Anchored Instruction…Where Did it Go?

The Jasper series were specifically made to address the issue the NCTM recommended be changed; questions needed to be more open-ended and span across many subjects. The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992a) made the Jasper scenarios/videos based around the theory of anchored instruction. Anchored instruction was introducing realistic and problem-based situations for students to solve during mathematics (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992b).

I believe the Jasper series changed the way mathematics was taught in the classroom. No longer did mathematics need to be taught using strictly rote memorization or problems from a textbook. The inclusion of technology and problem-based learning made for a dynamic and community based approach to the educational setting. Students, as demonstrated in the Jasper articles, were clearly engaged with the problem and were able to come to their own conclusions after much deliberation with their group members in an “active instead of passive learning environment” (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992a, p.475).

Recently, math instruction and support materials such as Khan Academy are similarly trying to engage students using TELE’s. I took a look at the programs listed, some of which I’d never heard of, and most of the programs are geared towards individual participation and growth. I do not believe that they can be considered examples of anchored instruction or, as Shyu (2000) mentions, situated learning. While the programs utilize technology to share mathematical problems, they are not inquiry based nor are they student-centered. I believe the CTGV (1992) did a great job at including technology in a meaningful way. While Khan Academy and the other programs absolutely have merit, they are not encouraging students to work together to solve real-life problems.


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

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

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.


  1. Thanks for the post Kirsten. I think what was interesting to me about Jasper was having students watch through videos not knowing in advance what they would be asked to solve. And with the possibilities for multiple solutions versus one correct, problem-based learning creates dynamic communities instead of traditional rote memorization as you describe. I still wonder however what background learners need to acquire before being able to tackle real world issues, and whether a ‘Jasper-like’ approach is suited for any content.


  2. Hi Andrew,

    You bring up a very valid problem that might be faced in many diverse classrooms. I work in a school board that has many students from numerous cultural backgrounds (including many Syrian newcomers). What may be considered ‘real-world’ problems to some students may be completely off-base for another. This is where Inquiry-Based Learning is a great learning tool to use in classroom as students can focus on an issue that may be more applicable to them (or find ways to make it more applicable). The Jasper project would not apply to all students. That being said, to do every lesson with an inquiry based approach is not realistic. Is it realistic for every activity to be applicable to all students? Does learning need to be applicable for all students, ALL the time?

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