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The AES Course Framework: A Four-Phase Curriculum

Are you looking for ways to improve your students’ understanding and retention of information?

Are you new to using AES and wondering how the curriculum is organized?

The AES course framework is designed to make your life easier and improve your students’ long-term retention of information.

This course framework is organized into a specific learning plan that we refer to as “the four phases.”

The four phases of the AES curriculum are:

  1. Explore
  2. Learn & Practice
  3. Reflect
  4. Reinforce

This four-phase learning plan is designed to maximize student understanding while also saving you time with planning.

The curriculum is taught with a combination of lectures, hands-on activities, and computer-based learning.

In this article, you’ll learn what the four phases are and how they help your students learn. You’ll also discover how other teachers use the four-phase curriculum framework in their classes.

What Are the Four Phases in the AES Curriculum?

The four phases are our way of presenting learning content in a structure any teacher can follow in order to help students retain key information for the long term.

Watch the video of AES eLearning Developer, Kristin Savko, for an overview of the four phases, or read the details below:



Phase 1: Exploreaes-course-framework-four-phase-curriculum

The Explore phase has teacher-led activities designed to hook student interest.

This phase gets your students thinking and primes them for learning new concepts and skills. Some of the resources within the Explore phase include:

  • Role playing scripts
  • Equipment demonstrations
  • Activities to initiate class discussion

These activities are a great way to kick off class and introduce a new topic before you switch to a lecture or independent student work in the Learn & Practice phase.

Phase 2: Learn & Practice

The Learn & Practice phase contains student-directed eLearning lessons to help students learn new concepts and skills.

Within a module, the curriculum is organized into units and lessons. The material is presented according to two learning theories - chunking and scaffolding.

Chunking involves breaking down a large amount of information into smaller "chunks." Organizing modules into units via chunking results in better comprehension and makes it easier for students to remember what they learn.

Scaffolding is a method of instruction that incrementally builds on the learning that has happened previously. We use scaffolding to give students as much exposure to the information as possible and are required to recall what they have learned multiple times throughout a unit.

When developing the eLearning lessons, we focus on making the material accurate, engaging, age-appropriate, and relevant to students.

For the most difficult topics for students to relate to, you'll find real-world scenarios, simulations, interactive activities, and learning games within the modules.

By presenting eLearning materials this way, students stay engaged while forming real-life connections. This combination helps improve understanding and cements the information in your students' long-term memory.

Learn more about the Learn & Practice phase here: The HealthCenter21 Student Experience

Phase 3: Reflect

The Reflect phase includes teacher-led activities designed to review and discuss key ideas from the module lessons.

Typically, this phase includes reflection activities where the teacher leads a class discussion in order to review key concepts with students. In turn, students summarize the discussion by writing short answers down to question prompts.​

By reviewing newly-learned concepts, students connect it to their existing knowledge and experience. These connections help increase information recall and improve understanding of concepts.

Phase 4: Reinforce

The Reinforce phase is made of student-directed projects that enhance understanding of concepts and skills.

In this phase, students work either individually or in groups to complete projects that require application of the module’s concepts.

The type of reinforcement projects you'll find vary by module and can include:

  • Current event reports
  • Role-playing activities
  • Presentations
  • Posters
  • Research projects

The projects included in this phase also cover critical academic skills like conducting research, using the writing process, and giving presentations.

Read the next section of this article to discover how teachers like you implement the four-phase curriculum in their classes.

How Do Other Teachers Use the Four-Phase Curriculum?


Teachers often want to know the best way to implement the AES four-phase curriculum into their classes.

While we highly recommend using all four phases whenever possible, you can choose which pieces you use based on what you and your students need to succeed.

Based on conversations we’ve had with teachers over the years, we’ve compiled a list of seven ideas for you to try when implementing the four-phase curriculum:

  1. Introduce key concepts with teacher presentations
  2. Assign Learn & Practice lessons as classwork
  3. Rotate groups between digital and hands-on work
  4. Assign Learn & Practice lessons as homework
  5. Present the Learn & Practice lessons to the class
  6. Assign reflection questions as homework
  7. Assign current event reports as homework

These are just a few of the ways teachers like you use the AES four-phase curriculum.

Depending on your classes and students, you may find one or more of these techniques work better than others.

1. Introduce Key Concepts with Teacher PowerPoints

One of the most common ways teachers use the presentations from the Learn & Practice phase is to introduce new information.

In some cases, you may want to tweak the presentations to include additional information related to the topic you’re teaching.

“I pretty much start with the PowerPoints. I might add a few of my own little notes into it and a couple of slides in there. But I start with the PowerPoint, then students go into the program, put headphones on, and listen. They hear me talk about it, then they have a backup for going over the material, but in a different way.”

William Graham

Holcomb Bridge Middle School, GA

Pro Tip: If your students already have a good understanding of the topic, save time by foregoing the presentation. On the flip side, if you’re introducing a more difficult concept make sure you take advantage of the provided PowerPoint!

2. Assign Learn & Practice Lessons as Classwork

Many teachers instruct students to go through the digital lessons from the Learn & Practice phase during class.

This technique is an excellent way for students to work independently while you are available to answer questions that come up -- without interrupting the entire class.

“I have more time to monitor and circulate throughout the classroom to ensure students don’t get left behind. I can stop and help a student and then start moving around the class again. I have much more time to give feedback to the students during class. I think it’s helped me be a superhero. With AES I’m doing a better job. I’m able to be there for the students more.”

Carolyn Khan

Coconut Creek High School, FL

Pro Tip: For a variation on using the digital lessons as classwork, read the next idea!

3. Rotate Groups Between Digital and Hands-On Work

As a CTE teacher, you likely have to juggle standard classroom instruction with hands-on lab or skills work.

Some teachers tackle that challenge head-on by putting students into groups and rotating them between digital and hands-on work.

“AES has made the classroom a lot less hectic and more conducive to learning… it’s invaluable while we assess hands-on skills. During the time consuming assessment process these skills take to master and complete, it’s important that the remaining students have something productive that allows their learning to be consistent.

andy-garrett-circleAndy Garrett

Thompson High School, AL

To run your classroom like Andy, split your class into two groups. Instruct half of your students to login and complete the digital lessons while the other half do hands-on work with you.

Part way through the class period switch the groups so everyone spends an even amount of time on both pieces.

4. Assign Learn & Practice Lessons as Homework

Some teachers use a flipped learning approach by assigning the Learn & Practice lessons as homework.

This technique allows students to work through the self-directed information prior to coming to class and partaking in in-depth discussions.

“The students are more engaged when I am doing a lecture because I try to have them go through the modules prior to me lecturing. It has cut down on my lecture time, which I thoroughly enjoy because I can go through it quicker.

It kind of stimulates the students because now they’re saying, ‘Oh, I have a question. I didn’t understand this. I heard that on AES, but can you explain it to me?’ So when I’m doing a lecture like this, we get a little bit more into the meat and potatoes of everything.”

kozy-hubbard-circleKozy Hubbard

Bartow High School, FL

Like Kozy, many teachers have found that flipping the classroom can lead to increased student engagement and deeper learning during in-class time.

Pro Tip: Before assigning the Learn & Practice lessons as homework, review these flipped learning best practices so that you and your students are set up for success!

5. Present the Learn & Practice Lessons to the Class

Erika Greene, a health science teacher in Georgia, likes to mix things up when using AES in the classroom. 

Sometimes she has students complete the Learn & Practice lessons at home, while other times she projects the lessons on the screen at the front of her class.

When she uses this approach, Erika occasionally picks a student to help lead the class and work through the interactive lesson.

“Even if I’m lecturing from the system, I’ll choose a student to come up and do the drag-and-drops… they like that.”

erika-greene-circleErika Greene

Meadowcreek High School, GA

By using this approach, Erika empowers her students to take the reigns and be leaders in the classroom. This results in better engagement and interaction among the students in her classes.

Pro Tip: If you present the digital lessons to the class, have students follow along and fill out the accompanying worksheets for a completion grade.

6. Assign Reflection Questions as Homework

Many of the resources in the Reflect phase are questions designed to engage students in critical thinking and a teacher-led discussion.

However, you could also assign these questions as homework for students to answer on their own.

This is a great way to have students really think about their answers, without the pressure of completing the work before the class period is over.

The following day, you can collect their answers for a grade or ask students to share their thoughts as part of a short class discussion.

7. Assign Current Event Reports as Homework

Many modules include a current event report within the Reinforce phase. These activities require students to review articles and complete a current event report form related to the topic they are learning.

While you could assign this as classwork, these current event activities are an excellent option to assign as homework.

By assigning the report as homework, your in-class time can be more focused on answering any lingering questions to help your students prepare for the upcoming module test.

Pro Tip: Though these current event activities are found in many modules, consider assigning them on a varied basis to avoid too much repetition for your students.

Save Time and Empower Your Students Today

These four phases are designed to ensure your students both learn information and retain it for the long term. When you incorporate each phase into your classroom, you ensure you teach lessons your students will remember for life. 

If that sounds right for you and you want to explore these four phases yourself, start a free trial with AES today. With this trial, you’ll gain complete access to our curriculum catalog and time-saving tools so you can determine if AES is the right fit for you and your students.

And if you’re uncertain about starting a trial, instead check out this guide to overcoming 5 common teaching challenges that teachers like you face. This guide covers topics like satisfying course standards, engaging students, and more, and offers practical solutions for dealing with each:

Start My Free Trial Solve Your Teaching Challenges