The Five Es Educational Model versus A Sound Pedagodical Methodology
My wife, a teacher in a Dallas school, and I began talking about education a few nights ago. She told me about the lesson plan structure used in her school – the “Five Es” lesson model. This model focuses on hands-on activities and avoids traditional lectures like scholars of high Spanish literature avoid new media literature. A “Five Es” lesson consists of the following stages:
Engage – during this stage the students engage in interactive, hands-on activities that connect what has been previously learned to what will be learned.
Explore – Students engage in hands-on activities that allow them to explore the new topic. Group work is an essential part of this stage.
Explain – In this stage the students tell the teacher what they have learned so that the teacher can correct misconceptions.
Elaborate – Hands-on activities allow students to broaden their practice.
Evaluate – hands-on activities that allow the students to show what they have learned.
As you can see, this model focuses entirely on hands-on activities. Lecture is reduced to a simple “I don’t think that is correct, you do it this way” somewhere halfway into the lesson. I am an advocate of hands-on learning – in fact, that is what my methodology revolves around. I spend a lot of my classroom time guiding students through writing tasks and discourse analysis tasks – something which, I’m sure, they enjoy more than they would hour long lectures on discourse analysis. However, with the exception of performing arts (and even then one always refers back to the basics), for true teaching to happen one must always reference back to the theoretical knowledge before engaging in practice.
The lesson plan structure that I use – and that should be the standard for any lesson – consists of the following stages:
Exposition – In this part the instructor gives the background information needed for the day’s tasks.
Discussion – The instructor converses with the students about the material to make sure that they got the gist of it.
Guided Practice – The instructor engages the whole class in sample exercises / tasks and discussion of said tasks.
Individual / Group Practice – Students engage, individually or in groups, with a task that leads to the application of the theory.
Sharing – Students share their work with the entire class.
Evaluation – Students engage in individual activities that will help the instructor assess how successfully the students acquired the skills required.
Certainly, EDGIgSE, or whatever sort of silly acronym we can make, doesn’t sound as interesting as “Five Es”, but let’s look at what hypothetical sample lessons under each method would look like. Certainly, it would be unfair for me to focus on English Lit, Rhetoric and Composition, Linguistics, or English Language Acquisition, as those are my areas of specialty. For these sample lessons we will look at math, science, art, and Klingon and assume no previous knowledge.
MATH – Using the 5Es model
The teacher walks into the classroom and asks 7th grade students to solve the following equations:
5x^2 + 3x + 9
X – 1
2X +3Y – 5Z
After the students struggle for a few minutes with the incomprehensible figures, the teacher asks the students to make groups of 4 students and work on the following equations:
After the student groups struggle, the teacher asks the students “What did you learn?” and the students reply “Nothing, I don’t know what to do”, so the teacher explains how to solve equations. Students are then given a number of more difficult math exercises which lead up to a quiz or some other form of exercise.
SCIENCE – Using the 5Es model
The teacher asks the students to burn a penny with the lab equipment in order to see how nickel separates from other metals. Students start setting up the lab equipment and, because they have no idea about the procedure for burning nickel, they take out the wrong equipment. The teacher asks them to work in groups. One of the students forgets to shut off the gas before taking out the equipment, which results in almost burning down the lab (this I actually saw happen in one of the classes I was visiting when I was Arts and Sciences Coordinator in Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios). The instructor asks the students what did they learn, to which they reply “if you set coins on fire you can get nickel”. The instructor clarifies that the chemical reaction of nickel to extreme heat is a rapid decomposition and composition of its solid state to liquid then back to solid. Students say “ah” in unison and write it down in their lab journals. They burn nickel properly.
KLINGON – Using the 5Es model
Students are given a Klingon text to decipher individually then discuss in groups.
Because they have no idea what it means, they can only guess. The instructor explains the text, to which the students reply with “I don’t get it”.
These mock classes reveal the fundamental flaw in the model – the explanation of what to do and how to do it comes after students clumsily grasp and some skills they don’t possess and have not been told how to develop. Let’s look at the same classes using the EDGIgSE model.
The teacher explains what an algebraic equation is and how to solve them.
The instructor shows students on the board how to solve 5x^2 + 3x + 9 and X – 1.
The instructor asks the students to solve 2X +3Y – 5Z on the board. They can ask each other for advice.
The instructor has the students solve (x+2) (y-1) and 5X+7X-3 on their own, then share their results and how they got to them with the class.
There is a quiz.
The instructor reminds the students of the appropriate lab procedures and tells them that they will burn pennies to see the reaction of nickel to heat.
The instructor helps the students set up the lab equipment.
Students get in groups and burn nickel. (One student almost burns down the lab.)
The instructor asks what did students learn, to which they reply something like “I don’t know it kind of got all liquidy and then solid really fast and there was some smoke”. The instructor pushes – “so what is the reaction?” The students answer accordingly and write down their notes in their lab journals.
Students are told that Klingon doesn’t sound like any other language, and gives them sample words like “Pakhh”, “PukhPakahh”, “BilerrrrBeEEEh”, and “Tchorrrrr”. The instructor then gives them the following sheet and a list of Klingon words:
The instructor asks the students to write the words using Klingon characters and pronounce them. The instructor gives the students a Klingon document and asks them to read parts of it aloud.
Even though my wife strongly disagrees, I think that actually talking about what will be discussed in class and explain how to actually do it BEFORE doing hands-on activities is useful in more ways than one. This leads me to my advice: steer away from gimmick-driven methodologies and stick to what has been scientifically proven to work:
Exposition > Whole Group Examples > Small Group Exercises > Individual Exercises > Discussion > Assessment
* Klingon charts taken from the Klingon Language Institute http://www.kli.org/