Anchored Instruction and Situated Cognition Revisited (CTGV)

CTGV (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt) (1993). Anchored instruction and situated cognition revisited. Educational Technology 33(3), 52-70.

This article is a follow-up to a piece the group wrote three years earlier, in which they discussed the use of  information-rich videodisc environments (The Young Sherlock Program and The Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series) to anchor or situate instruction. Here, they clarify and expand on their initial ideas by addressing certain FAQs and discussing implications for transfer and assessment.

Summary of 1990 thinking: video-based anchors that created interesting realistic contexts could serve as “macrocontexts” for active construction of knowledge by learning. Purpose was to “recreate some of the advantages of in-context learning that are available to young children and to people participating in apprenticeships” (p.52)

From FAQ section:

  • Anchors are designed to promote but not guarantee the kinds of activities that are emphasized by constructivist approaches to learning.
  • One of the greatest challenges that anchored curricula pose for teachers is that is requires a change in role from “provider of information” to a coach and often a fellow learner (p.54)
  • Jasper teachers engage in “just-in-time teaching” by first encouraging students to use their intuitions about how to approach a problem and then providing them with the resources necessary to make progress (p.55)
  • The opportunity to work through an anchored adventure helps equalize the preparation of the students for the projects that they eventually undertake (p.57)
  • Anchored instruction encourages cooperative learning: Problems depicted in the anchors are complex, hence any individual student is unlikely to be able to solve them completely; the visual  nature of the anchors makes it easier for students to contribute even if they are not good readers. Another possible strategy: having students adopt particular roles (p.58)
  • Simulations appear to be highly motivating and excellent for engaging students in “what-if thinking.” Also, they help students learn to organize their work in a systematic manner (p.58)[Molecules and Minds]
  • “What if” analog questions are designed to promote flexible transfer by helping students re-think optimal solutions in light of key changes in parameters

CTGV — Changes in thinking section:

  • Broader view of situatedness: now better  understand the need to explicitly consider cultural contexts in which we situate our anchors. Challenging to change the culture of the classroom (teacher role as “teller” vs coach or fellow learner). Best to use simple technology first; provide planning and support for technology.
  • Greeno et al.’s definition of learning: “…an improvement in the ability to interact with things and other people in a situation.” Transfer is related to “…how learning to participate in an activity in one situation can influence (positively or negatively) one’s ability to participate in another activity in a new situation”  (p.64).
  • Group feels that “comprehensive theories of learning need to be based on analyses of a wide variety of settings rather than solely on learning as it currently occurs in schools” (p.64)
    • School-learning (teacher-directed) strategies: 1) what will be on the test; 2) taking notes; 3) remembering information from textbooks.
    • Non-school-learning (self-directed) strategies: 1) identifying important problems and opportunities; 2) setting and meeting one’s learning goals.
  • Important to develop material that can make thinking visible and hence afford opportunities for elaboration and for repair when necessary (p.65)
  • Interested in capturing some of the advantages that sports contests or musical performances create for coaches and for music teachers and their students. By facing common challenges posed from outside the classroom, teachers and students are united in their efforts to continually improve.
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