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My inquiry eFolio for ETEC 533

  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah McLean

Should I try anchored instruction?

This week in class we talked about "The Jasper Experiment"- that used a form of instruction called "Anchor Instruction". It was developed by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. Overall, I think that this approach is a good way to think about complex problems and help students with problem-solving, but I still have a few outstanding questions (as shown below)...

What evidence exists regarding anchored instruction?

The idea of anchored instruction intrigues me; in particular, I like how the “anchors” are complex problems for solving- I am interested in the transference of skills learned in one anchored instruction environment to another. If we teach students a way to approach a problem in one context, will they be able to apply it to another? Work from Costillas (2015) that evaluated anchored instruction in higher education showed that there was evidence of problem-solving transfer from math to chemistry. Importantly, I think that the CTGV group did a good job of providing evidence of the utility of this approach. They highlighted that showing the complexity of a problem is important and helps teach resilience (CTGV, 1992). In Brophy and Pellegrino’s work, they noted that there are many solutions available in anchored instruction; determining the optimum solution can involve aspects of safety and reliability. When thinking about anchored instruction I also think about its link to social constructivism. For example, I noted that scaffolding the problem and working with “more knowledgeable others” seemed to be a key way for students to work together. In my mind, I thought that anchored instruction is encouraging a social constructivist approach to learning but with an emphasis on authentic problems.

What are some important nuances of the research that is pertinent to your practice?

The most important aspect of anchored instruction for my own practice is the way in which it can be used to design curriculum. For example, work from Saputra (2019) illustrated how using anchored instruction, with a “define, design, develop, and disseminate” approach is a useful approach to help educators structure new learning units. I am planning on using an anchored instruction approach to begin introducing concepts in a community-engaged learning course that I teach. I see anchored instruction being related to experiential learning. By immersing students in real-world contexts, anchored instruction might be a way to introduce students to a topic and “wrestle” with it before going into the real-world with their EL experience.

What further questions/inquiries does the research raise for you?

Though the CTGV group gave some guidelines as to how to make an effective anchor (complexity, multiple possible solutions, etc) I think one outstanding question that I have is how does one evaluate the quality of an anchored instruction prompt? And how important is the authenticity of this prompt? I read some work from Figas and Hagel (2017) who evaluated task-oriented teaching. They evaluated students to assess the importance of different components of a task (such as the introduction to the task, feedback, etc.) and found that only 5% of students stated that the contextualization of the task was important to the efficacy and importance of the task. This work seems to contrast to Brophy and Pellegrino’s review. In sum, I wonsder if anchored instruction really just comes down to creating an authentic problem. The other question that I am wrestling with is one that was noted by the CTGV group (1992), and that is, to what extension is anchored instruction a good approach when working with novice learners? How much of a “base” do students need to have before exploring the topic? Does this affect transference of the problem-solving? My initial thought is that the approaches to embedding anchored instruction would likely depend on a number of different factors including the self-efficacy of the students and the content itself. When comparing to current tech, I think that the Kahn academy effectively uses videos to teach, but they certainly do not do it in an anchored instruction approach. Rather, it seems to be focused on teaching the content, not the complexity of the content.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 40, 65-80.

Costillas, J. (2015). Extent of Transfer of Problem Solving Skills to Other Domains Facilitated Through Anchored Instruction. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL AND HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT, 3, 1-23.

Figas and G. Hagel, "A task is not a task — Empirical results about the quality of instructional tasks in higher education," 2017 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), Athens, 2017, pp. 684-687, doi: 10.1109/EDUCON.2017.7942920.

Pellegrino, J. W., & Brophy, S. (2008). From cognitive theory to instructional practice: Technology and the evolution of anchored instruction. In Understanding models for learning and instruction (pp. 277-303). Springer, Boston, MA.

Saputra, E., Ulya, K., Wahyuni, S., Rahmadhani, E., & Hakim, H. (2020, February). Media application in anchored instruction to support mathematics teachers’ pedagogical content k

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