BSCS 5E Instructional Model

The BSCS 5E Instructional Model has its origins with the work of earlier science educators, in particular the Karplus and Thier learning cycle developed for the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS). The findings reported in the National Research Council research summary How People Learn supports the design and sequence of the BSCS 5E Instructional Model. Since the late 1980s, BSCS has used the 5E Instructional Model extensively in the development of new curriculum materials and professional development experiences. The BSCS 5E Instructional Model also enjoys widespread use beyond BSCS: at least three states strongly endorse using the BSCS 5E Instructional Model, and a Google search shows ubiquitous use of the model for curriculum frameworks, assessment guidelines, or course outlines; curriculum materials; and teacher professional development.

Findings related to the BSCS 5E Instructional Model:

  • The BSCS 5E Instructional Model is grounded in sound educational theory, has a growing base of research to support its effectiveness, and has had a significant impact on science education.
  • The most noticeable void in the literature is research exploring how the 5E approach helps students develop an understanding of the nature of science, and practical and teamwork skills.
  • These conclusions indicate the need to conduct further research comparing the effect of the 5E Instructional Model on mastery of subject matter, scientific reasoning, and interest and attitudes with other modes of instruction.
  • Continued work is expected to lead to refinement of the model based on research on learning.

What the BSCS 5E Instructional Model is/does:

  • The five phases of the BSCS 5E Instructional Model are designed to facilitate the process of conceptual change.
  • The use of this model brings coherence to different teaching strategies, provides connections among educational activities, and helps science teachers make decisions about interactions with students.
  • Each phase of the model and a short phrase to indicate its purpose from a student perspective are:
    • Engagement - students’ prior knowledge accessed and interest engaged in the phenomenon
    • Exploration - students participate in an activity that facilitats conceptual change
    • Explanation - students generate an explanation of the phenomenon
    • Elaboration - students' understanding of the phenomenon challenged and deepened through new experiences
    • Evaluation - students assess their understanding of the phenomenon

Click here to download Full Report. Click here to download Executive Summary. Both reports were prepared with funding from the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education.


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.