Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cognitive apprenticeship

Cognitive apprenticeship


Defining the characteristics of Cognitive Apprenticeship
Student –Centred Learning base for Cognitive Apprenticeship
Assessing Cognitive Apprenticeship.
The Multi-Cultural Classroom
Challenges of the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model
Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Apprenticeship

The theory of the process where a master of a skill teaches that skill to an apprentice or trainee. It is situated within the social constructivist paradigm. Cognitive apprenticeships are representative of Vygotskian "zones of proximal development" that suggest students work in teams on projects or problems with close scaffolding from their instructors, in which the tasks are slightly more difficult than students can manage independently, requiring the aid of their instructor to succeed.

Defining the characteristics of Cognitive Apprenticeship
The focus of this learning-through-guided-experience is on cognitive and metacognitive skills, rather than on the physical skills and processes of traditional apprenticeships. Applying apprenticeship methods to largely cognitive skills requires the externalization of processes that are usually carried out internally. Observing the processes by which an expert listener or reader thinks and practices these skills can teach students to learn on their own more skillfully (Collins, Brown, Newman, 1989, p. 457-548). This method includes:

1. Modeling -- involves an expert's carrying out a task so that student can observe and build a conceptual model of the processes that are required to accomplish the task. For example, a teacher might model the reading process by reading aloud in one voice, while verbalizing her thought processes (summarize what she just read, what she thinks might happen next) in another voice.
2. Coaching - consists of observing students while they carry out a task and offering hints, feedback, modeling, reminders, etc.
3. Articulation - includes any method of getting students to articulate their knowledge, reasoning, or problem-solving processes.
4. Reflection - enables students to compare their own problem-solving processes with those of an expert or another student.
5. Exploration - involves pushing students into a mode of problem solving on their own. Forcing them to do exploration is critical, if they are to learn how to frame questions or problems that are interesting and that they can solve (Collins, Brown, Newman, 1989, 481-482).
6. Scaffolding - The support provided by the expert as the novice attempts the task. This support is in the form needed by the novice in the conduct of the task and is sensitive to the issues of novice learning.

Student –Centred Learning base for Cognitive Apprenticeship

Cognitive Apprenticeship uses student- centred pedagogy as a base in an approach to learning using authentic problem solving strategies through which students interact with their environment-by exploring and manipulating objects, struggle with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. The idea is that students are more likely to remember concepts practiced in authentic situations and when they discover on their own.
Teachers have found that discovery learning is most successful when students have prerequisite knowledge and undergo some structured experiences. (Roblyer, Edwards, and Havriluk, 1997, p 68). This approach have shown that having expert as mentors facilitated student learning in ways that utilize information and employ heuristic problem solving strategies as typically encountered in the classroom.

Assessing Cognitive Apprenticeship.

In assessing cognitive apprentices, the design and development of selected response tests (multiple choice, true, false, matching), essay tests, performance assessments, and assessments that rely on personal communication with students, such as questioning, interviews, and observation. Carefully designed assessments are the most versatile, because they can sample the following student capacities.
• Knowledge outcomes: material to be mastered either through memorization or via using references.
• Reasoning Outcomes: ways to use knowledge to meet specific problem-solving challenges;
• Skill outcomes: things that students should be able to do as a result of mastering the material presented;
• Affective outcomes: feelings students might experience.

The Multi-Cultural Classroom

The approach caters to the Multi-Cultural Classroom in Trinidad and Tobago:

Every classroom is a cultural community reflective of the disciplines and perspectives studied, the authors, the students, and the professor. Successful learning requires an intercultural approach where students are responsible for listening (and reading and experiencing) to understand--both the perspectives of others and for understanding their own perspectives and how they acquired them. Students can come to understand that learning is about the generation, mutual reflection, and critiquing and expanding of ideas and concepts, and that this is most effectively done in a collaborative and non-competitive environment.

Another effective approach is to attend to the variety of learning styles in any classroom. Understanding multiple learning styles allows one to focus on individual students' own learning styles; sub-groups within a classroom community; and the class as a learning community.

Language difference is another major issue that teachers must address when establishing a multicultural classroom. Introducing the language or culture of all students in the class into the curriculum will communicate that students of that culture are important (Perez 153).

Challenges of the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model

Using a cognitive apprenticeship approach in the classroom is not without challenges. Some pitfalls in employing the cognitive apprenticeship model include:
Cognitive apprenticeship may require highly facilitative teaching skills. Cognitive apprenticeship requires teachers (or coaches) to constantly attend to students' difficulties and problems. Students' autonomy levels depend on the success of the coaching and scaffolding provided largely by the teacher. This requires patience and advanced facilitative teaching skills.

The cognitive apprenticeship approach may result in higher levels of student anxiety and frustration. If expert modeling overwhelms the students, there may be difficulty in understanding the process and construction of a mental model of the process. Students may become anxious, frustrated, and afraid to explore tasks on their own.
Cognitive apprenticeship may require more time on task. The time required of students to explore different areas and to make discoveries and create their own products can be enormous. When students are working in a group, they must constantly discuss and reflect on their accomplishments and plans for the future.

Cognitive apprenticeship may require additional or more sophisticated resources. Successful implementation of cognitive apprenticeship requires realistic assessment of available resources. The nature of cognitive apprenticeship includes situated learning and the culture of expert practice. This may automatically require resources that are not readily available in schools and educational institutions (e.g., subject matter experts, time, money for expert modeling).

Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Apprenticeship

Encourage authentic activity and assessment.
The most important emphases of the learning environment in cognitive apprenticeship are situated learning and the culture of expert practice (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989). Learners are engaged in learning activities that are similar to the practices of real-world experts.

Motivating and engaging activities for learners.
Cognitive apprenticeship provides students with authentic tasks; it encourages them to think like and to be treated as experts (Collins, 1991).
Placed in Situated Context encourage greater levels of retention and transfer
Learning within the cognitive apprenticeship framework is situated in a context similar to that in which experts actually practice (Resnick, 1989). Situated, contextualized learning enables students to retain their knowledge until they encounter similar situations in the future.

Facilitate higher order reasoning
In cognitive apprenticeship practices, students work with teachers and experts who use higher-level thinking processes; they are exposed to these processes through cognitive modeling (Hogan & Tudge, 1999). After receiving initial stages of support from teacher and experts, students actually explore new ideas and make discoveries using advanced reasoning processes.


Brill J, Beaumie K, Galloway C. ( 2009) Cognitive Apprenticeship as an Instructional Model. Retrieved on November 02, 2009 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Cognitive_Apprenticeship

Baird C (2004). Transforming knowledge through mentor-supported cognitive apprenticeship learning methods. Retrieved on November 02, 2009 from

Fish L. Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom
Retrieved on November 02, 2009 from