The 5E Model vs Explicit Instruction

There are several instructional models that are available to the teacher to use within the classroom, each with its own set of benefits and pitfalls to both teacher and student, and a vast amount of data and research open for us to evaluate on each. There is also information that we can use to see what other schools are using around the world and which models are producing desired results from teachers. This essay will look at some of the data and research available later. For now, an explanation into the reasons for choosing to compare and analyse the educational benefits and suitability of the 5E Model and the Explicit Instruction Model. As the 5E Model and the Explicit Instruction Model are both models that this author uses on a regular basis while teaching, it became an exciting choice to closely examine the two models not only to compare them and to weigh their pros and cons, but also to look at the roots of the two models as well as their use and definitions by other teachers and researchers to determine the overall effectiveness in the classroom. For instance, it was interesting to look at the definitions of the two models as it also highlighted several areas of misunderstanding and misconception.

Explicit Instruction

The misconception of Explicit Instruction seems to stem from its resemblance, in name at least, to ‘Direct Instruction’. Indeed, many results returned from a Google search of Explicit Instruction are actually for those of Direct Instruction. While Wikipedia even has a listing for Explicit Instruction, the reader is then redirected to the page for Direct Instruction even though the two are completely different. It has also been this author’s experience while discussing which instructional models teach issues within the classroom, when told that this author tends to favour an Explicit Instruction form of delivery much discussion usually ensues when they believe that lessons are 100% teacher-centred and students are preached to rather than allowed to be involved in their learning. Nothing can be further than the truth when the definition of Direct Instruction is read; “a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill sets using lectures or demonstrations of the material to students usually delivered by implementation of a prescribed behavioural script.” Instead, the explicit teaching model is a structured approach of revising and delivering new skills and knowledge to students while also increasing the likelihood of those skills and knowledge being retained. A typical explicit teaching lesson structure usually consists of a warmup, or hook, followed by the lesson introduction with a teacher can further engage the students by extrapolating prior knowledge from them which we can also view as a form of diagnostic assessment. From here the teacher is displaying a gradual release of knowledge and understanding from teaching to the student, starting with ‘I Do’ (teacher-centred), then ‘We Do’ (student- and teacher-centred) and finally ‘You Do’ (student centred). During the ‘We Do’ stage there can be aspects of formative assessment as the teacher engages whether or not the students have understood and have retained knowledge from the instruction as well as allowing for summative assessment during the ‘You Do’ stage (Tytler, 2007).

The benefits of Explicit Instruction include the fact that the teacher can check for understanding at all stages during a lesson and take a step back if needed (Archer & Hughes, 2011). It also allows the teacher to be flexible in their teaching, catering to the student’s abilities. Explicit teaching also underpins John Fleming’s Effective Teaching Model, whose principles are systematic, direct, engaging and success orientated. Flemings model advocates an “explicit approach to teaching that focuses on step-by-step instruction in all key learning areas. It is based on the belief that Explicit Instruction is necessary when teaching content that students would not otherwise discover for themselves. For example, without explicit input how would a child discover the sounds associated with letters, or the order of operations in algebra, or the elements in scientific enquiry? (Meloney, 2015)”

Hattie (2009, p. 206) summarises the virtues of Explicit Instruction in that “the teacher decides the learning intentions and success criteria, makes them clear to the students, demonstrates them by modelling, evaluate if students understand what I have been told by checking for understanding, and retells them what they had been told by tying it all together with closure.” There are many benefits to the Explicit Instruction method of teaching and its suitability is well-placed in classrooms. While there seems to be a push towards making learning more student-centred, with the role of the teacher being considered as more of a facilitator than an instructor, it seems that it is allowing students to learn by a purely enquiry based instructional model and can have a detrimental effect on learning outcomes. While it is true that the 5E model is classed as an enquiry-based teaching and learning method, in difference from the more traditional definition of the word, primarily when used as a basis of science instruction, in that the 5E model allows the student to lead their learning while the teacher acts as a guide, not allowing them learning to be 100% student centred. This has to be considered very seriously when we look at the factors associated with science performance from the 2015 PISA results (p. 228).

From the PISA table above, it could be determined that the 5E model, which is an inquiry-based model, has a relatively strong negative association with science scores and that such a model has little if any benefits. After all, it is a rational argument that students develop a better understanding of knowledge when they are taught all the information rather than running the risk of developing gaps in their knowledge and let determine facts for themselves. Consequently, we need to take a closer look at the 5E model and how it should be delivered to determine whether it should be classed as an inquiry-based model alone and to determine what benefits it has for student learning and suitability within the classroom.

The 5E Model

Dewey (1971) wrote that the idea that there was an order of events, learning cycle, that was optimal in the process of human learning was not a new one and he listed a number of educators, researchers and psychologists as the proponents of the student being responsible for their learning, understanding and the changing of conceptions while the teacher access facilitator and guide (Piaget, 1950; Bruner, 1961; Vygotsky, 1978). With the 5E model, this order of events is; Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration And Evaluation. What differs within the 5E model is that there can be as much teacher involvement as needed with the level of involvement relative to the understanding of the student. Also, used correctly by an experienced teacher and using open-ended, or Socratic, questioning, the framework of the 5E model can be used in much the same way as an explicit teaching model (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). The benefit of this is that assessment can be taken at each stage of the model and the teacher’s guidance can be adjusted as required, or the steps can be backtracked as needed. One learning area in which the 5E teaching and learning model can be used to its fullest extent is within science where whole programs, such as Primary Connections, are structured around the model (Primary Connections, 2018). For example, diagnostic assessment can be undertaken in the engage phase where students elicit prior knowledge, formative assessments during the explore and explain phases, summative assessments of the science enquiry skills during the elaborate phase and summative assessment of science understanding during the evaluate phase (Skamp & Peers, 2012).

As a science teacher, it has been this author’s practice to use the 5E method as the underlying framework from which to build lesson plans. There are times, during shorter topics, where all five phases of the 5E model can be used during the one lesson as the basis for a lesson plan. From experience, each phase can then be delivered in the method of Explicit Instruction and gradual release with a lesson being paused and pulled back a step if needed. While undertaken without much thinking on a day-to-day basis, through research of this essay it is quite clear that the 5E phases can appear very similar to the stages of an explicit teaching model where the warmup, or hook, of an explicit teaching model, can be compared to the engage phase of the 5E model, lesson introduction and the teacher centred ‘I Do’ aspects can be comparable with the Explore and Explain phases, while the ‘We Do’ and You Do’ parts provide the same summative assessments opportunities as do the Elaborate and Evaluate phases of the 5E model (Tanner, 2010).

The main benefit that the 5E model has over an explicit teaching model is that students are charged with more responsibility for their learning and are encouraged to use both critical and enquiry thinking. While it could be possible, and even tempting, to use the 5E model as a basis of every lesson plan to be used in the classroom it seems far more constructive and beneficial to see the 5E model as a tool we can use to examine the order of learning experiences being used in the classroom and how that aligns with what we know about student learning and how we can use that to the best advantage (BSCS, 2006). A significant benefit of the 5E model is that it uses many positive aspects from other learning models; it allows teacher-centred instruction and guidance at varying degrees dependent on the lesson and students’ level of understanding and knowledge, allows for student-centred enquiry and critical thinking, develops deeper and further understanding through hands-on activities and engagement, allows the teacher multiple opportunities for varying forms of assessment and offers time for reflection and evaluation which is both teacher- and student- centred.

Enugu (2016) found that the introduction of the 5E model for lesson planning was challenging for pre-service teachers, expressly with the ‘Explain’ and ‘Elaborate’ phases. There were also method related challenges where teachers found it hard to manage their time while teaching to a 5E model as well as structuring a lesson to the different parts of the model. While the teachers in the study noted that they could see the benefits of the suitability of the model to both teachers and students, a lack of strong content knowledge and practice with the model was the main cause of the challenge of its implementation into the lessons of preservice teachers. Other similar research noted that those with a lack of strong content knowledge either found it hard to implement the 5E model or disregarded it completely, especially through the use of the Primary Connections science resource teacher books when teachers would just lift the main idea or lesson intent from the books and adapt the lessons they were teaching to their own way, thereby ignoring the 5E model completely. This is unfortunate due to the benefits previously noted, but possibly highlights the need for further teaching during university studies. In a study conducted by Alshehri (2016), it was found that an experimental group of students learning by the 5E method not only produced higher results than the control group in post-test results but also showed a higher rate of retention in postponed test results, highlighting the previous thought that we need to invest more in our student-teachers and allow for more practice.

Clearly, there are several benefits of both Explicit Instruction and of the 5E design models and there is a place for both in the learning environment. Their suitability and their success, however, is determinable by the deliverer. Experience and confidence, as well as the level of knowledge of the teacher, is the deciding factor of the success of any model used.


Alshehri, M. A. (2016, Mar-Apr). The Impact of Using (5e’s) Instructional Model on Achievement of Mathematics and Retention of Learning among Fifth Grade Students. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME), 6(1), 48. doi:10.9790/7388-06214348

Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching. The Guildford Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31, 32.

BSCS. (2006). The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins, Effectiveness and Applications. Colorado Springs, CO: BSCS. Retrieved from

Dewey, J. (1971). How We Think. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

Enugu, R. K. (2016). Challenges Pre-Service Science Teachers Face When Implementing a 5E Inquiry Model of Instruction. Hyderabad, India: Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Meloney, D. (2015, 09 25). Teaching Methods: John Fleming – explicit instruction myths and strategies. Retrieved from Teacher Magazine:

Piaget, J. (1950). The Psychology of Intelligence. New York: Routledge.

PISA. (2015). PISA 2015 Results: Policies and Practices for Successful School. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264267510-en

Primary Connections. (2018). Exploring the 5Es. Retrieved from Primary Connections:

Skamp, K., & Peers, S. (2012). Implementation of science based on the 5E learning model: Insights from teacher feedback on trial Primary Connections units. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University.

Tanner, K. T. (2010). Order Matters: Using the 5E Model to Align Teaching with How People Learn. CBE Life Science Education, 9(3), 159-164. doi:10.1187/cbe.10-06-0082

Tytler, R. (2007). Re-imagining Science Education: Engaging students in science for Australia’s future. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Mental Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



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