Cognitive Apprenticeship

Summary

While there are many differences between schooling and apprenticeship, one critical difference is this: In apprenticeship, learners can see the processes they are learning. They watch a parent plant and harvest crops and help as they are able; they assist a tradesman as he crafts a cabinet; they piece together garments under the supervision of a more experienced tailor. Apprenticeship involves learning a physical, tangible activity. But in schooling, the “practice” of problem solving, reading comprehension, and writing is not observable to the student. The processes of thinking are largely invisible to both the students and teacher. Cognitive apprenticeship is a model of instruction that works to make thinking visible. First proposed as part of a technical report for the national institute of education and then modified for publication (Collins et al, 1989; Brown et al, 1989), cognitive apprenticeship has since been extensively written about and adopted.

The six teaching methods associated with cognitive apprenticeship fall roughly into three groups. The first three methods (modeling, coaching, and scaffolding) are the core of traditional apprenticeship. The next two methods (articulation and reflection) are methods designed to help students to generalize their learning. The final method (exploration) is aimed at encouraging learner autonomy.

  1. Modeling involves an expert performing a task so that the students can observe the processes that are required to accomplish it. For example, a teacher might model the process of reading by pronouncing the text in one voice and providing an interpretation in another voice.
  2. Coaching consists of observing students’ work and offering hints, challenges, scaffolding, feedback, modeling, reminders, and new tasks aimed at more expert performance. A teacher might coach a student in reading by asking interpretive questions while a student reads a passage aloud.
  3. Scaffolding refers to the supports a tutor provides to help students carry out tasks. These supports can take either the form of suggestions or hints or they can take the form of direct supports to accomplish parts of the task for the student. Fading involves the gradual removal of supports until students are on their own.
  4. Articulation includes any method of getting students to explicitly state their knowledge and reasoning. A teacher can require students to explain their reasoning or elicit justifications for each step.
  5. Reflection involves enabling students to compare their own thinking processes with those of an expert or other students. Reflection is enhanced by use of various techniques for “replaying” the performances of both expert and novice for comparison.
  6. Exploration involves guiding students to problem solving on their own. For reading a teacher might ask students to read texts about social media to figure out why they are so addictive for people. Enabling them to do exploration is critical, if they are to learn how to frame interesting problems that they can solve. Exploration is the ultimate fading of support.

References

  • Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational researcher, 18(1), 32-42.
  • Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453-494). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Syllabi and Slides

Video Resources

Watch the full webinar on Cognitive Apprenticeship featuring Allan Collins:

Reading

Basic Reading:
  • Borge, M., Toprani, D., Yan, S., & Xia, Y. (2020). Embedded design: engaging students as active participants in the learning of human-centered design practices. Computer Science Education, 30(1), 47-71.
  • Charney, J., Hmelo‐Silver, C. E., Sofer, W., Neigeborn, L., Coletta, S., & Nemeroff, M. (2007). Cognitive apprenticeship in science through immersion in laboratory practices. International Journal of Science Education, 29(2), 195-213.
  • Järvelä, S. (1995) ‘The cognitive apprenticeship model in a technologically rich learning environment: interpreting the learning interaction’, Learning and Instruction, 5(3), 237–59.
  • Järvelä, S. (1998). Socioemotional aspects of students’ learning in a cognitive-apprenticeship environment. Instructional Science, 26(6), 439-472.
  • Lee, C. D. (1995). A culturally based cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching African American high school students skills in literary interpretation. Reading Research Quarterly, 608-630.
  • Lee, Y. J. (2011). Empowering teachers to create educational software: A constructivist approach utilizing Etoys, pair programming and cognitive apprenticeship. Computers & Education, 56(2), 527-538.
  • Seezink, A., Poell, R. F., & Kirschner, P. A. (2009). Teachers’ individual action theories about competence‐based education: the value of the cognitive apprenticeship model. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 61(2), 203-215.
Additional Reading:
  • Borge, M., Toprani, D., Yan, S., & Xia, Y. (2020). Embedded design: engaging students as active participants in the learning of human-centered design practices. Computer Science Education, 30(1), 47-71.
  • Charney, J., Hmelo‐Silver, C. E., Sofer, W., Neigeborn, L., Coletta, S., & Nemeroff, M. (2007). Cognitive apprenticeship in science through immersion in laboratory practices. International Journal of Science Education, 29(2), 195-213.
  • Järvelä, S. (1995) ‘The cognitive apprenticeship model in a technologically rich learning environment: interpreting the learning interaction’, Learning and Instruction, 5(3), 237–59.
  • Järvelä, S. (1998). Socioemotional aspects of students’ learning in a cognitive-apprenticeship environment. Instructional Science, 26(6), 439-472.
  • Lee, Y. J. (2011). Empowering teachers to create educational software: A constructivist approach utilizing Etoys, pair programming and cognitive apprenticeship. Computers & Education, 56(2), 527-538.
  • Lee, C. D. (1995). A culturally based cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching African American high school students skills in literary interpretation. Reading Research Quarterly, 608-630.
  • Seezink, A., Poell, R. F., & Kirschner, P. A. (2009). Teachers’ individual action theories about competence‐based education: the value of the cognitive apprenticeship model. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 61(2), 203-215.

Learning Scientists Who Have Researched This Topic

  • Marcela Borge
  • John Seely Brown
  • Allan Collins
  • Cindy Hmelo-Silver
  • Sanna Järvelä
  • Paul Kirschner