Issues with Jasper

I’d like to tackle the first question posted in this week’s discussion activity:

What perceived issue or problem are the Jasper materials responding to? Do you agree that this is an issue or problem? What does the current literature that you have read say about this issue? How is this issue addressed in the design of the Jasper materials? In what ways do contemporary videos available for math instruction and their support materials (c.f. Khan Academy, Crash Course, BBC Learn “Classroom Clips” and “Academic Earth”, video clips in Number Worlds, or others) address or not address these issues?

What perceived issue or problem are the Jasper materials responding to?

Jasper series videos respond to the lack of interesting real world problems in the classroom.  The videos provide a creative way for students to work together and solve complex problems.  The creators even go further and suggest the students are not alone in this adventure by suggesting other schools and other students just like them are trying right now to save the eagle!

Do you agree that this is an issue or problem?

Yes and no. I do agree with the issue that classrooms need to have more instruction that places students in an environment where they have to work together to solve complex problems. However, without the proper support and background knowledge, it becomes just too easy for students to construct the wrong kind of knowledge.  Park and Park (2012) when commenting on Problem-Based Learning (PBL), that is essentially the category the Jasper series falls under, argue that, “…students [fail] to learn essential concepts and principles, leaving them unable to construct the “right” knowledge required to solve real-life engineering tasks” (p. E14).  These researchers criticize PBL in the engineering context because often times students fail to grasp the basic  knowledge, that can lead them to construct knowledge in the group activities that may not even be accurate, let alone help them in any way on their job site.

Dana Bjornson and Darren Low also made great points in the post by Dana on depending on PBL as Dana suggested, “I would urge educators to digest methodologies like Jasper in small quantities.  These approaches are not the magic pill that will solve all of our problems” (Bjornson, 2017). Darren also showed his reluctance in depending on Jasper series completely as he suggested he would be, “…a little more hesitant to use the series solely as a method of teaching a core concept” (Bjornson, 2017).

So in that terms, no, I don’t agree that the Jasper series is the only solution to help students learn.  For the grade five to eight students: it is important to teach them basic math skills first so they have the knowledge to start problem solving on how to save the eagle.

What does the current literature that you have read say about this issue?

Park and Park (2012) assert the claim that PBL helps students become effective problem solvers but warn of “…their ineffectiveness to equip students with the basic and essential knowledge for problem-solving” (p. E17).  On the contrary, there are researchers that are proponents of PBL and the Jasper Series.  The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV), creators of the Jasper series frame the need for this problem-based activity due to “…the concern about existing tests…not [seeming] very authentic” (CTGV, 1992).  They also “…emphasize the benefits of anchoring or situating instruction in meaningful problem-solving contexts that allow one to simulate in the classroom some of the advantages of apprenticeship learning” (p. 69).  Moreover, the CTGV group (1992) explains use of the Jasper series helps “…students and teachers [make] learning more meaningful because they understand when, why, and how to use various procedures, concepts, and skills” (p. 78).  Shyu (2000) conducted a study to ascertain the effects of video based anchored instruction in Taiwanese classrooms, a culture where memorization and studying to the test or exam are highly valued for students to attend the best universities.  Shyu (2000) discovered “…video-based anchored instruction [provided] a more motivating environment that [enhanced] students’ problem-solving skills” (p. 57).  So it appears the literature summarizes that indeed PBL is valuable to teach students problem solving, however, I understand that without basic and background knowledge, first, problem solving may just as easily lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions while trying to construct knowledge on concepts.

How is this issue addressed in the design of the Jasper materials?

The issue of providing interesting, authentic, real world like problems is addressed in the Jasper Series by giving students a story.  A story about saving an eagle that is trapped and can be saved only by using an air plane called ultralight.  The creators give students many different scenarios on gas mileage, gas tank capacity, headwind, and tailwind to help students problem solve at a high level.

In what ways do contemporary videos available for math instruction and their support materials address or not address these issues?

I’m not sure how well Khan Academy or Crash Course are similar to Jasper Series as these materials almost entirely focus on telling the information in a visually appealing way that would help students remember.  They don’t necessarily place students into real world problem situations.  These materials essentially are more for review rather than learning something new.

Question for peer feedback:

Now that we’ve seen the Jasper Series and anchored instruction in action, how would you use it in the classroom? As an introduction to a complex topic or as practice in problem solving after learning some basics first?

Thank you,

Vibhu

References:

Bjornson, D. (2017) My Love-Hate Relationship With The Jasper Series. Retrieved from: https://blogs.ubc.ca/stem2017/2017/02/07/my-love-hate-relationship-with-the-jasper-series/

CTGV. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

Park, K., & Park, S. (2012). Development of professional engineers’ authentic contexts in blended learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), E14-E18.

Shyu, H. Y. C. (2000). Using video‐based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 57-69.

3 comments

  1. Hi Vibhu

    Your post was very interesting to read because you summarized the main points concisely. I teach grades 6 and 7 and I would like to use anchored instruction possibly as part of a math and social studies unit. Specifically I mean Social Justice Math. It entails having students explore math concepts through a social justice problem. Problems such as racism, child labour and homelessness are all relevant social justice issues that students should learn about and they can also engage in math lessons as part of it. For instance, students can calculate how much a child earns from making a shoe and cross reference it with the profit gained from shoe companies and the cost of making one. I do agree though that students need additional math lessons to supplement these types of problems so that they have the skill set to approach them.

  2. Hi Vibhu, It sure is weird to see yourself quoted! To respond to your question, I think that I would like to do a Jasper-esque problem at the end of my course (Foundations/Pre-Calculus 10), once the concepts have been taught and rehearsed. I think that students would really sink their teeth into a “real life” problem that involved concepts from the course and with a group dynamic, everyone at every skill level could participate. The new Math 10 curriculum has a probability component in it now, so devising a problem that incorporates a game would be very cool. Perhaps after trying it out once, I would consider having more through out my course, but I am not prepared to jump in with two feet, at this point. ~Dana

  3. Hi Vibhu,

    I feel that at an older grade level when students have some basic foundational math and science skills the Jasper project would work great. I’d questions whether younger grades would be able to handle something of this degree. Even with teaching my class problem solving strategies, I feel like my grade 4s are too young to be successful through something like the Jasper project. Sure, there are a few really bright students that may be able to handle assessing a problem and executing various strategies to solve a problem. But overall, I think many would need a great deal of structured guidance. I could imagine doing these with the entire class and modelling for them how to solve a problem. I feel like the curriculum doesn’t focus enough on making connections between all the different areas of learning.

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