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Anchored%20Instruction

Anchored%20Instruction - THE COGNITION AND TECHNOLOGY GROUP...

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Unformatted text preview: THE COGNITION AND TECHNOLOGY GROUP AT VANDERBILT In a recent Educational Researcher article, Brown, Collins, and Duguid (January-February 1989) discussed the concept of situated cognition. We explore relationships between this concept and our Technology Center’s work on anchored instruction. In the latter, instruction is anchored (situated) in videodisc-based, problem- solving environments that teachers and students can explore. We argue that situated cognition provides a broad, useful framework that emphasizes the importance of focusing on everyday cognition, authentic tasks, and the value of in-context apprenticeship training. Anchored instruction provides a way to recreate some of the advantages of apprenticeship training in formal educational set— tings involving groups of students. In addition, some of the prin- ciples of anchored instruction may make it possible to create learn— ing experiences that are more reflective than many that occur in tradi- tional apprenticeship training. Together, the situated cognition and anchored instruction perspectives suggest ways to think difierently about instruction, and they suggest important issues for future research. Educational Researcher, Vol. 19, No. 6, pp. 2—10 uring the past several years, members of Vander- , bilt’s Learning Technology Center1 have been a. experimenting with new ways to structure the learrung experiences of students. Our ultimate goal is to help students develop the confidence, skills, and knowledge necessary to solve problems and become independent thinkers and learners (see also Baron & Sternberg, 1987; Bransford, Sherwood, Vye, 8: Rieser, 1986; Ennis, 1987; Nickerson, 1987; Resnick, 1987; Salomon 8t Perkins, 1989; Schwartz, 1987; Simon, 1980; Sternberg, 1985). We have come to believe that recent computer and videodisc tech— nologies make it easier to achieve these objectives. One of our goals here is to discuss some of our research on the effects of situating instruction in videodisc—based, problem—solving environments (we call this the ”anchored instruction” approach). A second goal is to relate our ideas on anchored instruction to the concept of situated cognition that was discussed in this journal by Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989). Our paper is divided into three major sec- tions: (a) theoretical and empirical background of anchored instruction, (b) discussion of two projects involving an- chored instruction, and (c) discussion of relationships be- tween anchored instruction and situated cognition. Background of Ideas Leading to Anchored Instruction Like Brown et a1. (1989) and other researchers (e.g., Porter, 1989; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1985), our thoughts about problems with traditional approaches to instruction have been influenced by Whitehead’s (1929) discussion of what he termed the inert knowledge problem. Inert knowledge is knowledge that can usually be recalled when people are ex- plicitly asked to do so but is not used spontaneously in prob— lem solving even though it is relevant. Whitehead was in- strumental in calling attentiOn to the phenomenon of inert knowledge. He also made the provocative claim that, in schools, information was particularly likely to be presented in ways that make it inert (see also Gragg, 1940; Simon, 1980). Bereiter (1984) provided an informative illustration of the inert knowledge problem. He described a situation in which a teacher of educational psychology gave her students a long, difficult article and told them they had 10 minutes to learn as much as they could about it. Almost without exception, the students began with the first sentence of the article and read as far as they could until the time was up. Later, when discussing their strategies, the students acknowledged that they knew better than to simply begin reading. They had all had classes that taught them to skim for main ideas, consult section headings, and so forth, but they did not spontaneous- ly use this knowledge when it would have helped. In Sherwood, Kinzer, Hasselbring, and Bransford (1987), we discussed an additional illustration of inert knowledge- We asked entering college students to explain how knowl- edge of logarithms might make it easier to solve problems, THE COGNI'IION AND TECHNOLOGY GROUP AT VANDERBILT is a multidisciplinary team of researchers located at the Learning Technology Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. - 2 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER P,——a——_'m ————————-’!'——————’ “A “'9‘: 1 fl , __.__—_ .4 why were they invented, and what were they used for. The vast majority of the students had no idea of the uses for logarithms. They remembered learning them in school but they thought of them only as math exercises performed to find answers to logarithm problems. The students treated them as difficult ends to be tolerated rather than as exciting inventions (tools) that allowed a variety of problems to be solved. Imagine that our students had entered a contest that required them to multiply as many sets of large numbers as possible within an hour. The students could use anything they wanted to help them except a calculator or a computer. It is doubfl‘ul that they would have asked for tables of logarithms even though the tables could serve as extremely helpful tools.2 ' It is useful to contrast the mechanical procedure knowledge of logarithms that we found with entering college students to the understanding suggested by Jacobs’ (1970) citation of John Briggs, an astronomer who lived in the 1600’s: Logarithms are numbers invented for the more easy work- ing of questions in arithmetic and geometry. By them all troublesome multiplications are avoided and performed only by addition. . . . In a word, all questions not only in arithmetic and geometry but in astronomy also are thereby most plainly and easily answered. (p. 160) For Briggs and his fellow astronomers, logarithms were understood to be powerful tools that greatly simplified their lives. We are indebted to theorists such as Dewey (1933) for help- ing us understand the importance of viewing knowledge as tools (e.g., Bransford 8: McCarrell, 1974). As Dewey noted, when people learn about a tool they learn what it is and when and how to use it. When people learn new informa- tion in the context of meaningful activities (e.g., when Briggs and colleagues learned how logarithms helped them under- stand astronomy), they are more likely to perceive the new information as a tool rather than as an arbitrary set of pro- cedures or facts. In several demonstration studies, we have shown that one of the advantages of learning in problem- solving contexts is that students acquire information about the conditions under which it is useful to know various con- cepts and facts (Bransford, Sherwood, 8: Hasselbring, 1988). We have also discussed how the learning successes of young children strongly depend on their opportunities to learn in meaningful, socially organized contexts (Sherwood, Kinzer, Bransford, 8: Franks, 1987; Bransford 8: Heldmeyer, 1983). Furthermore, laboratory studies indicate that meaningful, problem-oriented approaches to learning are more likely than fact-oriented approaches to overcome inert knowledge prob- lems (e. g., Adams, Kasserman, Yearwood, Perfetto, Brans- ford 8: Franks, 1988; Lockhart, Lamon, 8: Gick, 1988). Of course, the idea that one needs to make information meaningful and useful to students is hardly new. Teachers usually try to provide examples of how information is useful. When teaching logarithms, for example, a teacher or textbook author might discuss how logarithms make it easier to solve computational problems. However, statements about one or two potential applications of concepts are still a long way from the situation characteristic of the 17th-century astron- omers who were discussed earlier. The astronomers were in- timately familiar with the kinds of problems that they con- fronted when trying to do their astronomy. They lived with these problems and had to spend a large portion of their time with tedious calculations. For them, logarithms did not repre- sent a specialized tool that was useful for only one or two textbook—like problems. Logarithms represented a tool that could be used every day. Anchored Instruction The major goal of anchored instruction is to overcome the inert knowledge problem. We attempt to do so by creating environments that permit sustained exploration by students and teachers and enable them to understand the kinds of problems and opportunities that experts in various areas en— counter and the knowledge that these experts use as tools. We also attempt to help students experience the value of ex- ploring the same setting from multiple perspectives (e. g., as a scientist or historian). Our work on anchored instruction derives from insights by theorists such as Dewey (1933) and Hanson (1970), who emphasized that experts in an area have been immersed in phenomena and are familiar with how they have been think— ing about them. When introduced to new theories, concepts, and principles that are relevant to their areas of interest, the experts can experience the changes in their own thinking that these ideas afford. For novices, however, the introduction of concepts and theories often seem like the mere introduc- tion of new facts or mechanical procedures to be memorized. Because the novices have not been immersed in the phenom- ena being investigated, they are unable to experience the ef- fects of the new information on their own noticing and understanding. The general idea of anchored instruction has a long history. Dewey discussed the advantages of theme—based learning. In 1940, Gragg argued for the advantages of case-based ap- proaches to instruction. One variation of case-based instruc- tion is to use a variety of minicases that serve as microcontexts that focus on a specific subset of a larger problem or domain. Rather than anchoring instruction in such circumscribed con- texts, we anchor instruction in complex problem spaces. We refer to these as macrocontexts. Macrocontexts enable the exploration of a problem space for extended periods of time from many perspectives. They serve as environments for cooperative learning and teacher-directed mediation (e.g., Bransford, Goin, Hasselbring, Kinzer, Sherwood, 8: Wil- liams, 1988 ; Bransford, Sherwood, Hasselbring, Kinzer, 8: Williams, in press; Feuerstein, Rand, Hoffman, 8: Miller, 1980; Vygotsky, 1978). For several reasons, we prefer our contexts to be in visual rather than textual formats and to be on videodisc rather than Videotape (see also Miller 8: Gildea, 1987; Spiro, Vispoel, Schmitz, Samarapungavan, 8: Boerger, 1987). One reason is that visual formats allow students to develop pattern recognition skills. (A major disadvantage of text is that it represents the output of the writer’s pattern recognition pro- cesses; see Bransford, Franks, Vye, 8: Sherwood, 1989.) Another reason is that video allows a more veridical repre- sentation of events than text; it is dynamic, Visualand spatial; and students can more easily form rich mental models of the problem situations (e. g., Johnson-Laird, 1985; McNamara, Miller, 8: Bransford, in press). This is particularly important for low-achievement students and for students with little knowledge in the domain of interest (Bransford, Kinzer, Risko, Rowe, 8: Vye, 1989; Johnson, 1987). A third reason for using videodisc technology is that it has random-access capabilities; this allows teachers to almost instantly access in- AUGUST—SEPTEMBER 1990 3 formation for discussion (see Sherwood et al., 1987). Because one of our primary goals is to help students explore the same domain from multiple perspectives, the random-access cap- abilities are particularly useful for our work. The Young Sherlock Project The idea of anchored instruction can be illustrated by our Young Sherlock project that has been in place in two 5th- grade classrooms during the past 21/2 years.3 We are work- ing with teachers and their classes of below-average and average 5th-grade students for approximately 4 hours each week for the entire school year. The project is designed to help students learn language arts and social studies content. We are using two different approaches to analyze the Young Sherlock project: (a) an ethnographic analysis of the experimental classes, and (b) experimental measures con- trasting pretest and posttest findings for experimental groups that receive the Young Sherlock anchor and comparison groups that do not. As much as possible, we have tried to ensure that the content taught to the experimental and com- parison groups is of high quality and is identical in the sense that both receive the same information about story structures, historical facts, and targeted vocabulary, and both receive the same amount of time on major activities such as story writ- ing. For the experimental group, all instruction is anchored (situated) in a macrocontext that involves explorations of the movie The Young Sherlock Holmes (the major anchor) or the movie Oliver Twist (a secondary anchor situated in the same time period as Sherlock). For the comparison group, we at- tempt to deliver outstanding instruction each day, but we situate it in a variety of different microcontexts (e. g., story A, story B, etc.) that vary across lessons. Some illustrations of topics explored by both groups are provided in the follow- ing discussion (see also Bransford, Kinzer, Risko, Rowe, & Vye, 1989; Bransford, Vye, Kinzer, & Risko, in press). Story structures. We wanted to help students in both the experimental and control groups learn to write interesting stories. Therefore, we helped them understand the complex- ity of good stories by focusing their attention on a character’s traits and motives for actions, and on conflicts between the protagonist and antagonist that lead to attempts to solve problems. In our experimental groups all instruction about different aspects of well-formed stories (initiating events, character development, etc.) focused on the primary anchor Young Sherlock and on books (stories involving Sherlock) and video (Oliver Twist) that are highly related to that anchor. In con— trast, our comparison groups received instruction similar to many basal reading programs in which students are intro- duced to the same content in the context of stories that vary from lesson to lesson. Thus, in one lesson students may read a folk tale and be asked to focus on examples of personality traits differentiating the protagonist and antagonist. In another lesson students may read a mystery and discuss the idea of setting. We are concerned that this type of instruc- tion often fails to develop integrated knowledge structures that help students transfer to more complex tasks (e.g., writing a story of one’s own). Our data indicate that in com- parison to the stories written by students in our nonanchored groups, students in our anchored groups wrote stories that contained many more story elements; their plots were more likely to link character actions and events to goal statements and goal resolution (see Risko, Kinzer, Goodman, McLarty, Dupree, & Martin, 1989). Historical accuracy. Most instruction about story structure includes a focus on the setting of a story, but setting is often analyzed only superficially. We analyzed setting in depth by focusing on the goal of assessing the historical accuracy of the Sherlock movie. It is set in turn-of-the-century England. One of our goals was to help students develop rich mental models of What it was like to live at certain important times in history. By acquiring these models of landmarks in history, we hope to build a basis for lifelong learning. As new his- torical facts are encountered throughout a student's lifetime, we assume that these could easily be related to these models and should be much easier to understand and retain. Our findings indicate that students in our anchored group re- membered much more about turn-of—the-century history than did those in the comparison group (Risko et al., 1989). A second, related goal was to help our students notice rele- vant historical information in movie settings and use it to make inferences such as those involving different char- acters’ actions and motives. Our approach to helping students learn to notice and use relevant information is to prompt them to actively explore the video and look for clues to historical and geographic accuracy. For example, early in the Sherlock film a young Watson notes that he is in Lon— don in December in the middle of the Victorian era. This 10-second scene contains a number of clues that students can explore in more detail. Where is London? (Ideally all middle- school students know, but unfortunately many do not.) Does it really snow in London, and if so, does it snow in De- cember? (Students can read the geography sections of their social studies texts to find out about climate.) What was the Victorian era and when was it at its height? Assuming that the date is the 18805 to 18905, is it accurate for Watson to be riding in a horse—drawn carriage rather than using other transportation such as a car? Our students are asked to find or notice aspects of scenes that are relevant for assessing historical accuracy. They then do a great deal of reading in order to research the authenticity of the movie’s details. Our findings indicate that students in the anchored groups are much more likely to use historical information to make in- ferences about the motives of characters in new turn-of-the— century stories they read and videos they see (see Kinzer & Risko, 1988). - Issue finding. The rich context provided by the video fre- quently invites students to find and define their own issues to explore. For example, during the ethnographic analysis of one of the Sherlock classrooms, Debbie Rowe and Prisca Moore captured the following conversation about one of the scenes from Sherlock on tape: Barbara: All the darts hit in the neck. Why? John: It’s closer to the brain. Kristin: Why wouldn’t they hit them in the head, that’s closer to the brain! Teacher: Why wouldn’t they have hit him in the head? Jane: It could have killed him. Tyrone: Because it might be like, because you might not feel it as much in the neck. Bob: It may be a blood vein, and you hit’em and 4 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER that would send it into the circulation. Another thing, if it hits him in the head, and it hit the skull, and hit the bone, so nothing would happen. If it had hit him in the head, it would probably bounce off. Kristin: Teacher: Why would it bounce off Kristin? Kristin: All the hair. [Bob is mumbling in the background that it wouldn’t bounce off. He doesn’t buy Kristin’s idea.] Shamika: I have this body chart, and it has a vein right here [points to neck] and it is the main blood vein that travels up your neck. Teacher: What is the name of that vein? Shamika: It’s the main vein that comes up from your arm. Bob: [on your head] You’ve got hair, then the skin, then the skull you’ve got to go through just to get to the brain. On the neck their’s no hair, and the skin won’t stop it. Tyrone: You’ve got clothes. Teacher: Do you have bones in your neck? John: In health we are studying the skeleton. [Barbara gets up and goes over to the chalkboard to look at a chart entitled ”All kinds of skeletons." Teacher suggests that they could ask their health teacher, who they tell her is Mr. A. Derek says his Mom works at the health department. Teacher suggests maybe they can ask her.] This is just one example of many discussions that were in- itiated by students who noticed some particularly interesting event and began to talk with other students. Rowe and Moore are still analyzing their ethnographic data but they have been struck by the high-quality discussions found in the Sherlock classroom. The questions students ask are gen- uine and they are motivated to answer t...
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