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Adapting the 5E teaching model to remote classrooms

A comprehensive teaching model helps educators identify strategies that motivate learners to discover new things, to explore a new field of knowledge (or continue exploring previous ones, but with more effective approaches), and at the same time, it provides a useful assessment system. It’s an ambitious endeavor, with the long-term objective of achieving better learning outcomes and identifying more efficient teaching methods.

Based on the findings of Atkin and Karplus and their learning cycle model for teaching science, the 5E teaching model describes a five-stage sequence program that can be adapted to a wide range of teaching contexts, from individual lessons to more comprehensive learning units.

Let’s see how the model can be adapted to online teaching, especially in the challenging times of imposed social distancing and uncertainties regarding the start of the next academic year.


The first stage aims to stimulate students’ interest and assess their previous knowledge on a topic. In a learning management system (LMS), this stage can be easily organized in live brainstorming sessions (either during video conferences or interactions on chats), or asynchronous activities, such as forum discussions, questionnaires, and surveys. The key element is to identify the previous background of each learner and find that unique door that helps each student enter a new universe.

Read more: Adopting the asynchronous mindset for better online learning


At this stage, the main objective is to get students involved in the topic and help them acquire their own understanding. A flipped classroom approach comes in handy during the exploration stage, as it stimulates students to tackle different topics from their point of view. Personalized learning should be the name of the game during the social distancing weeks when students spend all of their time at home. It is also a great opportunity to build confidence in their ability to find “out of the box” solutions to a wide range of problems.

Read more: Exploring 4 types of Flipped Learning


This is the third stage, in which learners can share with the group what they have learned, compare different approaches, and receive feedback for their input. It’s an excellent way of boosting collaboration and teamwork. Moreover, students can learn how to give constructive feedback, a skill which will be helpful throughout their future careers. Learning how to take feedback from peers and teachers without the fear of losing face is also very important to master. Keep in mind that explaining what students have learned and giving a clear presentation is the main objective of this phase.

Read more: How to give feedback to students in the online learning environment


During this stage of the learning process, the focus is on allowing learners to use their new knowledge and explore more. It is the ideal phase in which students use their creativity to build new things, identify new examples, come up with refreshing ideas, internalize their knowledge, and use it to innovate.

Innovation might consist of using a previous model to explain phenomena in other fields. For instance, in 1980 Jürgen Kraus wrote a dissertation in computer science in which he stated that computer programs behave in a similar way to biological viruses. Nowadays, computer viruses are basic knowledge of all computer users. Biology knowledge was useful in describing a computer science problem.

Read more: How to pave the way for innovation in the classroom


Last but not least, the final phase of the 5E teaching model is the evaluation of students’ progress. The purpose is not necessarily the typical assessment test to check knowledge acquisition. The aim is to allow both learners and teachers to evaluate how much learning and understanding has taken place. At this stage, an accurate assessment of the learning outcomes may help improve the teaching methods in place and for designing remedial solutions, if necessary.

Read more: Teacher tricks: Grading & assessment

Adapting the 5E teaching model to remote classrooms: The 6th E

Edtech can help students and teachers implement this model online, as an LMS can offer a wide range of solutions for each stage. However, especially during these challenging times, the 5E model could benefit from an additional E, which can be integrated within all the other five:


Learning and teaching online can be hard, especially if you have to adopt it fast, without previous training. It’s also an immense opportunity to boost digitization in education, but it is not easy for everyone.

Read more: On challenges and opportunities: Emergency remote teaching

So, try to be patient, show empathy, listen to the concerns your students bring up, and stay positive. Remember to put yourself in your students’ shoes and motivate them to keep on learning even during these weeks.

Train the explorers of tomorrow to be empathetic, as well!

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