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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Constructivism and the 5 E Model Science Lesson


It seems that every 3 to 5 years a new idea surfaces in the educational community. The topic has been researched, discussed, and argued in institutions of higher learning; however, when it eventually filters down to the teachers in elementary and high school, there is little time invested in explaining and understanding the new theory - they are told, "Just do it!" The latest educational buzzword is constructivism. Teachers are being asked to support this philosophy of teaching and learning, and design instruction accordingly. What does this mean?
This WebQuest will help you go beyond the basic definition of constructivism: individuals building their own understanding, to a more thorough explanation of the theory and its various aspects. Examples are provided via the 5 E learning cycle. The 5 E model for designing science lessons is just one method of instruction that supports constructivist teaching/learning. After investigating these resources, you can make your own decision as to the value of the constructivist theory.

The Task
After reading and analyzing a variety of resource materials, you will share an oral presentation with your colleagues to provide a brief historical perspective of this theory and the essential elements of constructivism. As a teacher, you know that the implementation of a new philosophy requires an open mind: identify what you perceive to be some of the advantages and disadvantages of adopting the constructivist approach and present this in a visual format. Finally, use the 5 E model to assist you in designing your own constructivist science lesson.

The Process
At the completion of this process you will have 3 products: 1) an oral presentation to share with your colleagues, 2) a visual display identifying what you perceive to be the advantages and disadvantages of implementing the constructivist approach, and 3) a science lesson designed using the 5E model.

1. Oral Presentation

As a lead teacher in your school, your principal has asked you to make a presentation to the faculty on the topic of constructivism.
Select and read from the resources listed above to gain a thorough understanding of constructivism.
Write a lecture you will present to your faculty addressing this topic.
Include some background/historical evidence to support the validity of this theory.
Be sure to include the essential ideas and various aspects that are important to a constructivist learning environment; time is limited (remember faculty meetings can't run beyond 4pm ).

2. Visual Display
As you gain insight into the constructivist learning theory, you recognize that there are some definite advantages to teaching this way; however, as a teacher already overburdened with a multitude of tasks, you can also identify some disadvantages to this approach. You feel it is very important to make teachers aware of the pros and cons of this issue and acknowledge that there are some concerns you have. (If you don't recognize this, they will surely point it out to you and use it as an excuse for not trying the approach.)
Use Inspiration, HyperStudio, or PowerPoint to design a visual presentation of the advantages and disadvantages of using the constructivist approach.
You may use this as part of your lecture or allow the teachers an opportunity to investigate constructivism and come up with their own list before sharing this with them.
This can serve as the basis for a brainstorming session or a springboard to identify ways to address the concerns (counteract the perceived disadvantages).

3. Designing a 5E Science Lesson
Now you have a better understanding of the constructivist philosophy and are ready to give it a try! The 5E model science lesson employs a learning cycle that supports the constructivist approach.
Review the sites listed in the resource section related to the 5E model; these will provide background information and sample lessons.
Identify the "big idea" and county indicators that your lesson will address.
Design your lesson using the 5E model. Make sure you identify appropriate teacher/student roles, strategies, and activities used at each stage to support student learning.
Remember this is a non-linear process! Formal and informal evaluation occurs throughout.


Since you are committed to this approach and feel it is important to encourage other teachers in your school to adopt it, you have included it as part of your annual goal.
Your principal recognizes the time and energy you are dedicating to this project; she has designed a rubric to assess your performance.


Constructivism is more than individuals building their own understanding. It requires more than active, hands-on learning. It demands teachers and students to take various roles and truly invest in their learning. It requires reflection, interaction, investigation, more reflection and analysis. This approach to learning takes time and recognizes that not everyone is going to be on the same page or even take away the same understanding from a single lesson. This theory acknowledges the complexity of the teaching / learning cycle. You have investigated only one model (5E learning cycle) that supports the constructivist approach:

Do you think this model can be applied to other disciplines?
Can you identify other models or strategies that would support this type of learning?
How does this model address various learning styles?


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