In Science in Elementary Education (Peters & Stout, 2011), the authors discuss the 6E Instructional Model. In their opinion, science instruction should include: 1) Engagement, 2) Exploration, 3) Explanation, 4) Elaboration, 5) Evaluation and *6) E-Learning. *The authors emphasize that E-Learning, the insertion of electronic resources into instruction, is not necessarily essential for every instructional plan. I completely agree with this model. However, I believe the model is missing an additional step. In other words, I believe there is a 7E approach to successful science instruction. I explain in detail below.
(It is worth mentioning briefly before diving into the subject matter that I believe the 7E approach to teaching can extend beyond the sciences. This approach can be used when teaching all disciplines: Social Studies, Language Arts, Mathematics and beyond.)
According to the authors, science instruction must begin with successful student engagement. I’ve also heard this step referred to as the “hook” within the lesson. The makes complete sense, right? If, as the teacher begin, I begin my lesson by saying, “Today we’re going to learn about volcanos in science,” I’ve already lost half of my class. BUT, if I instead begin my class by dimming the lights and playing this video, without referring to the “subject for the day,” now I’ve engaged my learners.
Once my learners are hooked, I want to ensure that there is plenty of time for them to explore the content. This exploration can take many forms. Peters & Stout (2011, p. 10) discuss the possibility of having students conduct lab experiments, brainstorm potential solutions, generate new ideas and conduct an investigation. Additionally, I am drawn to the separation and distribution of material to groups of learners. This approach is very similar to the Jigsaw Technique and is a great collaborative opportunity for students to explore the material in-depth. Sticking with our volcano example, during this phase, students may explore different types of volcanoes, research recent volcanic eruptions or analyze historical volcanic activity across the globe.
After my students have been engaged and had a change to explore the material in-depth, Peters & Stout (2011, p. 10) suggest the next step should be to allow for student to explain their findings. This step, “focuses students’ attention on a particular aspect of their engagement and exploration experiences and provides opportunities to demonstrate conceptual understanding, process skills, or behaviors.” In other words, this is the time when students take what they’ve gathered and determine the “so what,” or the “why.” Its one thing to know that Sakurajima Volcano in Japan just recently erupted for the 500th time this year, spewing ash and suit into the air. It is another to explain that this spewing of ash and suit impacts local industry and agriculture. During the explanation stage, students begin to develop a deeper understanding of the material they have explored.
As students continue developing deeper understandings of the material, new questions and ideas will begin to surface. An hypothesis may prove to be inaccurate or a new experiment may be conceived. These opportunities for furthering learning are addressed during the elaboration phase. According to Peters & Stout (2011, p. 10), “students apply their understanding of the concept by conducting additional activities.” For example, a student analyzing the Sakurajima Volcano may look to compare eruption histories with other volcanoes in the surrounding area to determine if the eruptions follow a historical pattern.
According to Peters & Stout (2011, p. 10), “The evaluation phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities and provides opportunities for teachers to evaluate student progress toward achieving their educational objectives.” In other words: are the students learning what the teacher wanted them to learn? This evaluation can take many forms. I repeat: this evaluation can take many forms. Students can demonstrate their learned knowledge without having to take a test. In the case of our students investigating volcanoes, groups may present their findings to the class, hold a student-led conference, create a 2D or 3D visual representation of their findings, write poetry or fiction, the list goes on and on.
While I completely agree with these 6 essential elements, I also believe there is a seventh element: Extension. I believe that science isn’t something we just “do” during school. I believe we are all scientists and we are always conducting out own experiments, analyzing the results, responding accordingly and drawing conclusions. In my classroom I want my students to know this. In my opinion, this requires extending the content beyond the confines of the classroom walls. To draw a parallel to Language Arts, student writing doesn’t end after the words “The End.” There is always opportunity to revisit and revise writing, inserting newly attained knowledge. The exact same principle can be applied here. There is always new information that can be added, old information to be removed. Science is an ever-changing discipline.
So there you have it, my 7E instructional recommendation for teaching science. Again, I reemphasize that this approach can be used for teaching more than just science! These same seven principles apply to teaching and learning as a whole.
Thanks for reading! Here is today’s quote as my parting gift to you: “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Sir Ken Robinson