Thought on cognitive apprenticeship

A teenager wants to learn on how to make table and chair. He apprenticed himself to a master carpenter to learn about the trade. In the workshop, the master carpenter taught the teenager the how-to in furniture making and over the time, the teenager managed to learn how to make table and chair.

The scenario above is a simple example of an apprenticeship. In 1987, Brown, Collins and Newman developed the cognitive apprenticeship model. Brown et al (1989) stated that cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop, and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Thus, not only learning uses a real-world context, it also allows learners to witness how the master or practitioner solves problem and ways to handle task.

Brown et al developed six teaching methods under cognitive apprenticeship: modelling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection and exploration.

1. Modeling — the teacher or expert models or demonstrates the desired knowledge and skill for the learner; this is typically necessary with new learners in a domain and can be repeated at various learning stages.

2. Coaching — the teacher or expert observes a learner’s performance, and provides feedback aimed at helping the learning improve and become aware of specific aspects requiring improvement.

3. Scaffolding — the designer or instructor deploys various support mechanisms for learners; these typically become less explicit and less supportive as learners gain competence and confidence.

4. Articulation — the teacher encourages a student to talk about what he or she is doing or knows with regard to a particular task; this can occur at many points in an instructional sequence.

5. Reflection — a teacher encourages a student to compare his or her response to a problem situation with that of an expert or possibly with that of another student as a way to draw attention to differences for purposes of developing understanding and insight.

6. Exploration — a teacher provides students with opportunities to explore new problems and perhaps different types of problems requiring alternative problem-solving strategies.

Based on my understanding of cognitive apprenticeship, I can see some of the aspects of CA being applied in the classroom setting. Let us look at the teaching methods as proposed by Brown et al (1989). Modelling is not a novelty idea in teaching and learning in the classroom. For example, if I want the learners to improve on their speaking skills, I as a teacher need to show an example by using the language. In the coaching stage, I will provide feedback on their progress and help to improve on the technical aspect such as grammar and sentence building. Support activities such as pair work to practice speaking can provide scaffolding and acts as a platform to articulate their skills. Learners are then encouraged to continuously reflect on their progress as to promote and solidify their understanding. Under exploration, I can provide opportunities to the learners to further improve their skills such as by participating in speaker’s corner or public speaking.  

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