Principles for Designing Cognitive

Apprenticeship Environments


CONTENT—types of knowledge required for expertise


Domain knowledge  subject matter specific concepts, facts, and procedures

Heuristic strategies  generally applicable techniques for accomplishing tasks

Control strategies  general approaches for directing one’s solution process

Learning strategies  knowledge about how to learn new concepts, facts, and procedures


METHOD—ways to promote the development of expertise


Modeling  teacher performs a task so students can observe

Coaching  teacher observes and facilitates while students perform a task

Scaffolding  teacher provides supports to help the student perform a task

Articulation  teacher encourages students to verbalize their knowledge and thinking

Reflection  teacher enables students to compare their performance with others

Exploration  teacher invites students to pose and solve their own problems


SEQUENCING—keys to ordering learning activities


Global before local skills  focus on conceptualizing the whole task before executing the parts

Increasing complexity  meaningful tasks gradually increasing in difficulty

Increasing diversity  practice in a variety of situations to emphasize broad applications


SOCIOLOGY—social characteristics of learning environments


Situated learning  students learn in the context of working on realistic tasks

Community of practice communication about different ways to accomplish meaningful tasks

Intrinsic motivation  students set personal goals to seek skills and solutions

Cooperation  students work together to accomplish their goals




*From: Collins, A., Brown, J., & Holum, A. (1991). Cognitive apprenticeship: Making thinking visible. American Educator, 15, p.43.