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 is made up of teacher-led activities designed to hook your students’ interest.

It’s designed to get your students thinking and prime them for learning new concepts and skills.

The resources found in the Explore phase include role-play scripts, equipment demonstrations, and activities to introduce topics and initiate classroom discussion.

Phase 2: Learn & Practice

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

This phase is the heart of the AES curriculum. It’s where most of the standards are covered and the bulk of the learning takes place.

The Learn & Practice phase contains two main elements: teacher presentations and eLearning lessons.

Teachers use the PowerPoint presentations in a variety of ways, depending on what topic they are teaching and the needs of their students.

Through the eLearning lessons, students examine content and complete assessments. They may also practice skills associated with the content they are learning.

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.

This review helps students connect the new concepts they’ve learned to their existing knowledge and experience. These connections help form long-lasting memories and better information retention.

With the reflection activities, the teacher leads a class discussion to review the key concepts and students summarize the discussion by writing answers to provided question prompts.

These short essay prompts are an excellent way to mix academic skills related to language arts and writing into your CTE classes.

Phase 4: Reinforce

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

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

The reinforcement projects also cover critical academic skills such as 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.

Looking for More Ways to Use the AES Curriculum?

At the end of the day, you’ll likely need to implement multiple strategies when using the AES four-phase curriculum in your classes. 

For some lessons you may use flipped learning and others may fit better as in-class work. 

You may use the current event report for some modules and skip it for others.

Your decisions all depend on the needs of you and your students in relation to the topic!

The most important part is that you have a structured plan that best helps your students learn and retain the material.

Looking for other ideas or have ideas of your own to share?

Join the AES Educator Community to connect with other teachers using the digital curriculum system!

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