The 5E model centers around students discovering the information through inquiry investigations and then processing their learning and applying it. It lends itself easily to allow for more student choice, especially during the explore phase using science stations.
Allowing for student choice helps empower students to take more ownership of their learning. It helps them practice the skill of time management. It gives them insight into what they like and don't like, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They improve their self-regulation skills which are essential for success beyond the classroom.
The explore phase of the 5E model is where students work through answering some of the questions they came up with during the engage phase. The key concepts are identified, and the teacher provides student-based inquiry activities for students to develop hypotheses, test them, and start drawing their own conclusions. Offering different science stations and allowing students to choose which stations they want to complete helps them become more actively involved in their learning. Instead of being told what to learn and how to learn, the decision becomes theirs, and they take more ownership of their learning journey.
I love using science stations in my class. The science stations I traditionally used were based on the blended learning model called science station rotation. The idea was to have three stations: online, group, and teacher-led. The students rotate through all three stations to develop a deeper understanding of the topic. Although I love the model and thought it was great for working in small groups, which allowed me to meet the needs of my students better, it didn't empower students. I was still telling them what to learn and how to learn it. There was no student choice.
I have modified the science stations to allow for student choice. I will take you through my process of what I did so that you can also incorporate more student choice into the 5E model.
Preparing for Science Stations
As a middle school teacher with 25 years in the classroom, I have acquired a lot of activities and lessons for the various topics I teach. I have many lessons to use in the time frame I have to teach a standard. So the first thing I do is make a list of all the lessons and activities I already have ready to go and any activities I've always wanted to try out but didn't have the time for.
I then review the activities and see if I can modify them slightly to make them more inquiry-based. Sometimes, a slight tweak in the directions is needed to change the activity from a cookie-cutter step-by-step recipe into more of a play around and see what happens. I also divide the activities up into hands-on activities and online activities.
Once I have my activities, I look at my pacing and decide how many days I can devote to having the students explore the topic. I usually like 2-3 days. I will choose how many science stations to offer my students based on the days. I like to have at least 2 or 3 more stations than there is time to complete because I don't want them doing all of the stations. I want them to learn how to make decisions and start choosing what they would like to do, not just trying to complete them all. I also usually have at least two online stations and two hands-on stations. I eliminated the teacher-led station of the original model so that I could walk around, facilitate and coach the students on their learning journey.
Introducing Science Stations
On the first day of science stations, I go over the different stations and how I will grade the stations. If they have three days, I usually have 4-5 different stations for them to choose from. They will need to accomplish three stations and do the CER wrap-up at the end to get an A. They will need to perform two stations and do the CER wrap-up at the end to get a C. This allows students to not only choose which stations they will complete but also create a grade goal for themselves.
I then allow them to work independently, in pairs, or groups. They are all responsible for their own write-ups, but they can collaborate and discuss what they are seeing to help them understand. While they are working, I will go around and help guide students that need more support by asking them probing questions to help them discover the answer to their challenge.
Wrapping up Science Stations
The whole point of the explore phase of the 5E model is for students to investigate the topic and draw their conclusion and understanding before they are given the information. That is why I will always have a guiding question that guides their investigations during the science stations. As they complete each station, they review the guiding question and record the key details and patterns they discovered while doing the science station.
After they finish their science stations, they go back to the guiding question and answer it using the CER format. They state their claim and answer to the question. They support their claim with evidence from their science stations. Then they describe their ideas about the evidence and the patterns they discovered in the reasoning section. This CER is so essential that without it, my students can't earn the grade they set a goal for at the beginning of the science station. If they completed the three science stations, but no CER, the highest grade they will earn is a C. If they completed the two science stations but no CER, the highest grade they will earn is a D. The CER helps the students analyze the information they obtained by doing the science stations and draw their conclusions about the topic. It is not important if they have some misconceptions at this time. I am just looking for evidence to support their claim and reasoning that expresses their thinking.
To help get you started, I have example lessons for how to incorporate more student choice in the 5E model.