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Classroom Applications of John Branfords Anchored Instruction Theory - Paper Example

7 pages
1843 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Our education gives us a knowledgeable base, ample with learning and information, but additionally provides us with a tool-kit for success. The tool-kit' helps us adapt to the challenges that come with living in the process of learning. Due to concerns that the knowledge attained by students was ineffective and static when they encounter problems in the real world, the anchored instruction was developed in response to these challenges. Most educators believe that students should be given knowledge that allows them to think for themselves and solve problems autonomously. Therefore, this has prompted researchers to focus their attention on the process involved in thinking rather than only focusing on the content of thought. This paper focuses on how anchored instructions can be used in a classroom setup to help students solve problems in real world.

Anchored Instruction Theory Summary

The anchored instruction primary intent is to overcome the inert knowledge problem. It does so by enabling an environment that allows teachers and students to explore and understand the kind of problems expert face and the tools they use to solve the problems. It also attempts to give students the value of exploring the same setting from multiple perspectives. The idea was derived from the works of theorist such as Hanson (1970) and Dewey (1933) (Bransford & Sherwood, 2004). The theory arouses from the problem cited since 1929 in education literature, and the problem cited that knowledge remains inert in students and hence becomes a waste when they are faced by different challenging situations in the real world (Bransford, 2012). The main intention of the experiment is to situate students into real situations and allow them to face the same dilemma experts experience in a particular field. These anchored problems are authentic and contain real data used by professionals such as physicians, historian or businessperson.

It is a technology-based innovation, which emphasizes on putting learning into a meaningful, problem-solving context. Anchored instructions use context, and it is a form of situated learning that places the learning and application of knowledge to ensure that learning is more meaningful and enhances the learning process. Teaching and learning are often designed around an anchor, which is often a story, situation or adventure that has a dilemma to be solved that is of interest to the student. The anchoring serves as a bond between the content within an authentic and realistic context. It is similar to problem-based learning (PBL) only that in PBL students are required to conduct the more first-hand study of resources that are external to their learning environment. It is also alike to case-based learning through the stories that are presented are meant to be explored rather than read aloud or watched.


To design an anchored, one needs to first categorize the stages necessary to resolve a problem, and then include them in a storyline. For instance, in the "wounded eagle" scenario that was developed by The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV), students must make a decision about the best way to save a wounded eagle; this is by calculating the amount of gasoline an ultra-light plane will need, weight of cargo and other info. The problem presented to students must not be so easy but complex in a way that students are required to debate about the best decision or options. Problem with more than one way of solving is fine; however, it is encouraged that students gather into different groups to describe the solutions. The above case scenario was complex and required at least 14 steps in a correct solution path.


Teaching and learning events should be aimed at an "anchor" which has to be problem situation or contextualized case study.

The student should use interactive multimedia-based presentation materials, enabling exploration by the learner (i.e., interactive sites)

The students learning need to take ownership.

It involves complex content and problems that tackled by their interconnection with multiple scenarios presented.

The problem is presented in the form of a story that is embedded with data.

The context of learning is generative in a way that students get involved with the story and hence starts generating a solution.

The model is commonly used in elementary reading, mathematical skills, and language arts. The group (CTGV) had created multiple videodisc programs that were called "Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series". This program has multiple adventures whereby mathematical concepts are applied to solve problems. Incorporating multimedia in the model allows students to have easy access and can easily explore the content of the video material that aids as anchors for all succeeding learning and instruction. The role of the learners in this context is to read a dilemma story and resolve it. The facilitator provides the context of a problem; he/she facilitate and coaches students through the anchored based learning process. Anchored instructions begin with a focal event or a situation that gives an anchor for the students' compression and perception, and the anchor helps them to deal with a general goal.

Theory Selection Rationale

Anchored instruction helps students focus on the relevant features of a problem, and they want to solve. For instance, imagine a problem-solving situation that requires them to always find the perimeter of areas of land. A student could perform well but fail to know the different conditions that need them to find perimeters and those that require the information about an area of various land segments. That is why anchored instruction help students focus on relevant features of a dilemma that they are trying to tackle. Gragg (1940) lamented that business students knew a lot of facts and concepts but failed to apply them to make effective business decisions, he argued that traditional forms of instructions failed to prepare them to tackle the situation in the real world. I choose this theory due to its effective ways of making education much more effective especially by use of video-based anchors rather than depend on the purely verbal mode.

The main benefit of using video anchors is that they comprise of much richer sources of data than those that are readily available in the print media. Actions such as gestures, scenes of towns, affective state and music accompany the dialogue, which is contrary to print media. There is much more to notice which gives one increased importance in noticing the possibility of finding embedded in the movie, thus encourage the opportunity to problem representation and problem finding rather than always providing a preset problem to students. Besides the richness of the information to be evaluated gives the student an enhanced chance to appreciate how their comprehension and perspective change as they have to look through multiple perspectives.

Secondly, the ability to observe dynamic, moving events accelerates the student to grasp the concept easily. For young children seeing waves and strong winds will help them conceptualize the context; older students may be assisted by viewing moving objects that illustrates acceleration versus constant velocity. Instructing students, using video-based content helps them grasp the information much more than a verbal format. Researchers have conducted multiple experiments to try to evaluate the significance of video-based anchors, according to the study, video-based instructions resulted to a greater comprehension from students than the ones conducted in verbal form (Simon, 2004).

Thirdly, imagine an event where a clinical student learns to diagnose via verbal elaborations such as the patient is slightly anxious, mild defensive.' The phrases such as slightly defensive' are a representation of how the expert has learned to recognize such situations. It is his pattern recognition process. Therefore the student needs to acquire similar skills of pattern recognition, and their ability to diagnose using verbal labels will be of little use in the real environment. Therefore, I found it interesting how this theory enables students to develop pattern recognition abilities. This ability is necessary for all field as it put the student into same situations with expert and enables them to interpret situations similarly with all variables included while solving a particular problem.

This kind of new approach is essential because operative problem-solving needs a great deal of precise knowledge yet traditional methods tend to provide knowledge that is inert. Thus, the goal of anchored instructions is to overcome the inert knowledge system by permitting students to experience deviations in their understanding and perception as they are introduced to new environments. Students realize how they failed to find fruitful solutions or failed to come up with effective strategies from the traditional forms of instructions. Therefore by doing so, we appreciate the significance of information and treat it as means to important ends leading to greater appreciation of the value of knowledge plus a greater tendency to apply it whenever new situations arise.

Class Room Presentation of Theory

Several researchers have contested the importance of using complex, realistic context; most cite that it provides an enriched perception, and affords development of complex problem solving and high level of thinking skills. The theory is very effective especially in mathematical thinking skills that I can apply as a math instructor and can be important across subject domains and different situations. As an instructor, I will focus most of my energy to the least performing students. It is evident that low achieving student performs better and are motivated to solve problems in a video. They apply what they have acquires to solve other problems that are related but slightly different problems. I will apply anchored instructions to motivate students with disabilities to match up the performance of average performance in areas such as rate, distance and time, graphic, linear function since they can be easily taught using videos.

Audio materials will be useful in the teaching process, recordings of plays, passages, and discussions can be listened to by students during class. Asking students to obtain such materials from authentic sources such as taped speeches, broadcast, debates, lectures, and interviews. Listening together in class with the students will facilitate discussions among the students and enable them to think beyond the content presented.

Visual materials are the most effective in the teaching process since it had very diverse content that students can relate to in real life situations. This can be developed to accompany the textbook or to represent whole units in themselves. It is important to involve the students in developing the materials so they can give suggestions for areas they would wish to gain more insight on. Practical classroom application of the content taught in the classroom should take up more than half of the teaching process.

Whenever an opportunity arises, taking the students to real life situation is the most convenient way of teaching effectively. Anchored instruction is all about taking students into the real-life situations and then letting them solve the problems. The best way to teach in future is to organize a drill event, i.e., calculating the area of specific land and letting the students apply what is taught in the classroom set up into that situation. There are several ways to implement the ideas of this theory into real life situation, as a teacher I can involve students in developing more creative methods.


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