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Research from cognitive science, learning science, educational psychology, and other disciplines has shown that there is a cycle or order to learning. Although there are multiple ways to describe this cycle or order, there is one approach that is particularly easy to remember: the 5E learning cycle. The five Es, in order, are (Bybee et al., 2006; Tanner, 2010):

  1. Engage - This phase sparks students' interest and gets them thinking about the desired concept or skill. Engagements can elicit students prior knowledge about the subject and collect information on what students know, which can be used to guide instruction. 
  2. Explore - During this phase, students grapple with a problem, task, or situation in an attempt to understand the material on their own or in groups. Students can identify what they are confused about, where their ideas conflict, and what unanswered questions they may have. This phase can generate students' "need to know," and thus motivate them to find information on their own or listen more attentively and ask more targeted questions during a short lecture.
  3. Explain - During this phase, students become more familiar with new ideas, terms, or ways of thinking. This can involve a short lecture, reading, or peer instruction. The aim is not just for instructors to explain, but for students to explain their understanding of a concept.
  4. Elaborate - This phase requires students to apply what they have learned to novel problems or contexts. This follows the Explain phase because students' confusions and questions should have been addressed, and students need to try out their new knowledge. 
  5. Evaluate - During this phase, students reflect on and demonstrate their understanding or mastery of concepts and skills, and instructors have opportunities to evaluate student progress toward achieving learning objectives.