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Learning as apprenticeship Essay

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Updated: Jan 27th, 2020


Cognitive apprenticeship is a mode of education that emphasizes on cognitive as opposed to physical skills (Frasson, & Gauthier, 1990, 57). The main aim of apprenticeship as a mode of education is to enable novices to become experts in their respective fields such as engineering, brick layering, printing e.t.c.Usually, apprenticeship entails the act of the most experienced people lending a hand to those who are less experienced.

The most knowledgeable provides the less experienced with models that facilitates them to accomplish objectives. Apprenticeship is the main mode of learning in most developing nations. Just like in the case of trade apprenticeship, cognitive apprenticeship is a form of education where learning occurs through social interaction by both experienced and less experienced people.

Thus, learning in apprenticeship is usually experimental as young people learn by doing. The learning model is interactive and it is characterized by trial and error and gradual accumulation of skill and knowledge. The novices are mostly passive observers at the outset but they become active as time goes by.

Novices learn from experts through imitation. Imitation is generated as a result of social interaction (Cohen, 2002, 94-96). The following essay addresses the questions what are the strengths and limitation of viewing learning as apprenticeship? The essay also examines the implication that it has for educators.

Strengths of viewing learning as apprenticeship

Apprenticeship makes use of teaching strategies that have been proved such as coaching, modeling and scaffolding and these strategies enables students to become conscious of the thought processes that are involved in knowledge construction. Apprenticeship learning is an instructional approach which is aimed at enabling experts to solve complex while teaching.

With regards to modeling, the teacher or the expert models his or her own thought processes while solving complex tasks within a given domain. With regards to coaching, the teacher allows students to solve complex problems on their own but supports them in answering specific queries i.e. the teacher provides students with guided practice.

The third method that is used in cognitive apprenticeship is scaffolding. Usually, the teacher assists his or her students in managing complex tasks and he or she withdraws support gradually so as to enable the students to manage complex tasks on their own.

The other methods that are used in cognitive apprenticeship include articulation whereby the students tries to express the strategies that they used in solving problems, reflection i.e. the teacher encourages the students to reflect on the manner that they approached complex tasks by discussing with fellow students and lastly, exploration where the learner is intended to solve problem independently (Spector, 2008, 429).

Viewing learning as apprenticeship is beneficial as it avoids various aspects that of inert knowledge problems. Inert knowledge is characterized by a lack of enough connections between ideas.usually,an; an environment in which both the teachers and the learners share a common body of experience is beneficial as they can reasonably encompass the use of didactic presentations based on those experiences.

Learning by doing is advantageous as it enables people to have sufficient depth to ideas. When knowledge is acquired through experience, the learners usually have a clear referential meaning within the scope of that experience.

An apprenticeship model of learning is more suitable mode of teaching as compared to direct instruction because people generate meaning through interaction. In cognitive apprenticeships, the texts are deemed as wholes, by using all the necessary strategies simultaneously.

The challenges are thus lessened by the instructors providing scaffolding. Both the learners and teachers can read a text together and the teacher provides the learner with the much needed support. The interaction between the learners and teachers enables students to learn on how to comprehend complex text (Spector, 2008, 429).

In cognitive apprenticeship, much emphasis is put on constructing the real meaning of a text as a result of social interactions. The process involves restructuring of the class organization. Instead of a class structure model where the teacher dominates, learning as apprenticeship involves small groups which work together.

Reciprocal teachings, cooperative learning, collaborative problem solving, discussion groups and book clubs makes use of group dynamics in order to support the learning of individual children. For instance, student’s works in their small groups with the instructor while reading a text in reciprocal teaching.

Each learner takes part in teaching. A child thus assumes a teacher’s role by using the four main teaching behaviors i.e. questioning, clarifying, summarizing and predicting.This approach takes place frequently usually after every two weeks and this implies that the student’s comprehension is greatly enhanced.

According to the activity theory which is rooted in the works of Koggot Vygotski, mind is well understood I terms of artifact-mediated, goal oriented and culture framed interactions between people and their environment. Thus learners simultaneous studies systems of artifacts such as tools, signs, gestures and language (Stahl, & McKenna, 2006, 58).

Apprenticeship is important as it enables students to become real experts in their own fields. Cognitive apprenticeship emphasizes on guiding and supporting learners in solving complex tasks. The instructor usually supports the students in solving problems. The exercises in cognitive apprenticeship are tailored throughout the learning stages and are made more complex gradually as the learning course progresses.

Also; the learning environment is tailored in such a way that the students are able to apply knowledge in future. The students are encouraged to apply what they have learned in concrete situations.

The learners are also provided with an opportunity to verbalize and externalize internal processes and this is important as it enables the instructor to have access to cognitive activities of students in order to regulate them. The novices are able to learn from experts as they cooperate in daily activities. This collaboration enables novices to become experts on their own fields (Stahl, & McKenna, 2006, 58).

Learning as apprenticeship enhances the student’s mental model and this in turn enables them to solve complex problems. It also enables students to use other mental models in solving complex issues. Normally; class work involves the accumulation of knowledge in a given sphere of influence.

Instruction usually does not amount to the creation of a mental model. Though accumulation of knowledge is itself a crucial mode of learning, it does not allow students to achieve all the aspects in the course of his or her learning. Apprenticeship learning fine tunes behavior among students sharpens the student’s skills and enables them to clearly understand what they are being taught by the experts.

The mental efforts as a result of cognitive apprenticeship allow them to understand complex systems thereby developing right mental representations. The development of mental models facilitates both a reconceptualization and a restructuring of the interrelated concepts.

The students thus can incorporate learning materials into structures of previous knowledge and therefore, there is no need for a student to construct a mental model. According to constructive learning theory, students can gain knowledge through experience.When they assimilate; they integrate the new knowledge with what they already know.

This in turn enables students in altering and evaluating their assumptions towards increasing complexity. This concept enhances self-authorship among students as it encourages them to develop complex epistemic assumptions. It also plays a crucial role of facilitating the development of effective learning opportunities for learners with diverse experiences and backgrounds.

Cognitive apprenticeship has encouraged students to adopt a reflective and thoughtful approach to learning. The learning requirements take place in a real life situation. This in turn fosters innovation.

As the students makes use of their knowledge in dealing with complex and real-life problems, they are compelled to come up with new inventions of applying their knowledge.Thus,students get to learn how to apply knowledge in a flexible manner to handle novel challenges(Stahl, & McKenna,2006,58).

Cognitive apprenticeship has allowed student to develop higher-level reasoning processes i.e. as the students work together with their instructors, they become familiar with the processes as a result of cognitive modeling. After gaining support from the instructors, the learners eventually make discoveries on their own and they thus develop higher-level reasoning processes (Resnick, 1989, 22).

Cognitive apprenticeship learning has encouraged a culture of support and sharing among students. The students can make use of cognitive tools that enables them to accomplish complex tasks. Cognitive tools usually aid the students in thinking, learning or problem solving by providing them with an opportunity where they can practice to apply their knowledge in a situation that involves complex meaningful tasks.

There are several cognitive tools that are used in cognitive apprenticeship in order to enhance learning process. Some form of cognitive tools that are used in cognitive apprenticeship includes hypothesis testing, lower order processes, and memory e.t.c (Stahl, & McKenna, 2006, 58).

Limitations of viewing learning as apprenticeship

Usually, novices in a certain discipline do not learn trough experience automatically. Apprenticeship as a process takes time. Novices face difficulties in observing their behaviors and so, they do not re-organize their behaviors easily. For instance, they may not be in a position to know the importance of what they are viewing as they watch experts at work.

They also do not have the skills of applying what they were taught to work out problems. Novices may not be in a position to use routine practices in order to improve. Learning in apprenticeship is sometimes inefficient as it is too much routinized.Learning usually takes time even if there is mastery of discrete skills (Lawler, & Yazdani, 1991, 288).

Novices take time to learn form experience and they do so by going through a process which is lengthy. As a result of consuming too much time, apprenticeship learning does not always guarantee quality.

Time constraints have the effect of contributing to impatience and frustrations on the part of the learners. Apprenticeship as a mode of learning takes several months for the learners to learn the necessary skills (Coy, 1989, 158).

Apprenticeship requires support form coaches and mentors and these amounts to drain on organizational resources. The novice requires concept development so that he or she can come up with connections among the discrete facts. As the learner progresses, constant practice and feedback are required thus, the organization of learning experiences is a chunk of tasks especially when working with a novice.

The tasks requires to be designed in little increments as novice do not have any confidence with regards to knowledge, skills and understanding in discipline.This is cumbersome and therefore organizational resources are wasted (Crockett, & Silbereisn,2000,274).

Also, it is generally challenging to come up with an effective plan that interacts both the practical learning and the college-based learning. In apprenticeship learning scheme, little or no attempt is made to unite the practical learning with the subsequent learning in college.

The practical learning in classroom is not related to general ideas. Also it is not examined critically with regards to any wide-ranging principles of good practice. Thus, learners’ ends up developing narrow and mechanical skills.

Apprenticeship depends largely on the master-craftsperson not an individual. Thus in a system where there are many master-craftspeople, the quality of the apprenticeship process and the training does not exist (Bosch, & Philips, 2003, 58).

Other weaknesses of learning as apprenticeship include the following; apprenticeship is usually costly and so, there are financial costs related with the scheme. Learning as apprenticeship can encourage people to learn bad habits especially in apprenticeship schemes that are poorly managed.

Cognitive apprenticeship is not an ideal model of learning in case of large classes. It is often difficult to implement cognitive apprenticeship in large tutorial groups (Bosch, & Philips, 2003, 58).

Implication of viewing learning as apprenticeship for educators

Apart from benefiting they apprentice, viewing learning as apprenticeship has implication for educators too.

Apprenticeship enhances the relationship between the teacher and the learner. The role of an educator in apprenticeship is to scaffold the learning. The teacher withdraws the support as the learners are capable of proceeding on their own. The learner usually observes the educator as the educator as he or she models the comprehension process.

Gradually; the educator provides the learner with more and more responsibility until it is him or her who observes the learner perform most of the comprehension tasks. This thus enhances the relationship between the educator and the learner. The educator finds the whole apprenticeship process to be interesting as a result (Spector, 2008, 431).

Apprenticeship however can be difficult to implement where trust is lacking. In order for the leaning as apprenticeship to be effective, there has to be trust and autonomy for both the learner and the educator. The educator has to delegate autonomy to the learner. To delegate, the educator is thus required to trust the student (Thornes, 2005, 120).

The concept of learning as apprenticeship is dependent on the level with which an educator stimulates the student within the environment. Successful educators usually allows the learners to be largely involved in the entire apprenticeship process i.e. they delegates most of the responsibilities to the learners.

This implies that the apprenticeship concept cannot be effective if there is less or no collaboration between the educator and the learner. The educators are therefore required to interact continually with the learners in order to ensure that the process is successful.Also, it is important for an educator to engage his or her student’s imaginations.

This allows them to develop their personal meaning (Tanner,& Jones,2000,107).The teaching style of an educator plays a crucial role in determining the development process of student’s skills and so, the process can be ineffective if the educator don’t allows students to participate in the apprenticeship process (Tanner,& Jones,2000,107).

Also, viewing learning as apprenticeship is challenging especially in a case where the educator does not have a deep understanding or knowledge of the subject.Making the content to be accessible relies on understanding the students together with their experiences and prior knowledge. The educators should therefore possess a rich and conceptual map with regards to the discipline.

They should clearly understand how the knowledge is created and also validate within various contexts.Thus, the educator may not communicate his or her knowledge to the learners in case he or she does not understand student’s thinking and experiences (Miller, 2002, 78).


The model of apprenticeship has played an important role as far as learning theory is concerned. Apprenticeship concept has major strengths as well as limitations.

The major strengths include the fact that it enables novices to become experts in their respective disciplines, it helps to prevent problems s a result of inert knowledge, it enhances the student’s mental model and this in turn enables them to solve complex problems among others.

Some of the limitations of viewing learning as apprenticeship include the following; apprenticeship takes a considerable amount of time, it is often not possible to develop an effective plan that directly relates the practical learning and the college based learning among others.

Apprenticeship can be applied in the following sectors i.e. construction, hospitality, customer care, retail, plumbing among others. It has implications for educators too. It is important for the educators to have adequate knowledge and skills with regards to the discipline in order for the apprenticeship process to be effective.

Usually the apprenticeship learning concept requires the learners to reason out on their own in solving complex problems. The concept also encourages students to discuss among themselves and learn form one another. The educator’s fades their supports gradually and the learners are thus required to use their knowledge in solving complex problems.

Reference List

Bosch, G & Philips, P., 2003. Building Chaos: An International Comparison of Deregulation in the Construction Industry. London: Routledge.

Cohen, D., 2002. How the Child’s Mind Develops. London: Routledge.

Coy, M.W., 1989. Apprenticeship: from theory to method and back again. London: SUNY Press.

Crockett, L.J & Silbereisn, R.K., 2000. Negotiating adolescence in times of social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frasson, G & Gauthier, G., 1990. Intelligent tutoring systems: at the crossroad of artificial intelligence and education. London: Intellect Books.

Lawler, R.W. & Yazdani, M., 1991. Artificial Intelligence and Education: Principles and case studies. London: Intellect Books.

Miller, P.H., 2002.Theories of developmental psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Resnick, L.B., 1989. Knowing, learning, and instruction: essays in honor of Robert Glaser. London: Routledge.

Spector, J.M., 2008. Handbook of research on educational communications and technology. London: Taylor & Francis.

Spector, J.M., 2008. Handbook of research on educational communications and technology.3 rd edition. London. Taylor & Francis.

Stahl, K.A. & McKenna, M.C., 2006. Reading research at work: foundations of effective practice. New York: Guilford Press.

Tanner, H & Jones, S., 2000. Becoming a successful teacher of mathematics. London: Routledge.

Thornes, N., 2005. Teaching children to learn. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

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