Anchored Instruction and Generative Learning

According to the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, the anchored approach to instructional design is “situated in engaging, problem rich environments that allow sustained exploration by students and teachers” (1992a). From this, the Jasper video series was developed with the intention of creating generative activities and cooperative learning situations for students to engage in authentic, real life problem solving opportunities that incorporate knowledge from cross curricular areas. One of the key takeaways from the Jasper series, and other similarly based authentic tasks, is the importance of student learning taking place within the context of a meaningful environment, rather than targeting learning within skill and knowledge development in isolation. The Vanderbilt Cognitive and Technology Group states that in terms of generative learning, students should be challenged to engage in argumentation and reflection as they access and apply their existing knowledge when confronted with alternate points of view (1992a).

The Jasper series of videos address the requirement of authenticity by presenting problems and opportunities that mimic those encountered by experts in similar fields of work, and the students engage with the same types of content and knowledge that these experts apply as tools within their work. This involves links to different areas of the curriculum that supports the integration of knowledge. An important aspect that differentiates the Jasper series from other contemporary learning videos (i.e. Khan Academy, Crash Course, and BBC Classroom Clips) is the incorporation of cooperative learning within group settings that allow for collaboration as a function of communities of inquiry to discuss, explain, and learn through interaction with peers. While the other contemporary learning videos are more passive in nature, as they provide a delivery of information and content without opportunities for active engagement or problem solving, the Jasper series moves groups of students into developing self generated information as a product of collaborative opportunities that are built into the structure of the videos.

Mathematics teaching has traditionally followed a linear form of instruction that involves an emphasis on skill drills and repetitive technique practice that requires students to progress through their learning path without adequate consideration to personalized and individualized learning styles. The Jasper series approaches the learning of Mathematical content, as one example, in a more active format by promoting cross curricular connections that allow for hands-on, collaborative learning. It was interesting to note that the results of the research conducted by the Vanderbilt Cognition and Technology Group reported that students demonstrated an improved attitude towards Mathematics after participating in the Jasper series, and that they viewed Mathematics as being more useful and practical in everyday contexts (1992b). However, several students held negative attitudes towards the assessment portions of the Jasper series, and this required a fundamental rethinking of the approaches to student assessment (1992b). Following this, the research of Shyu (2000) reveals that students in Taiwan also reported a positive impact on their learning and attitudes towards mathematics, and that students responded favourably to the incorporation of situated learning theory and multimedia video technology through participation in the Jasper series. The success of developing student problem solving abilities, and the opportunities for collaborative, generative learning were regarded as having an impact on all students, regardless of their previous achievement in mathematics and science (Shyu 2000). Despite appearing to be somewhat dated by our 21st century technological standards, the Jasper series, and the incorporation of anchored instruction, clearly have significant benefits to student learning and achievement that continue to be highly relevant and applicable within our current classroom environments.


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.

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