Lesson Plans for Teachers (page 2)

Updated on Nov 18, 2011

Learning Cycle Lesson Plans

The Learning Cycle planning format is based upon a constructivist perspective on learning that can be traced back to John Dewey. In this view, ideas are not transmitted by teachers telling them to their students but are actively constructed by the students themselves. Among the founders of this view of learning were Piaget and Vygotsky, and from their theories, an instructional model emerged in the 1960s that would later be called the Learning Cycle. This format is most popular among science teachers but has relevance for other subjects as well. The original format for the Learning Cycle had only three steps (Exploration, Invention, Discovery), but the format evolved into five steps and most recently seven (Eisencraft, 2003). The purpose of changing the model to the 7E format is to remind teachers of the importance of eliciting students' prior knowledge and the extending of concepts to the real world and to other areas where they may be relevant. Here are the steps with a brief description of each phase:

  1. Elicit: You assess the students' prior knowledge of the content, which can be a pretest or a K-W-L chart, or simply by conducting a talk with your class about what they know.
  2. Engage: You do a demonstration or pose a problem that helps focus student attention to the topic, helps them make connections, and gives them a heads-up as to what they will be studying.
  3. Explore: Now your students are at the center of the action as they seek information or collect data to solve a problem.
  4. Explain: Here students report what they did and what answer(s) to the problem emerged while you introduce new vocabulary and use questions to assess their understandings of the concepts.
  5. Elaborate (or Expand): You offer new information that adds to the study and you pose problems or issues that students solve or discuss by applying what they have learned.
  6. Evaluate: Students self-assess, and you evaluate by whatever means you choose to find out what they have learned.
  7. Extend: Here you help students connect newly acquired skills and knowledge to new situations within the subject area or to other subject areas.

Much research has been conducted on the effectiveness of the Learning Cycle approach and supports the conclusion that this planning model, compared against traditional approaches, results in better student achievement and retention of concepts, as well as improved attitudes, more sophisticated reasoning ability, and better performance of process skills (Gerber, Cavallo, & Merrick, 2001). Using a Learning Cycle format can help you develop a conceptual storyline that accommodates both selection and sequencing of teaching activities so that you avoid fragmented activities (Ramsey, 1993). But always remember, there is no one best lesson-planning model. Elements of the models presented here can be used to create a framework that best fits your own teaching philosophy.

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