make decisions. They design experiments in order to draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence. Students also check for understanding among each other.
Evaluate: Students answer open-ended questions with observations and evidence. They demonstrate new understanding of a concept or skill and self-evaluates. Finally students ask questions that would lead to future investigation.
It is easy to see how this would work within the science classroom but it can be adapted to other classes as well.
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