Modeling Language Spotlight
5 E's of Education Model
November 4, 1996


Here's a traditional look at the model:

click here to see the etymology of the glyphs

The model reads like this: Explanations and examples form the foundation of education, tying current models and knowledge bases into new ones. Experience--the actual doing--raises the learner up to the level of expectation. What leverages experience above expectation is the wedge of exploration, searching the unknown, encountering the unexpected, uncovering the surprise.

Exemplification and Example

The second stage, exemplify, requires a bit more explanation (and maybe an example or two :-). At its simplest level, this stage can be retitled, "example." This falls in line with some standard thinking in education. If we're going to be learning about the classification of minerals, some introductory remarks on mineralogy may be appropriate, including the 14 types of crystal lattices and the 32 crystal classes. It would then be appropriate to see some examples of each type of lattice, as macroscopic crystals, and in thin sections under the microscope.

The word "exemplify" was chosen instead of "example" to remind mentors and facilitators in the education process that to some degree they are the subject they teach--that they are examples of the spirit of the subject. I remember a teacher who so loved mathematics that he would stand on his desk in moments of enthusiasm and walk about the room from desktop to desktop, completely animated by the subject. It was hard not to be caught up in that same fever. Curiosity and affection enabled many of us in the class to push through what was for us very difficult material. You exemplify what you love. Mastering the spirit of the material is as critical as mastering the mechanics.

The Process of the 5 E's

As already noted, the model implies that explanations and examples form the foundation of education, but this doesn't mean that they necessarily come first in the process of education. Perhaps exploration and some experience come first--then out of the experience the learner can extract explanations and develop a systematic approach to hunt for further examples to confirm, deny, or expand their conclusions. The clear explanation, in a way, is the LAST step in the process. Only a master of a concept can explain it. Only a master has the experience and exploration behind her to do so.

In practice, the process tends to jumble all of the 5 E's together, calling upon whichever one is required by the learner to take the next step or receive the next insight. When designing with the 5 E's, employ them as a reference rather than as a rigid template. If an event lacks one or several of the E's chances are its benefits will be marginalized. In isolation, exploration is bewildering, experience fatal, expectation disappointed, explanation confusing, and example unenlightening. Woven together, there is a possibility of synergy.

Another Diagram of the Model

A more fluid version of the model is shown below. In it, the explanation and example form the core. They are surrounded by a sac and membrane of expectation. Beyond that lies another, larger area of exploration. The membrane surrounding the entire model is experience.

It's clear that expectations exceed simple explanation and example. But they also, clearly must fall short of exploration, with it's hidden element of the unknown and undiscovered. One of the keys to understanding this model is to realize that experience enfolds it all. Even the act of hearing or reading an explanation is an experience. If you imagine experience to be a separate exercise from explanation, then the setting and force of the explanations will likely suffer.

And experience should be crafted.

Experience should be managed using the Seven Domains as a template, for all experiences are facilitated one way or another. Frequently the facilitative aspects are left to chance, or hidden or poorly designed, but they are present.

Thus, we can couch experience in terms of the other four E's, with the following result:

  • the experience of explanation is in the ability to listen, focus and absorb (not necessarily referring to only an auditory process).

  • the experience of example is recognizing the pattern.

  • the experience of expectation is acknowledging mastery and the path to be taken.

  • the experience of exploration is a sense of wonder and a willingness to risk.

  • the experience of experience... (any philosophers out there?)

Journal Assignment: All of the models in the modeling language benefit and become stronger when their different elements are examined from the context of each other. To acquire greater understanding of the models, try asking yourself questions like these:
  • what is the expectation of experience?
  • how are Body of Knowledge (from the Seven Domains) and exploration related?
  • how are Scan, Focus, Act related to the 5 E's?
  • what are the Technical Systems (from the Seven Domains model) associated with example?


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