Using the 5E Model with Defined Learning’s Performance Tasks

The 5E instructional model is a successful instructional strategy used by many teachers. for teaching science. This a five-stage sequence that can be used to guide teaching and learning. This process can be utilized when using Defined Learning performance tasks in the classroom.


The five stages in this sequence include: 


  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Extend
  • Evaluate


The process begins with learning goals which are primarily driven by the academic standards. The standards will focus the learning experience and provide purpose for encouraging the use of science processes, as well as the application of 21st century skills.


Engage: Engage is the first stage of the sequence, and encourages students to make connections between past and present learning experiences. This stage serves to motivate students by getting them invested in the experience and as an opportunity to assess prior understanding.


Defined Learning uses a career and career relevance approach to bridge the gap between academic content and the world beyond school. In this stage, Defined Learning’s performance tasks use career videos to help students connect their learning to a career, and to Set the Stage for performance task completion.  Through guiding questions, discussions are encouraged that can be teacher and/or student-led, prompting them to make their own connections as well as to ask their own questions.


Explore: Within this stage students get more involved in the topic, helping them further build their understanding. Students work with common purpose prompting communication, critical thinking and problem solving through an inquiry-based approach. Students are driving their learning and are actively involved in framing the problem and developing strategies to generate potential solutions. Research and development help students discover potential solutions and eventually determine the best way to move forward. In this stage, students are encouraged to work in groups.


Defined Learning uses the UbD GRASP template for all performance tasks within the Explore the Background section of the task process. GRASP is an acronym that stands for Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, and Products. The task relates to the Career Video and students take on the Role within the task developing their products for a target Audience. Students need to determine their objective and use research questions to further build understanding. Defined Learning also provides research resources to help support student inquiry (in the Do the Research section). Further, student- or teacher-led research is also encouraged. This stage also promotes the application of classroom content and skills by bringing in potential data gathering and analysis, use of scientific concepts, and engineering practices.


Explain: This stage in the sequence provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned thus far and apply it to the products being created based on the GRASP. This communication should occur between peers, as well as between students and the facilitator, encouraging a reflective process. Through this stage, vocabulary can be introduced and/or extended to incorporate the context between academic content and authentic problems and projects.


Defined Learning incorporates reflective questions at the end of each stage in the performance task process. These questions encourage student interaction, self-reflection and the opportunity for teachers to work with students to help deepen understanding. These questions also help students make decisions about the best ways to move forward and justify their decision-making. Informational and Argumentative/Persuasive Literacy Tasks can be used to support student research and critical thinking, as well as written communication skills.


Elaborate/Extend: The purpose of this stage in the sequence, is to allow students to apply their new knowledge to develop a deeper understanding. Students can make connections to the various pieces of information, extend their knowledge to related concepts, and apply this knowledge to the world around them and to new and messy situations.


In Defined Learning, students continue their work and design a product or products, applying their knowledge and using ideation, creativity, and innovation to construct a product that meets the needs of the target audience (Design Process and Product Creation). These products are designed to effectively communicate learning, and extend the learning to help others understand how the content, skills, and processes apply to the goal of the performance task. This process also deepens understanding through the communication of the learning to the audience. Within this stage, students also learn that product creation takes multiple iterations in authentic situations.


Evaluate: The 5E Model allows for both formal and informal assessments. During this phase, teachers and students determine the learning that has occurred and the understanding developed.  This stage is ongoing and incorporates formative and summative assessments to help teachers determine the learner’s understanding of concepts and knowledge. Evaluation is ongoing throughout the process with numerous tools utilized by the teacher.


Throughout the use of the Defined Learning’s performance task and associated resources, numerous opportunities exist for formative and summative assessment. Students are encouraged to self and peer assess.  Teachers gather information through these assessments to determine and drive student learning and understanding. Every product within Defined Learning contains a specific analytical rubric with traits associated with content, process, quality, and results. These may be used for summative and/or formative assessment.


Reflection and Research Questions are provided through the learning process to help students and teachers connect content, skills, and processes to the authentic challenge. These questions can be used for multiple evaluation means, and can also be used for self and peer-reflection and evaluation.


Overall, Defined Learning performance tasks and the 5E Model are tightly aligned in terms of content, instruction, and assessment, providing an authentic learning environment, encouraging the application of classroom learning and experiences.


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