Cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989) is an instructional framework that uses the underlying principles of traditional apprenticeship learning. The cognitive apprenticeship framework consists of the dimension of content, methods, sequence, and sociology. It focuses specifically on instructional modeling, coaching, and scaffolding. Through modeling, learners see expert facilitation techniques in a realistic setting. According to Schulte, Magenheim, Niere, and Schafer (2003), “the key issue is to make the problem solving process and the expert’s thinking visible to the learner” (p. 271). During coaching, learners receive guidance while they attempt to execute tasks and demonstrate skills. Scaffolding, the process of supporting learners while they acquire new skills, is provided and faded as learners begin to demonstrate mastery of these new skills. These techniques are employed in situated learning environments. Further, cognitive apprenticeship sets out to (a) identify an expert’s problem solving and critical thinking processes and make them visible to learners, (b) situate abstract task in authentic contexts, and (c) vary the diversity of situations in which problem solving may occur and articulate the common aspects in order to increase the potential for learning transfer (Collins, Brown and Newman, 1989).
Early studies related to cognitive apprenticeship involved teaching reading, writing, and mathematics (Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Scardamalia & Bereiter; 1985; Schoenfeld, 1985). Later studies examined the effectiveness of cognitive apprenticeship in classroom settings (Jarvela, 1995; Cash, Behrmann, Stadt, & McDaniels, 1996), through the use of instructional technology (Casey, 1996; Clark, 2002; Glazer, 2004), and online (Snyder, 2000; Wang & Bonk, 2001; Stockhausen & Zimitat, 2002; Schwarz, 2003; Parscal, 2007). Collins, Brown and Newman’s (1989) cognitive apprenticeship model has four dimensions: content, methods, sequence, and sociology.
A brief description of each of these dimensions follows. The methods dimension is further divided into short descriptions of the instructional methods of modeling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection, and exploration.
The cognitive apprenticeship framework is suitable for a variety of content areas; however, the ideal learning environment involves content that focuses on the types of knowledge required for developing expertise. These involve (a) domain knowledge, which is the conceptual, factual, and procedural knowledge specific to the subject matter; (b) heuristic or “tricks of the trade” strategies; (c) general approaches for directing one’s own problem solving process; and (d) strategies for learning, acquiring new information, and reconfiguring knowledge already possessed.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Fading: Coupled with scaffolding, fading is the gradual removal of the instructor’s support as the learners develop their mastery of the newly acquired skill.
Coaching: During coaching the instructor observes the learners while they are performing or practicing a task and provides hints and feedback. The instructor offers hints, scaffolds, feedback, modeling, reminders, and additional tasks with the goal of bringing the learner closer to expertise (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989).
Exploration: Exploration allows learners to try out different hypotheses, methods, and strategies to see their impact on the model on which they are working.
Reflection: Reflection on performance provides the learners with an opportunity to reflect on what they have done and analyze their performance.
Scaffolding: Scaffolding is the process of supporting learners while they acquire new skills (Greenfield, 1984). In cognitive apprenticeship, scaffolding occurs when the expert assists the learner in managing task performance by completing those parts of the task that the learner has not yet mastered or by providing tools to enable the learner to advance in the execution of the task.
Think aloud protocol: According to Ericsson and Simon (1993) think aloud protocol analysis is a procedure that is used to identify cognitive process in problem solving tasks.
Articulation: Articulation is the methods for requiring learners to explain and think about what they are doing, making their tacit knowledge explicit. Through this process, learners are able to consolidate what they have learned.
Modeling: Modeling involves the expert demonstrating how a process unfolds and explaining why it happens that way. It allows the expert to make tacit knowledge and processes explicit.
Heuristic strategies: Problem solving strategies developed by experts through experience, otherwise referred to as tricks of the trade.
Cognitive Apprenticeship: Cognitive apprenticeship involves the modeling, coaching, scaffolding, and fading paradigm of a traditional apprenticeship with an emphasis on cognitive rather than physical skills (Collins, 1991).