Anchored Instruction

Anchored Instruction


Anchored Instruction is an approach that uses macrocontexts or complex problem spaces as anchors that students can examine for long periods of time and from different perspectives to find plausible solutions. Possible anchors of instruction may be an informational text or a video. The anchor provides background knowledge about the problem and creates a shared learning experience for the students.

The primary goal of anchored instruction is to solve the inert knowledge problem by enabling “students and teachers to understand not only the problems and opportunities that ‘experts’ encounter in different areas but also how experts use knowledge as a tool” (Love, 2005, p. 302). Other goals for students are the development of the “confidence, skill, and necessary knowledge to solve problems and become independent thinkers and learners” (Cena and Mitchell, 1998).

Seven Key Design Principles for Anchored Instruction:

1. Choose an appropriate anchor.

2. Develop shared expertise around the anchor

3. Expanding the anchor

4. Teaching with the anchor

5. Allowing for student exploration

6. Sharing what was learned from the anchored instruction

Example of Application


The Young Sherlock Project (The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990)

•Instruction of a 5th grade class is anchored in a macrocontext that examines the films, The Young Sherlock Holmes (main anchor) and Oliver Twist (secondary anchor).

•Students use the anchors to explore different aspects of a story

•Students analyze setting by evaluating the accuracy of the Sherlock film.

•Students develop their own problems within the anchor and provide their own solutions


Cena, M. E., & Mitchell, J. P. (1998). Anchored instruction: A model for integrating the language arts through content area study. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(7). 559.

The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper Series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19(6). 2-10.

Kariuki, M., & Duran, M. (2004). Using anchored instruction to teach preservice teachers to integrate technology in the curriculum. Journal Of Technology and Teacher Education, 12(3), 431-445.

Love, M. (2004). Multimodality of learning through anchored instruction. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(4), 300-310. doi:10.1598/JAAL.48.4.3.

Rieth, H. J., Bryant, D. P., Kinzer, C. K., Colburn, L. K., Hur, S., Hartman, P., & Choi, H.(2003). An analysis of the impact of anchored instruction on teaching and learning activities in two ninth-grade language arts classes.

Remedial & Special Education, 24(3), 173.

Created by: Erin Roe