Anchored Instruction

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Last Update

This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, June 2017


See also ADDIE model | Behaviourism | Constructivism | Instructional design models | Teaching library users | Transformative learning

Anchored instruction is a form of situated instruction where teaching is anchored in (and through) the use of real problems and contexts so that learners can explore possible (or real) solutions. Anchored instruction is a form of social constructivism and related to situated learning and problem-based learning. As such, anchored instruction invites the social participation of learners especially through the use of technology such as short video segments (8-to-12 minutes) which are then used as a starting point for discussion and understanding. In classrooms using AI, students work together to formulate strategies to solve problems embedded in the anchoring activity. As the problem is of interest to students, they work together to solve it. Although anchored instruction resembles problem-based methods, it is less open-ended, and more prescriptive. However, it is useful in directing students through specific tasks.

Anchored instruction should be viewed as a major paradigm for technology-based learning. Original work on this model was conducted by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt which found that anchored instruction is "...(situated) in video-based, problem-solving environments that teachers and students can explore. Its goal is to foster problem-solving and to help students become independent thinkers". Its initial focus was the development of interactive videodiscs that encouraged students and teachers to pose and solve complex problems. The videos serve as "anchors" to generate problem-solving and learning. AI was also developed to remedy inert knowledge i.e., knowledge that is inflexible, or applicable only to a few situations. In 2012, multimedia, web-media and other interactive technologies can be used for AI.

One of the goals of anchored instruction is for students to become autonomous. It is essential that instructional designers and teachers interact with students in order to build that autonomy. Students should therefore work on problems in small groups, and eventually report their solutions to the entire class. During their reports, students can discuss the pros and cons of various. One of the benefits of AI is that students are able to understand problems more deeply by exploring the relationship among pertinent variables. AI helps students to learn more about the issues that subject or domain experts typically encounter and get to see how they might identify, represent and solve problems. Most groups will struggle in using AI. The instructor must also learn through experience when to provide strategic support to their students and when to let them find their own way.

Anchored instruction

  • Anchored instruction situates instruction in the rich context of meaningful authentic problem-solving environments
  • Further it provides examples of problems and opportunities that experts encounter and helps students to explore knowledge that experts use
  • Simulation of apprenticeship that comprises authentic tasks
  • Video formats are used because they help students to develop pattern recognition skills; allow students to explore dynamic, visual and spatial representations of the problem and information to inform their mental models of the problem situation
  • Videodisc has random-access capabilities that enable students to explore the information from different perspectives
  • Goal-oriented problem solving process: Students are challenged to engage in problem finding and problem solving activities. Students must identify major goals, generate the sub-problem that represent obstacles to the goal, and devise strategies to deal with various subproblems


Design principles of anchored instruction

The instructional design principles underlying the anchored instruction are:

  • Instruction highlights the use of knowledge to help students to see the needs of learning the new information and set up the learning goals.
  • Students are encouraged to identify their own questions to the problem, to set up their own goals, and issues when they explore the anchors, a problem solving environment in a videodisc format, to identify relevant information and to come up with solutions.
  • Teachers need to learn to give control to students letting students to establish their learning goals. Teachers are no longer authoritative sources of knowledge, but facilitators and guides to support students' problem solving process, such as helping them to identify their goals.

Anchors are macro-contexts that consist of rich information, and differ from micro-contexts which are individual examples used to illustrate a particular learning dimension. It is ultimately more manageable for teachers to organize instruction around anchors than to find all the resources necessary to accomplish community-based projects. Anchors equalize the preparation of the students, and provide common ground of shared knowledge to facilitate participation.


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