What is Anchored Instruction?

Anchored instruction is an educational tactic that seeks to increase the quality, meaningfulness, and usefulness of education as is relevant in society. To achieve this objective, anchored instruction makes use of a strategy, which involves anchoring tasks and assignments to real-life examples of those situations. In other words, anchored instruction bases its teaching method on the use of real-life context that encourages students to use a hypothetical application of the information as a way to understand and retain the knowledge.

Anchored instruction often uses an adventure or a story as the ‘anchor’ for an activity. This helps attract the students’ attention and interest and inspires them to solve the problem. All information essential to finding a solution is included in the activity itself. This approach makes it more convenient for those working in settings having limited resources. Additionally, the data provided can be used in scaffolded instructions.

Anchored instruction resembles two other learning styles – problem-based and case-based learning. Problem-based learning (PBL) emphasizes expanding students’ thinking beyond the ideas they learn in class, thus encouraging them to continue researching the topic online. However, anchored instruction isn’t as open-ended as PBL. Case-based learning can be called a minor extension of anchored instruction, where students elaborate on the videos and texts with class discussions. But unlike case-based learning, the stories used in anchored instruction are meant to be discussed and explored further instead of being simply watched or read.

To understand how anchored instruction works, an example to consider is the use of the film titled “Young Sherlock Holmes.’ It has several ideas that students can be asked to analyze. Some of these are character motives, the Victorian era’s historical depiction, and cause-and-effect behaviors. Thus, the film itself can function as an ‘anchor’ for understanding a historical period and the art of storytelling.

Anchored instruction has three fundamental principles:

  •         Teachers give up control of learning to students. This means they don’t direct learning. Instead, they function as mere guides or facilitators to help and support students on their learning journey.
  •         Students create their strategies and questioning process to deal with obstacles that they may come across. They are also in charge of combining the information presented in the anchor story or video.
  •         The focus of the instruction is on supporting students to help them develop the skills required to sum up information and form a plan for learning.

Anchored instruction can be divided into six stages:

  1. Introduction: This stage involves attracting the students’ interest and getting them engaged with the story or activity, the problems or situations presented in which they need to solve or address.
  2. Familiarization: At this stage, the teacher gets all students on the same page and transfers ownership of the problem to them. This is the stage where students become accountable for concept application.
  3. Expansion: This is where students get the opportunity to research their topics and concepts.
  4. Plan: Students draw a plan to solve the problem or address the situation.
  5. Transfer: This phase helps the students recognize how concepts are applied elsewhere.
  6. Share: This is the final stage where the students share their experiences.
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