Science Bits: Empowering Educators for 5E

Science Bits curriculum empowers teachers to teach science using the best practices of cognitive science research. Science Bits provides students with the opportunity to learn concepts and construct their own knowledge and understanding in a way that values each individual student’s prior knowledge and skills, and empowers them to become independent thinkers, strategists, and authentic “doers.”

How do people learn?

Research has repeatedly shown that learning doesn’t happen in a straight line or predictable progression. It’s a complex, interconnected web that develops as students have experiences in which they reason inductively and deductively. Fortunately, we now have about 40 years of research on how people learn. This research has been conducted from a variety of disciplines including cognitive science, psychology, and science education. In 1999, the National Research Center published the findings in a report entitled “How People Learn.” (NCR, 1999).

Let’s look at some of the important findings presented in this landmark paper:

  • Students must be interested and engaged in what they are learning and find it useful and meaningful.
  • Students must be actively involved in the process of learning, comparing new information to previous ideas, constructing new understandings, and quite simply changing their own minds about how the world works.
  • Students need opportunities to apply what they have learned to new situations, to check the completeness of their understanding, and to evaluate their own learning for themselves.

What does the research say about the 5E Instructional Model?

The BSCS 5E Model is grounded in education theory and it has a strong and growing base of research from around the world to support its effectiveness in increasing mastery of subject matter, developing more sophisticated scientific reasoning, and fostering positive attitudes toward science (Bybee et al., 2006; Bybee 2015). This model promotes learning by facilitating conceptual change (Guzzetti et al., 1993).

Kimberly D. Tanner of San Francisco State University recently published a paper titled “Order Matters: Using the 5E Model to Align Teaching with How People Learn.” In her review, she outlines why the order of the teaching sequence is important. She overviews the 5E process and outlines why the order of the 5E process is successful in building an effective learning environment.

Science Bits is 5E Made Easy

Science Bits helps teachers apply the 5E model easily since it provides specific learning sequences and all resources needed to implement them in the classroom with the only help of  computer and a projector. Curriculum writers, content specialists, teachers, scientists, IT developers, and multi-media professionals work together to create and sequence learning experiences following the 5E instructional model. According to NCR, rather than simply progressing through a series of exercises that derive from a scope and sequence chart like a standard textbook or curriculum, students should be encouraged to build on their informal ideas in a gradual but structured manner so that they acquire the concepts and procedures of a discipline.

Let’s take a closer look at how Science Bits incorporates 5E educational concepts by comparing the curriculum to the original BSCS 5E model.

The First E: Engage

“The teacher or a curriculum task accesses the learners’ prior knowledge and helps them become engaged in a new concept through the use of short activities that promote curiosity and elicit prior knowledge. The activity should make connections between past and present learning experiences, expose prior conceptions, and organize students’ thinking toward the learning out- comes of current activities.” (Bybee et al., 2006).

Science Bits leverages a motivating video that presents an initial situation in a familiar and meaningful context, and then exposes a problem or a discrepant event that students can’t explain with their current ideas. Therefore, the familiar context (connected to their prior knowledge and experiences) and the cognitive dissonance make students become curious. To quote the NCR report, “Ideas are best introduced when students see a need or a reason for their use-this helps them see relevant uses of the knowledge to make sense of what they are learning.” (NCR, 1999, p. 127).

The Second E: Explore

Exploration experiences provide students with a common base of activities within current concepts (particularly misconceptions), processes, and skills are identified and conceptual change is facilitated. Learners may complete lab activities that help them use prior knowledge to generate new ideas, explore questions and possibilities, and design and conduct a preliminary investigation.” (Bybee et al., 2006).

Science Bits uses digital tools like dynamic visual graphics, lab simulators, virtual experiments, animations, and videos to help students explore the questions raised as they engaged with the material. The teacher becomes here an “orchestra director”, that orchestrates students’ action and thinking to help them achieve understanding.

The Third E: Explain

“The explanation phase focuses students’ attention on a particular aspect of their engagement and exploration experiences and provides opportunities to demonstrate their conceptual understanding, process skills, or behaviors. This phase also provides opportunities for teachers to directly introduce a concept, processes, or skill. Learners explore their understanding of the concept. An explanation from the teacher or the curriculum may guide them toward a deeper understanding, which is a critical part of this phase.” (Bybee et al., 2006).

Science Bits provides a natural introduction to the language of science as students transition to explaining the concepts that they are studying. Embedded visual and auditory supports allow the curriculum meet the needs of learners at all levels. Science Bits includes many digital tools and exercises that address common questions and misconceptions. The teachers tracking tools allows teachers to assess in real time each student’s thinking through self-graded and open ended exercises.

The Fourth E: Elaborate

Teachers challenge and extend students’ conceptual understanding and skills. Through new experiences, the students develop deeper and broader understanding, more information, and adequate skills. Students apply their understanding of the concept by conducting additional activities.” Bybee et al, 2006).

Science Bits has a one of a kind elaboration component that allows students to apply their knowledge in new situations. Each elaboration phase uses custom digital resources to offer a project based STEM activity designed to promote critical problem solving. Interdisciplinary connections are integrated and content adapts easily to small group projects. ELA standards are integrated in each activity.

The Fifth E: Evaluate

“The evaluation phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities and provides opportunities for teachers to evaluate student progress toward achieving the educational objectives.” (Bybee et al., 2006)

A self-graded test encourages students to grapple with the concepts while teachers check learning outcomes of every student easily. The test is not based on the evaluation of the students’ ability to learn concepts by heart, but on the practical application of the learned knowledge and procedures.

State Standards

Science Bits is designed to align each unit with state standards, and the units are presented in a sequence that allows students to naturally integrate knowledge and build concepts. While Science Bits primarily focuses around the 5E standards, the curriculum can also be customized to your state standards! Science Bits’ units and activities can be arranged any way you like to cover the sequence of your own curriculum aligned with NGSS, giving you the option to build your own curriculum to align with the NGSS standards or to adopt Science Bits’ established curriculum design grounded in research. Contact Us today to find out how we can customize Science Bits to be the perfect classroom solution for you and your students specific needs!


A Word from Science Bits’ Co-Founder

“Science Bits uses engaging technologies to help teachers apply methodologies supported by research about how students learn.”

                           – Hector Martin, Science Bits Co-Founder


Would you like to find out more about how Science Bits can transform your classroom?

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April Anderson, Ed.D, is a lifelong educator who has spent the past 25 years supporting engaging curriculum and instruction to promote student achievement for all learners. Based on her experience in the classroom, April understands the features and benefits of the Science Bits program. Please complete this form for more information.