Review of Cognitive Apprenticeship

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First Review

Tony Estudillo

Indiana University in Bloomington

Main Ideas

The chapter was easy for me to follow along; kept me interested from start to finish, and made me want to learn more about the ideas revolving around cognitive apprenticeship and instruction. I enjoyed reading about two distinct classrooms, one that emphasized a traditional or didactic approach and the other that concentrated on a more comprehensive approach to student learning. The later approach, highlighting what a cognitive apprenticeship looked like within a classroom setting, including a variety of skills and techniques that, if practiced, may create an effective, creative, and student-centered learning environment.

The organization of the chapter, using the two varied classroom settings, presented the idea of cognitive apprenticeship as follows: first, teacher modeling (e.g., Ms Reed actively engaging with students as a facilitator); second, coaching (e.g., Ms. Reed constantly encouraged her students to perform tasks and be creative); third, scaffolding (e.g., Ms Reed presented her class with activities, providing structure, and then allowed for students to build from this framework and discover on their own); fourth, exploration (e.g., Ms Reed provided an outlet, face-to-face contact with specific community members, for student-to-presenter collaboration); and fifth, lastly articulation and reflection (e.g., there were consistent opportunities for Ms. Reed and her students to actively engage each classroom meeting through social interaction, discussion, and feedback). In comparison to Ms. Reed’s classroom, the one showcasing student learning through cognitive apprenticeship, Ms. Beauchamp's classroom placed too much time and effort on practicing traditional methods of instruction. Ms. Beauchamp ought to have suggested that student’s brainstorm or form groups to all the students to reflect on their own.

The authors presented all the key components related to cognitive apprenticeship in a manner that not only introduced important terms, but actual examples as in the aforementioned descriptions in the previous paragraph. The use of slides and video was also a good way of providing yet another avenue for a reader, such as myself, to learn about cognitive apprenticeship.

Application of Ideas

The authors presented a brief, yet thorough explanation of cognitive apprenticeship. However, a few initial questions came to mind immediately. First of all, I thought the literature review did a good job of providing a foundation for cognitive apprenticeship; however, I do question whether the authors could have found more recent citations, as in the last 7 years. Second, although I realize the authors were trying to prove their positions, not enough was mentioned about traditional learning and what context it has been effective, if any. Generally speaking, I came away from the chapter wondering whether cognitive apprenticeship is currently being advocated, among educators in the schools?

The integration of cognitive apprenticeship within educational settings or environments, in my opinion, may help to provide a more egalitarian emphasis among student-teacher interaction. As teachers work in classrooms as facilitators of knowledge, the student in turn may gain more ownership over her learning as well as make connections with learning and self-awareness. I think such outcomes may be possible when educators concentrate on utilizing the concepts and ideas of cognitive apprenticeship. The main challenge, I foresee, is practicing the ideas presented in a timely manner. Therefore, as in anything, the application of cognitive apprenticeship would require a patient and experienced educator who is willing to try innovative means of instruction and yet be willing to make adjustments to match the diversity of students and concepts presented.

Evaluating the Information: Strengths and Weaknesses

The strengths of this chapter included an organized presentation, the use of slides and video, and an interesting topic. The weaknesses included fictional classroom settings meant to reinforce the author’s viewpoints. In addition, there was no empirical evidence stated within the chapter to back up their claims nor was there a clear citation from evidence noted within the chapter. Finally, not enough was introduced about traditional teaching to determine whether it has proven to be effective or not. The key insights of the chapter include the use of slides and video to add to the reader’s overall understanding of what cognitive apprenticeship may look like within a classroom setting.

To strengthen the article, the authors might, use citations within the chapter to reinforce evidence based knowledge on cognitive apprenticeship usage within classroom settings. Although the video presented was in relation to the chapter, it may have made more of an impact on me if it showcased an actual classroom setting, rather than simply one fictional instructor and one fictional student.

Second Review

Janet Hood

University of Houston

The chapter begins with two different fourth grade classroom scenarios, followed by a description of the teaching approach called cognitive apprenticeship. Each of 6 characteristics of cognitive apprenticeship; modeling, coaching, scaffolding, reflection, articulation, and exploration is described with an explanation of how it was applied in the two classrooms. Two examples of the application of cognitive apprenticeship in the real world and a discussion of implications for teaching and learning concludes the chapter.

Before reading the chapter I was not sure of the definition of cognitive apprenticeship or traditional apprenticeship, so wanted a general overview of it before deciding whether to read more. I was somewhat confused by beginning the reading with two scenarios and no other introduction. It was not clear if they were both meant to be illustrations of the same practice or not. A short definition or introduction at the very beginning would be helpful. While it may have been the intention for the reader to construct the definition or to pique an interest, it turned out the examples were not clearly one thing or the other, and I did not feel like reading through long stories before I knew if the basic subject would even interest me. It turned out that one was a good example and the other had a few aspects of cognitive apprenticeship, but it wasn’t clear without much more reading.

After the stories, it was still a while before cognitive apprenticeship was defined. The Flash animation illustrating the Parthenon-like support pillars which were the six characteristics of cognitive apprenticeship was effective imagery. I would also like to have those characteristics listed in the narrative at that point. as I had to print out the chapter to read through it for the first time when I would not have computer or internet availability while riding the bus to work. I was left wondering what the six pillars were. Even upon reading the sections about them later on, some of the pillars were grouped in pairs and I was left to count the words to see if they totaled six.

It was helpful that before trying to define cognitive apprenticeship, the authors placed it in context with anchored instruction, learning communities, and in-situ assessment as educational approaches derived from situated learning theory. They distinguished it as an approach derived from a theory, rather than a theory itself. At this point I thought I was getting to find out exactly what cognitive apprenticeship was, but from the chapter reading was never entirely clear exactly how cognitive apprenticeship is similar to or differs from traditional apprenticeship.

Although the major references are there, I needed to do some digging on my own by reading Collins, Brown, and Holum, who describe cognitive apprenticeship is “a model of instruction that goes back to apprenticeship, but incorporates elements of schooling.” In contrast to traditional apprenticeship in which “the processes of the activity are visible… cognitive apprenticeship is a model of instruction that works to make thinking visible” in areas such as mathematics, writing, and reading. The student’s and the teacher’s thinking process must be made visible one to the other. In addition, “teachers need to: situate abstract tasks in authentic contexts, so that students understand the relevance of the work, and vary the diversity of situations and articulate the common aspects so that students can transfer what they learn.” Another clarification is that the characteristics of traditional apprenticeship only include the first 4 out of 6 for cognitive apprenticeship.

There is a statement that I question on page 6 of the chapter about children not being able and it not being desirable for them to experience all aspects of the typical craft apprenticeship. There is no clear reference to support this statement. What about the training of a musician which usually begins in childhood with a traditional apprenticeship approach? This also made me wonder if in many traditional apprenticeship scenarios there may be more of a cognitive element including some articulation and reflection than what is assumed in the readings, (both by experts and in this chapter).

In addition to defining the title of the article in more detail, a few other brief definitions would be helpful. Although it is probably assumed that most readers have some background, perhaps community of practice, mentioned at least three times, should be defined especially as it is not one of the chapters in the Wikibook. After 30 hours in a masters program in education, I finally heard of it in a recent class. The acronym MKO (more knowledgable other) confused me until I was able to play the flash animation. Wikibook may imply electronic access, it should not be assumed that all the reading of it will be done when it is available.

The two real world examples were not enough. The link to one of them was not available anymore. Because this is always a possibility with the internet, it would be better to describe the example as well or the reference quickly becomes outdated. I would have liked some more discussion of how problems in the world could be solved by this method of education. One issue might be how to choose a model/mentor. It may be an advantage to have several models, giving a broad perspective and showing many ways to do something, or several different thought processes. This was shown in Mrs. Reed’s classroom. More discussion of teaching methods using the cognitive apprenticeship model in adult education would be interesting. This article is written mostly from the elementary school perspective, for instance referring to an apprenticeship as always being between an adult and a child, rather than between an expert/mentor and a learner.

Despite most of my critique being suggestions for improving the chapter, it is a valuable reference, especially in the descriptions of how each of the 6 characteristics of cognitive apprenticeship were used in the two classrooms. The overall organization of the paper was good other than the initial lack of a definition. The powerpoint game at the end was fun, but I was not able to open the videos. The relating of cognitive apprenticeship to other learning situations and theories was useful to put it in context, as was the discussion of it’s benefits and challenges. The list of references seemed complete, although they may not have all been cited. The chapter definitely kept me interested and motivated to learn more about the method in order to use it in practice.