An Overview of Learning Cycles in Science Inquiry-based Instruction

  • Christian Bob Nicol University of Rwanda - College of Education
  • Emmanuel Gakuba University of Rwanda - College of Education
  • Gonzague Habinshuti University of Rwanda - College of Education
Keywords: learning cycles; inquiry-based instruction; history of learning cycles; model of instruction


While a plethora of researchers have acknowledged the importance of learning cycles as a model of instruction in a constructivist supported enquiry science education, the rising number of learning cycle models however raises compelling questions about validity, hence the need for a comprehensive overview and analysis of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of these models. This paper examined among the very many, four major learning cycles; 3E, 5E, 7E and 9E, on the scales of knowledge construction, to provide adequate information for decision making regarding their preference and use. While the 3E provides the very basic framework for expansion, it missed addressing the learners’ initial dialogic engagement with teachers as well as summative evaluation of learning. Critical analysis informed the conclusion that there are three main goals common to the learning cycles under review namely; the development of conceptual understanding, process skills and critical thinking. A well-planned and implemented 5E model generally meets the inquiry-based constructivist learning goals, although it is silent on transfer of knowledge outside of the classroom. This transfer of knowledge, provided for in the 7E, is the major meaningful difference between 5E and 7E. The three new phases introduced in the 9E, Echo, Emend and E-search, were assessed to be redundant. After a thorough needs assessment of the phases of the learning cycles under review, a six-phase learning cycle is proposed comprising Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate and Extend.

Author Biographies

Christian Bob Nicol , University of Rwanda - College of Education

African Center of Excellence for Innovative Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS)

Emmanuel Gakuba, University of Rwanda - College of Education

Department of Mathematics, Science and Physical Education

Gonzague Habinshuti, University of Rwanda - College of Education

School of Inclusive and Special Needs Education


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2508-1128