Next Generation Science Standards and the 5E instructional model

By Tana J. B. Peterman - July 2015


Bybee, R., Taylor, J. A., Gardner, A., Van Scotter, P., Carlson, J., Westbrook, A., & Landes, N. (2006). The BSCS 5E instructional model: Origins and effectiveness. Colorado Springs, CO: BSCS.


Researchers have described the inquiry process as involving five Es: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Designed to facilitate the process of conceptual change in science, the 5E model can help students at almost any level engage in scientific practices. This brief correlates the 5E framework outlined by Bybee and colleagues with the science practices described in the Framework for K–12 Science Education.

Theoretical Basis 

The BSCS 5E Instructional Model is a way of teaching science that has been developed and tested extensively since the 1980s. The five phases of the model, summarized below, are designed to facilitate the process of conceptual change.

Though the 5Es predate development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), educators across the country are working with the 5E framework to integrate NGSS STEM practices. The ways in which the 5Es can engage students in NGSS scientific practices are highlighted in the summary of the 5E model below.

The 5E model is in contrast to instructional methods in which learners are presented with facts and practices that they need to memorize and apply to novel situations.

The 5E model can include scientific practices for students at almost any level. It was designed specifically to facilitate sense-making through explanation. The use of this model can bring coherence to different teaching strategies, provide connections among educational activities, and help science teachers make decisions about interactions with students.

Implications for Practice

One challenge of implementing the 5E model in informal learning spaces such as afterschool programs and camps is the limited amount of time learners spend in these settings. These programs often emphasize the engage and explore phases of the framework. Bybee and colleagues remind us that, in order to effect lasting conceptual change in learners, we also need to provide opportunities for learners to explain, elaborate, and evaluate their new learning.

Another implication of the 5E model is that informal science educators need deep pedagogical content knowledge in order to support students in their sense-making process. Such expertise is often not available in informal science settings.

Helping students engage deeply with science ideas often entails a pedagogical shift away from content memorization and toward facilitating student exploration and explanation of phenomena. Educators in all settings need strong support so that they can continually develop their pedagogical skills.


National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, D.C: The National Academies Press.

Related Briefs:

  • Wingert, K. (2014). STEM practices and model-based reasoning: An ISE research brief discussing Lehrer & Schauble, “Origins and evolution of model-based reasoning in mathematics and science.”