Anchored instruction for authenticity and motivation

The Jasper series was designed in response to a large majority of students lacking in independent and critical thinking skills, as well as the motivation to learn and apply concepts to the real world. The goal of the Jasper series was to create a shared learning context where students would be challenged in a “realistic problem-rich setting”, learning the when, why and how of procedures, concepts and skills (Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992a). The intent behind the design of this TELE was to provide an area for meaningful STEM exploration, building collective understanding between teachers and students, as they developed problem-solving skills in an authentic setting. I agree that this is a problem worth pursuing still today, as students have easy access to information on their phones and tablets, and are rarely challenged to reflect on their learning and engage critically with authentic problems. The Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992a) outlined the issue in more depth, elaborating on the necessity of developing “subskills” while using the Jasper series. To authentically tackle any problem, students need to develop a bank of skills and strategies from which they can apply their critical thinking to solve a complex problem, while being able to apply the tools of technology rather than having the technology answer the problem for them.

In the studies I read that attempted to integrate the Jasper series into their instruction, motivation and improved attitude towards STEM were byproducts of using the Jasper series (Hickey et al, 2001; Shyu, H., 2000). I found this interesting, but not surprising. Having access to technology at their fingertips, it would seem realistic for students to lose interest in the memorization of materials and concepts that didn’t relate to their lives. However, through the studies, results showed significant increase in motivation and positive attitude towards when anchored instruction and technology were fused together successfully. In Taiwan, several Grade 5 classes successfully implemented a video-based series, Encore’s Vacation, which resulted in improved motivation and academic achievement (Shyu, H., 2000). Encore’s Vacation is similar to the Jasper series, in that it provides visuals and audio accompaniment of a realistic problem, as well as diagrams, a storyline, and the ability to adjust the speed of the video. All these factors enable anchored instruction, with the complexities of authentic problem solving placed within a context students can grasp and opportunities for differentiation through extension or simplification as needed.

Unfortunately, in North America, there does not appear to be programs already set up for teachers as neatly and readily as the Jasper series or Encore’s Vacation. Khan Academy may provide audio and visual for the explanation of diagrams, however it does not teach subskills or place the learning in a context for problem-solving – it simply informs the student of how to solve a problem, and does not include them learning the when or why. Similarly, BBC Learn Classroom Clips only provide videos from which to listen passively, rather than question, reflect and collaborate to solve a genuine problem.



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.

Hickey, D.T., Moore, A. L. & Pellegrin, J.W. (2001). The motivational and academic consequences of elementary mathematics environments: Do constructivist innovations and reforms make a difference? American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 611-652.

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. Hi Jocelynn,

    I also read Shyu’s article and found this to be a good indication that anchored videos can be used to motivate students, in particular Grade 5 students. Having worked with this age group for a while, I feel like this is exactly what motivates students to use critical thinking skills while problem solving because they have the opportunity to collaborate and communicate in teams–allowing competitive students to flourish. For those who are not as competitive, anchored instructive provides a narrative that is interesting enough to retain focus and intrigue. Students want to know what the answer is.

    I wonder if the BC government were to provide a summer session for teachers interested in creating these videos if there were to be a interest. The core competency of Critical Thinking states, “Students encounter many opportunities for critical thinking in activities such as decision making, issue analysis, problem solving, inquiry, and self-assessment. Students move from basic or highly supported thinking to increasingly com
    plex, sophisticated, and independent thinking.” (BC Curriculum) Through videos like Jasper, these skills can be developed in meaningful ways. Another option is to work with B.Ed departments at Universities and teachers can collaborate to create these videos together, where research can then be conducted to determine best practice, etc. What a neat possibility for meaningful, engaging collaboration amongst various peer groups.

  2. I also feel in a very similar manner where the concepts are wonderful, but it seems that it would be hard to integrate these with the available resources to us. I believe that we can begin to integrate some of the Jasper Series components into our classes such as having large, overlaying problems for students to solve and apply their knowledge. I do not know if a full-immersive approach would be the solution for all of our students however. Park & Park (2012) found that this approach did not work for engineering students as there was no basic tools for those students to use in their approach and so resulted in inadequate skills in the end.

  3. Hi Jocelynn,

    I agree that a key component within Anchored Instruction, and within our current classrooms in general, is the overarching need to support our students in developing skills to apply technology as a tool for problem solving rather than expecting that technology will simply solve the problem and provide a solution for them. When students are required to reflect on “why” they have chosen to apply technology to support their learning, many are challenged to provide an explanation as to how they envisioned technology as an appropriate tool in their given context. While our students may be proficient in “using” technology within their daily lives, they often lack the fundamental skills necessary to effectively apply technology as a learning tool. It’s this dichotomy that should guide and inform our classroom practice and the ways that we support technology integration within our schools.

    – Allen.

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