My Initial Reflections on the Jasper Series

Although this post does not directly answer one of the questions posed, it provides a space for discussion about the series and I look forward to your ideas and reflections. I have provided another post which more directly reflects the questions posed.

Before reading the article about Jasper anchored instruction, I explored the videos just to get a feel for what this series entailed.  I also wanted to get my initial impressions without having much background. The first thing that struck me was that they were posed as challenges, which I believe would be engaging to students. Then I noticed that they were real-life explorations and I reflected that they would foster rich discussion amongst students. These problems or “situations” would allow students to test out, hypothesize, work and rework as they problem solved. It would be messy but rewarding. They may require some facilitation along the way or a sounding board, but the problem solving would be student centered.

Some questions I had after watching the videos were:

  1. Would it be possible to have the students conduct some of these situations in real-life? (as an adjunct to the videos)
  2. What background in mathematical terminology would the students require?
  3. Could the students competently solve these problems without some prior math knowledge in the area of exploration (rate, capacity, range, temperature, etc.)
  4. What software or platform was used to create and share the videos?

After reflecting on the videos I read the essential article, ” The Jasper Experiment: An Exploration of Issues in Learning and Instructional Design Cognition and Technology”. I was happy to see that many of my reflections correlated with the article.

Within the situational videos basic skills are important, but students develop them in the context of meaningful problem posing and problem-solving activities rather than as isolated “targets” of instruction (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992). Students must learn to identify and define issues and problems on their own rather than simply respond to problems that others have posed. I also found it interesting that the videos naturally encourage cooperative learning in which students have opportunities to discuss and explain which can assist in solidifying understanding. It is also interestingly noted that working in these cooperative groups allows the students to monitor one another and thus keep one another on track. This would definitely allow the teacher to take on a facilitation role more naturally.

The videos align with the goals of the NCTM as well. These include an emphasis on complex, open-ended problem solving, communication, and reasoning. In addition, connecting mathematics to other subjects and to the world outside the classroom is encouraged. The Jasper videos seem to fit the bill.

Within the article it explains that educators allow the students as much time and room to work on these problems without teacher interaction. Some may see this as foolhardy and may contest that certain skill sets need to be taught before complex problem solving can occur. The Jasper Experiment believes that engaging students in real-world problems that are inherently interesting and important helps students understand why it is important to learn various sub skills and when they are useful. The Jasper adventures are purposely created to reflect the complexity of real world problems.

Within the article it is also noted that Jasper developers are continuing to work with teachers in order to collect “scaffolding” or “guidance” information to include  with the videos. So although the goal of anchored instruction is situated in engaging, problem-rich environments that allow sustained exploration by students and teachers, some purposeful scaffolding and guidance can assist the problem solving process in some situations.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992). The jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1). pp. 65–80.

One comment

  1. HI Michelle,
    What I was thinking and mulling over as I read the articles and watched the Jasper videos was that these programs provide the students with new and novel situations and problems that they must take ownership of in order to solve. While I don’t believe we can turn on the Jasper videos and expect students to thrive immediately I do see them as valuable resources to be used. When I try to visualize a classroom that functions well with anchored instruction I immediately see a lot of planning of the physical space and the curriculum. Physically perhaps a math terminology wall would help students easily recall or recheck math terminology, research stations that include resource material to help students who may have struggled with a concept and now need to refresh their memory as the skill is currently needed. The teacher is an important physical resource, someone who can help guide learning or if they see the need stop and do some direct instruction with one or all of the students. While I understand that direct instruction is not really part of anchored instruction I believe it will be required in some instances or with some students. In terms of curriculum, first of all students (and staff) need to learn how to function optimally in an anchored instruction environment. Expectations need to be set as well as an understanding of how students proceed with the problem to be solved. As everyone gets more comfortable with the format I see teachers releasing more and more of the work to the students. Secondly, much thought must go into what problems will be covered when and what pre-existing knowledge is required for successful completion. If a teacher recognizes misconceptions (of a student or the group) they need to address this and restart students on their way. If a problem requires an understanding of a math concept that has not been introduced teachers may take this as a teachable moment.

    The big issue I have seen in classes that have moved away from rote is that there is no training for staff or students to use a problem-based curriculum. Unfortunately, that has resulted in some teachers seeing it as time to disengage from teaching. They do not use the time to observe or address misconceptions or even direct students who are struggling to move forward rather they see it as time to plan a different lesson. When I personally think about how I would implement anchored instruction, after reflecting on the readings and videos and discussions, I actually feel exhausted. To be done effectively the teacher would be in constant motion. Addressing, assessing and redirecting. Constant assessment during each class period would be essential to the teacher understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

    Finally, why would I want to tackle anchored instruction? Because I can easily picture a student at a future date being faced with a problem who is able to recall how they solved a similar problem before. The steps they took, the check and recheck. These novel experiences are more embedded in memory than repeated rote activities such as oh today we learn the volume of cylinders, here is the formula. Now apply this formula to the next fifty questions. I doubt any student would recall what was done and why.


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