Motivating and Engaging Students of all Abilities

When it comes to visible thinking routines and the integration of technology, Jasper provides many opportunities for students to find success. Within a constructivist approach, Jasper sets students up for success by providing a framework that is student centered. Looking at the work of the Jasper Project based out of Vanderbilt University, there is much research and reporting regarding this method of constructivist teaching. Through Anchored instruction educators use video narratives or stories, which provides a specific context, that aim to motivate and engage students during the learning process. Evidence suggests that when students are presented with anchored videos that are interesting, realistic, and require active involvement that opportunities for deep-thinking occur. Projects similar to Jasper situate learning in a real-world context, these videos provide both the what, how, and why.

According to Hasselbring, et. al, in Technology-Supported Math Instruction for Students with Disabilities, “Students with math difficulty can be successful in attaining high levels of fluency in mathematical operations with the appropriate assistance of technology; however, this assistance must go beyond simple drill and practice if students have not stored the problem and the associated answer in long-term memory.” Therefore, when considering current technologies and software for math such as Mathletics, it is necessary that a balanced approach be taken into consideration. The three types of knowledge, declarative, procedural, and conceptual, as Hasselbring, et. al reference, will only come to life when a solid foundation of declarative and procedural understanding are in place. Anchored instruction provides this real-world scenario where students are motivated and compete to solve the answers. As well, it provides opportunities for students to expand their thinking skills and ask further questions. Inquiry-based approaches to learning also allow for this teaching and learning to occur, and videos such as Jasper make it possible for students to engage in exciting opportunities of learning.

Therefore, within a TPC framework, “Instead of having teachers “transmit” information that students “receive,” these theorists emphasize the importance of having students become actively involved in the construction of knowledge.” (292) Anchored instruction again provides students chances to engage in activities that are meaningful.

However, as technology within the last few years have become more accessible for students to use within the classroom, as well as the ability to easily create such videos, how often does this practice come into fruition? Especially when we consider a differentiated approach to teaching, to meet students with all ability levels. Within elementary schools where teachers are expected to teach all subjects, should there be more emphasis on specialist teachers in math and science to ensure that best practice is possible? What role does administration play in supporting teachers who aim to integrate intricately woven concepts that provide chances for students to extend their thinking through narratives in anchored instruction? For myself, I believe that students will always rise to meet a challenge when given the opportunity. Meaningful action is possible when students are engaged and motivated.


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.

Hasselbring, T. S., Lott, A. C., & Zydney, J. M. (2005). Technology-supported math instruction for students with disabilities: Two decades of research and development.

Kose, Sacit. Diagnosing Student Misconceptions: Using Drawings as a Research Method. World Applied Sciences Journal 3 (2): 283-293, 2008

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. I think that the videos seen in the Jasper series take more time to produce than one would think. Aside from shooting the the actual footage, a teacher would have to plan out the problem beforehand, and anticipate different ways of solving it beforehand. Developing anchored instruction lessons would most definitely be a collaborative effort, which at times could get difficult when teachers have to balance marking, and a full course load. The creation of anchored instruction resources, whether it is the actual lesson plan, the videos, and the subsequent exercise problems, would most likely have to be produced by institutions such as universities, as opposed to individual teachers.

    1. Hi Gary,

      I completely agree. I hate that time is always a negative factor in the progress of education. I mentioned in another post/comment how it would be a neat opportunity to have various education groups collaborate together to create such videos. Even having high school students contribute to the filming or initial content framework alongside teachers/professors would be a meaningful opportunity.


  2. Great post Cristina.
    You got me thinking about the idea of specialist teachers at the elementary level. As we move through new curriculum in BC there is a lot of talk about the “new math” where the focus is on process and understanding rather then drill and memorization. This article was sent to me by a friend and while I don’t share it is a scholarly piece it is reflective of many conversations that are happening and return to your idea is new math failing not because the conceptual underpinnings are bad but maybe because teachers are unprepared to fully teach this way and if we desire to embrace a more constructivist style to math that includes anchored instruction maybe we need experts to guide the way.

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