Method

Teaching methods should be designed to give students the opportunity to observe, engage in, and invent or discover expert strategies in context. Such an approach will enable students to see how these strategies combine with their factual and conceptual knowledge and how they use a variety of resources in the social and physical environment. The six teaching methods advocated here fall roughly into three groups: the first three (modeling, coaching, and scaffolding) are the core of cognitive apprenticeship, designed to help students acquire an integrated set of skills through processes of observation and guided practice. The next two (articulation and reflection) are methods designed to help students both to focus their observations of expert problem solving and to gain conscious access to (and control of) their own problem-solving strategies. The final method (exploration) is aimed at encouraging learner autonomy, not only in carrying out expert problem-solving processes but also in defining or formulating the problems to be solved.

1. Modeling involves an expert’s performing a task so that the students can observe and build a conceptual model of the processes that are required to accomplish it. In cognitive domains, this requires the externalization of usually internal processes and activities–specifically, the heuristics and control processes by which experts apply their basic conceptual and procedural knowledge. For example, a teacher might model the reading process by reading aloud in one voice, while verbalizing her thought processes in another voice (Collins and Smith, 1982). In mathematics, as described above, Schoenfeld models the process of solving problems by having students bring difficult new problems for him to solve in class.

2. Coaching consists of observing students while they carry out a task and offering hints, scaffolding, feedback, modeling, reminders, and new tasks aimed at bringing their performance closer to expert performance. Coaching may serve to direct students’ attention to a previously unnoticed aspect of the task or simply to remind the student of some aspect of the task that is known but has been temporarily overlooked. The content of the coaching interaction is immediately related to specific attempts to accomplish the target task. In Palincsar and Brown’s reciprocal teaching of reading, the teacher coaches students while they ask questions, clarify their difficulties, generate summaries, and make predictions.

3. Scaffolding refers to the supports the teacher provides to help the student carry out the task. These supports can take either the forms of suggestions or help, as in reciprocal teaching, or they can take the form of physical supports, as with the cue cards used by Scardamalia, Bereiter, and Steinbach to facilitate writing, or the short skis used to teach downhill skiing (Burton, Brown, and Fisher, 1984). When scaffolding is provided by the teacher, it involves the teacher in executing parts of the task that the student cannot yet manage. A requisite to such scaffolding is accurate diagnosis of the student’s current skill level or difficulty and the availability of an intermediate step at the appropriate level of difficulty in carrying out the target activity. Fading involves the gradual removal of supports until students are on their own.

4. Articulation involves any method of getting students to articulate their knowledge, reasoning, or problem-solving processes. We have identified several different methods of articulation. First, inquiry teaching (Collins and Stevens, 1982, 1983) is a strategy of questioning students to lead them to articulate and refine their understanding of concepts and procedures in different domains. For example, in inquiry teacher in reading might systematically question students about why one summary of the text is good but another is poor, to get the students to formulate an explicit model of a good summary. Second, teachers might encourage students to articulate their thoughts as they carry out their problem solving, as do Scardamalia, et al. Third, they might have students assume the critic or monitor role in cooperative activities, as do all three models we discussed, and thereby lead students to formulate and articulate their ideas to other students.

5. Reflection involves enabling students to compare their own problem-solving processes with those of an expert, another student, and ultimately, an internal cognitive model of expertise. Reflection is enhanced by the use of various techniques for reproducing or “replaying” the performances of both expert and novice for comparison. The level of detail for a replay may vary depending on the student’s stage of learning, but usually some form of “abstracted replay,” in which the critical features of expert and student performance are highlighted, is desirable (Collins and Brown, 1988). For reading or writing, methods to encourage reflection might consist of recording students as they think out loud and then replaying the tape for comparison with the thinking of experts and other students.

6. Exploration involves pushing students into a mode of problem solving on their own. Forcing them to do exploration is critical, if they are to learn how to frame questions or problems that are interesting and that they can solve. It involves not only fading in problem solving but fading in problem setting as well. But student do not know [a priori] how to explore a domain productively. So exploration strategies need to be taught as part of learning strategies more generally. Exploration as a method of teaching involves setting general goals for students and then encouraging them to focus on particular subgoals of interest to them, or even to revise the general goals as they come upon something more interesting to pursue. For example, in reading, the teacher might send the students to the library to investigate theories about why the stock market crashed in 1929. In writing, students might be encouraged to write an essay defending the most outrageous thesis they can devise. In mathematics, students might be asked to generate and test hypotheses about teenage behavior given a data base on teenagers detailing their backgrounds and how they spend their time and money.