Anchored Instruction


Strategies to support learning in technology-rich classrooms

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … information
  • Knowing is … interpreting coherently and appropriately
  • Learner is … an investigator (individual in social learning setting)
  • Learning is … solving through deciphering, extracting, and organizing information
  • Teaching is … coaching




Anchored Instruction is a discourse on teaching in technology-rich settings that is explicitly aligned with Social Constructionism and Situated Learning. It also takes up advice on learner engagement from Active Learning, including emphases on complex problems, integrated contexts, realistic situations, collaborative work, and interdisciplinary inquiries. The term “anchoring” is used to highlight the connection between academic content and authentic context – and that connection, or anchor, typically comes in the form of a motivating narrative (preferably in video format) that is rich in embedded information and that ends with some sort of challenge to be resolved. Associated discourses include:
  • Strategic Teaching Framework (Beau Jones, Randy Knuth, Thomas Duffy, 1990s) – a model of teaching based on Anchored Instruction, from which seven “critical dimensions” are drawn (e.g., learner input, multiple perspectives, opportunities for reflection). A defining aspect is a video library of exemplary lessons.


The “problems” that are presented in the narratives and videos associated with Anchored Instruction are criticized by many as close-ended puzzles, complete with all necessary information, rather than rich spaces for exploration and elaboration. (Contrast with those recommended by Problem-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning.) While carefully developed and curriculum appropriate, they are thus criticized for their constrained natures.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

John D. Bransford

Status as a Theory of Learning

Anchored Instruction is not a theory of learning, but it is explicitly aligned with Social Constructionism and Situated Learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Anchored Instruction is focused on pedagogy – but it is more a classroom program than a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Anchored Instruction doesn’t fully meet our requirements of a scientific theory, but it is grounded theories of learning that are scientific.


  • Strategic Teaching Framework

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Anchored Instruction” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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