In the early 1960's, Robert Karplus proposed a teaching/learning model for instruction based upon the work of Piaget. This cycle was later used in the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS), where it represented a systematic application of psychology to science education materials. The information that follows represents an extension of this teaching/learning cycle from the original SCIS materials. The information is based upon the work of International Business Machine (IBM) and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) as presented in New Designs for Elementary Science and Health (BSCS, 1989).
In recent years, cognitive scientists and science educators have focused on the constructivist model of learning. Constructivism views human learning as an outcome of a dynamic, interactive process. In the constructivist model, students reconstruct core concepts, or intellectual structures, through continuous interactions within themselves and with their environment, including other people. Through these interactions, students redefine, reorganize, elaborate, and change their initial concepts. For an individual, the learner "interprets" objects and phenomena and internalizes the interpretation in terms of current concepts. Changing and improving students' conceptions often requires challenging their current conceptions and showing those conceptions to be inadequate. If a current concept is challenged, there must be opportunity, in the form of time and experiences, to reconstruct a more adequate concept than the original. In conclusion, students' construction of knowledge can be assisted by using sequences of lessons designed to challenge current conceptions and provide time and opportunities for reconstruction to occur.
A number of different models of instruction are conducive to fostering a constructivist approach in the classroom.
The first phase (the first E) is designed to actively engage the student in the learning task. The student mentally
Following the engagement phase, students have a psychological need for time to explore the ideas. Exploration
The "explanation" (the third E) means the act or process through which concepts, processes, or skills become
Once students have an explanation of their learning tasks, it is important to involve them in further experiences that elaborate (the fourth E) on the concepts, processes, or skills. In some cases, students may still have misconceptions, or they may only understand a concept in terms of the exploratory experience. Elaboration activities provide further time and experiences that contribute to learning. Typically, elaboration activities are interdisciplinary in nature and involve reading, writing, mathematics, and social studies.
At some point, it is important that students receive feedback on the adequacy of their explanations. Informal
|Engagement||Establish an interest in and develop
an approach to the instructional task.
|Provide the experiences necessary to engage the learner. Identify the
|Exploration||Complete activities directed toward
|Facilitate and monitor interaction
between students and instructional
situations, materials, and courseware.
|Explanation||Describe their understanding, use
their skills, and express their attitudes.
|Direct student learning by clarifying
any misconceptions, providing vocabularyfor concepts, demonstrating
skills, modifying behaviors, and suggesting further learning experiences.
|Elaboration||Present and defend their explanations
and identify and complete several
experiences related to the
|Provide an occasion for students to cooperate on activities, discuss their current understanding, and demonstrate their skills.|
|Evaluation||Examine the adequacy of their
explanations, behaviors, and attitudes
in new situations.
|Use a variety of formal and informal procedures (journal, drawing, lab sheets, etc.) for assessing student understanding.|