5 E's and Inquiry Based Learning

It is interesting that when in high school, seniors state “I can’t wait to be done with learning.” I have heard this year after year from graduates.  Here I am still learning after over 20 years of teaching. I have really never stopped learning, and that is the goal of inquiry-based learning.  Students are creating the learning, to learn that they will have to continue to learn throughout their life.  Whether it be as simple as changing a toilet seat in your bathroom, to determine the amount of paint you will need to paint a room in your house that is not square, to learning how to write lessons that allow students to be the center of their learning (all three of these I did this week). 

Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, Evaluation. These 5 simple words were the focus of creating one of the lessons (Number Systems)  for my Big Data Unit. These are the focus of the BSCS Science Learning model for inquiry-based learning (Bybee, et al, 2006). Focusing the lesson through these five words challenges the teacher to provide inquiry through each of the steps.  Exploration before Explanation, thus allowing students to construct their own learning before a teacher formally presents anything to the students (Bybee, et al., 2006). The explanation doesn’t even need to be formal information from the teacher, it could be the teacher clarifying when needed (Bybee, et al., 2006). 

Looking at my lesson plan on Number Systems, I am wondering if I can break the Exploration into the Exploration and Explanation.  If I am being honest, I over-thought this lesson and might move items around now that I am reflecting.  In the Elaboration phase, students are applying the information (Northern, 2019)  The hexadecimal flippy do, music wagon, and the color question can be seen as elaboration and the Kahn activity can be seen as the Explanation phase given it is direct learning through Kahn.  The Evaluation would be the assessment of the projects anyway. The Evaluation could be the final quick projects of a comic,  a calendar using hexadecimal and binary numbers, or a quick game about binary and hexadecimal. I would love to have anyone else’s thoughts on this. 

I also struggled to write a true open-ended inquiry lesson plan (Board of Regents, 2019).  I feel this is structured/guided as the students don’t need to do all of the Khan Academy lessons for binary if they understand it through the binary game.  I am not sure I would want to develop this lesson through another inquiry-based level. Later in the Big Data unit, my plan is for them to investigate their digital footprint and look at all the information they leave on the Internet.  This will be less structured and the final lesson where they are manipulating data will be open to them to develop their questions and find the data.  Using a variety of types of inquiry in a unit helps the students develop the skills for inquiry and provides a variety of types of lessons that keeps students’ attention (Board of Regents, 2019). 

As I have focused this year on my own education, I have explored inquiry-based learning in a variety of ways.  I am still partial to UBD and planning the assessment first, I had this in mind when looking at the 5 E method. I think that both can be used together.  Planning the Evaluation first and then working on how to get the students there through the use of exploration, explanation, and elaboration.  These 5 E’s are now added to my mind when I am looking at lesson plans.  They focus on helping create more inquiry into my classroom, by looking at developing questions students can find evidence for from their learning. 


Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2019). Inquiry based learning [pdf]. University of Wisconsin Extended Campus.  https://ce.uwex.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Inquiry-basedlearning.pdf 

Bybee, R. W., Taylor, J.A., Gardner, A., Van Scotter, P., Powell, J.C., Westbrook, S., Landes, N. (2006, June 12). The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins and Effectiveness. [pdf]. BSCS Science Learning. https://bscs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/bscs_5e_full_report-1.pdf 

Northern, S. (2019, August 30).  The 5E’s of inquiry-based learning. Knowledge Quest. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/the-5-es-of-inquiry-based-learning/ 

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