Cognitive Apprenticeship

What is cognitive apprenticeship?

In 1987, Collins, Brown, and Newman developed six effective teaching methods that would allow cognitive and metacognitive strategies for the use, management, and discovery of new knowledge. They recognized that apprenticeship, which is missing from formal schooling, has been effectively used for centuries to teach complex and important skills and thus formulated a new set of apprenticeship-like methods. They noted that the difference between skills learned through abstracted theory or through apprenticeship is not academic but that there are serious implications for the nature of the knowledge that students acquire. This was the beginning of the concept of cognitive apprenticeship, which is a teaching model “aimed primarily at teaching the problem-solving processes that experts use to handle complex tasks”[1] with an emphasis on learning through guided experience. It focuses on cognitive and metacognitive skills and processes “intended to enable apprentices to learn strategies and skills in the context of their application to realistic problems, within a culture focused on and defined by expert practice.”[2]

Practical tips for implementing cognitive apprenticeship

These practices are based on the six core methods of cognitive apprenticeship.

  1. Carry out the task so that the students can observe and build a conceptual model of the processes required to accomplish the task. (Modeling)
  2. Observe students while they carry out tasks and offer hints, feedback, reminders, and new tasks designed to bring the students closer to expert performance. (Coaching)
  3. Provide supports, which can be in physical or verbal forms, such as suggestions or cue cards, to help students carry out a task. (Scaffolding)
  4. Encourage students to articulate their knowledge, reasoning, or problem-solving processes. (Articulation)
  5. Encourage reflection, which enables students to compare their own problem-solving processes with those of experts, other students, and an internal cognitive model of expertise. (Reflection)
  6. Encourage students to explore, which is the natural culmination of the fading of supports, including both problem solving and problem setting. Exploration pushes students into a mode of problem-solving on their own. (Exploration)



[1][2] Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. Theory name: Cognitive apprenticeship. Retrieved from