Constructivism: 5E’s Learning Cycle in PSPE

cycle 5e's

I started using the 5E’s learning cycle adapted from 5E’s Instructional Model-a constructivist approached to learning 3 years back.I found it very useful in facilitating an inquiry based-teaching/learning. It allows students and teachers to experience common activities, to use and build on prior knowledge and experience, to construct meaning, and to continually assess their understanding of a concept.

What are the 5Es?

¹The 5Es represent five stages of a sequence for teaching and learning: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend (or Elaborate), and Evaluate.

Engage: This phase of the 5 E’s starts the process.  The purpose for the ENGAGE stage is to pique student interest and get them personally involved in the lesson, while pre-assessing prior understanding During this stage, students make connections between past and present learning experiences,

Explore: The purpose for the EXPLORE stage is to get students involved in the topic; providing them with a chance to build their own understanding. In the EXPLORATION stage the students have the opportunity to get directly involved with phenomena and materials. As they work together in teams, students build a set of common experiences which prompts 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 purpose for the EXPLAIN stage is to provide students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. EXPLAIN is the stage at which learners begin to communicate what they have learned. They have opportunities to verbalize their conceptual understanding or to demonstrate new skills or behaviors. This phase also provides opportunities for teachers to introduce formal terms, definitions, and explanations for concepts, processes, skills, or behaviors.

Extend/Elaborate: The purpose for the EXTEND stage is to allow students to  extend conceptual understanding and allows them to practice skills and behaviors. Through new experiences, the learners develop deeper and broader understanding of major concepts, obtain more information about areas of interest, and refine their skills.

Evaluate: The purpose for the EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. EVALUATE, the final “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, teacher observation, student interviews, portfolios, project and problem-based learning products. Video segments can be used to determine students’ depth of understanding. Students will be excited to demonstrate their understanding through journals, drawings, models and performance tasks.

Going through constructivism in Physical Education,  in planning a weekly/unit plan I am using this simple guide below:

a)Starts the lesson with engaging activities that motivates or something that may capture students’ interest. (kids love tags instead of just jogging around the gym, if your lesson focuses on basic gymnastic positions, have them play stork tag). In this case you are providing them an exercise activity while reviewing your lesson.

b)Allow them to explore the concept/skills/or even attitudes that you wish them to understand before discussing the details of it. Avoid from playing the role of a BOSS who gives the dont’s and do’s, or a varsity TRAINER who drills them almost all through out the session. You may guide the students during exploration phase. ( going back to balancing activity, you may give them flashcards, pictures, or guide questions for them to explore, make sure that all activities that you posted are safe to do or never require spotting from the teacher.)

c)Provide time for the students to PAUSE, THINK and to REFLECT… as much as possible pitch a good inquiry-oriented question/s. Encourage them to explain their thoughts/findings in thier own words. (if they can’t express it in words, ask them to act it out.) 

d)Allow them to think of ways on how to apply their understanding/skills into a new situation. (example: Going back to gymnastics (balancing), you may challenge them to think of a new position/figure using balancing in threes’, fours’ and so on.  

e)At the end of the lesson, encourage them to partially assess their own learning, you may post guide questions for them to reflect on, or ask them to assess their peers, act out their new understanding, or maybe draw/illustrate what they’ve learned and so on. It’s good to involve them even in assessment.

There are many ways to adapt 5E’s inquiry cycle in your lesson, arguably or not, PE teachers are knowledgeable, thinkers and creative….

Some examples of Unit plan and weekly plans using 5E’s Learning Cycle are posted on “Resources” page.

Who developed the 5E model?

The Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), a team led by Principal Investigator Roger Bybee, developed the instructional model for constructivism, called the “Five Es”. Other models have been adapted from this model including the 6E and 7E models.

²BSCS 5E Instructional Model

Creating the 5Es – click to watch

How the 5Es Evolved Over Time – click to watch

Why the 5Es Remain Relevant Today – click to watch

What is constructivism?

Constructivism is a philosophy about learning that proposes learners need to build their own understanding of new ideas. Two of the most prominent constructivist researchers are: Jean Piaget (stages of cognitive development) and Howard Gardner (multiple intelligences).

³Constructivism is basically a theory — based on observation and scientific study — about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.*

In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point towards a number of different teaching practices. In the most general sense, it usually means encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments, real-world problem solving) to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and how their understanding is changing. The teacher makes sure she understands the students’ preexisting conceptions, and guides the activity to address them and then build on them.*

What is inquiry-based learning?

“Inquiry” is defined as “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge — seeking information by questioning.” Individuals carry on the process of inquiry from the time they are born until they die. This is true even though they might not reflect upon the process. Infants begin to make sense of the world by inquiring. From birth, babies observe faces that come near, they grasp objects, they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. The process of inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses — seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.


¹NASA – 5Es Overview: “The 5E instructional model”. 2016. NASA – 5Es Overview: “The 5E instructional model”. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 09 April 2016].

²BSCS 5E Instructional Model | BSCS. 2016. BSCS 5E Instructional Model | BSCS. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 March 2016].

³Inquiry-based Learning: Explanation. 2016. Inquiry-based Learning: Explanation. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 09 April 2016].

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