Cognitive Apprenticeship and Writing in Distance and Online Learning

Cognitive Apprenticeship and Writing in Distance and Online Learning

Vanessa P. Dennen, Kerry J. Burner
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch041
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As online learning has matured, it has increasingly used Web-based technologies to support communication and interactions among participants (e.g. students, instructors, and mentors) in addition to content delivery. Many online learning experiences depend heavily on text-based interactions to support learning, practice, and assessment activities. Threaded discussions forums are particularly useful learning activities, as is the exchange of word-processed documents for formative and summative assessments. These activities are a natural result of the desire to connect people via technology while taking advantage of asynchronous communication’s convenience.
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Cognitive apprenticeships occur naturally as people teach each other new skills and practices. For example, a new employee who is matched up to an experienced employee to initially shadow the activities of the experienced employee and then gradually assume responsibility for doing these activities is engaged in a cognitive apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeships are not limited to in situ experiences. However, these shadowing and in situ experiences are less common in formal learning settings such as schools, that historically have tended toward receptive learning methods (e.g., those relying heavily on information dissemination as an instructional strategy) over social or experiential ones. Schools with a high teacher-student ratio, in particular, often use other methods for the sake of efficiency and expediency.

Cognitive apprenticeships can readily be designed into either formal or informal learning situations. Widely accepted as the norm, Collins et al.’s (1989) five-stage model of cognitive apprenticeship consists of the following instructional sequence of strategies:

  • 1.

    Modeling: Demonstrating the thinking process

  • 2.

    Coaching: Assisting and supporting student cognitive activities as needed including scaffolding of tasks

  • 3.

    Reflection: Engaging the learner in self-analysis and assessment.

  • 4.

    Articulation: Requiring verbalization of one’s cognitive activities and reflection

  • 5.

    Exploration: Encouraging learners to form and test their own hypotheses

Key Terms in this Chapter

Apprenticeship: A process through which a more experienced person assists a less experienced one by way of demonstration, support, and examples.

Cognitive Apprenticeship: An apprenticeship process that utilizes cognitive and metacognitive skills and processes to guide learning.

Articulation: (in cognitive apprenticeship) verbalizing the results of one’s reflective acts.

Exploration: (in cognitive apprenticeship) forming and testing a personal hypothesis in pursuit of learning.

Coaching: (in cognitive apprenticeship) providing guidance to learners’ engaged cognitive activities via advice and feedback.

Scaffolding: Support that is provided to assist learners reach skill levels beyond their current abilities; essential to scaffolding is the fading of the support inversely to the learners’ acquisition of the skill that is being supported.

Situatedness: Placement of learning experiences in authentic contexts or settings.

Community Of Practice: A group of people bound by shared goals, common practices, and participation in an activity familiar to them all; may be formal or informal.

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): A term coined by Vygotsky to describe the space between a learners current skill level and the next skill level which the learner cannot reach without assistance; the ZPD represents what the learner is poised to learn next.

Rhetorical Situation: A context in which a specific speaker/writer, issue, and audience converge; a setting for communication.

Reflection: (in cognitive apprenticeship) a process of reviewing one’s past performance for self-analysis and self-assessment.

Authentic: Taking place within a natural environment as part of everyday life or, in an artificial context such as a classroom, designing to mimic a natural environment or task as much as possible.

Modeling: (in cognitive apprenticeship) demonstrating thought processes and problem solving skills through explicit or visible performance.

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