Born to learn is a fun, thought-provoking series of animations that illustrate ground-breaking new discoveries about how humans learn.
Cognitive scientists, working alongside neurobiologists and anthropologists, have become much interested in the processes that make apprenticeship such a successful model of learning.
They advocate a Constructivist approach to learning, with its progressive deepening of earlier understandings, and the joining together of what had earlier been separate, disconnected ideas. It is through experience mixed with reflection that humans weave their own experiences and knowledge of the world into unique patterns. Constructivists see the role of the teacher as ‘guide on the side’ rather than the conventional ‘sage on the stage’.
Cognitive apprenticeship takes constructivism a stage further by showing how our brains, over vast periods of time, have become conditioned to learn through the following process:
The ‘teacher’ or parent, craftsman or artist captures the imagination of a young learner who becomes sufficiently intrigued to want to know how to do it for itself.
The ‘teacher’ shows the novice learner how to identify the sub tasks that have first to be completed, each with its own particular form of expertise.
The ‘teacher’ provides sufficient temporary support as learners go beyond what they had earlier thought were the limits of their skills.
The ‘teacher’ has to be as proficient at removing the scaffolding when it is more appropriate to the individual to struggle to stand on his or her feet, as they had been when putting the scaffolding in place.
Through the whole of the apprentice / master relationship the novice learner shares ideas with other learners as they try to describe what they are doing and reflect on the outcome.
Within a cognitive apprenticeship both the task, and the process of achieving it, are made highly visible from the beginning. The student understands where they are going and why.
Learners have access to expertise in action. They watch each other, get to understand the incremental stages and establish benchmarks against which to measure their progress. These are the processes that are at the heart of apprenticeship. They have evolved over thousands of generations as parents sought the most effective way of helping their children to understand the world.
The definition of success was when the apprentice was as good as his or her master, and maybe even better.
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