Cognitive Apprenticeship in Health Professional Education


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Overview and Purpose

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“I will follow that method of treatment which according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful”. This excerpt is taken from the Hippocratic Oath, an oath taken by new physicians to protect all life, to hold in highest regard one's teachers, to recognize one's limitations, and to renounce self-interest in the treatment of patients. Theoretically, this ethical code of conduct relates to health care professionals in all disciplines and is not limited to physicians. The purpose of health care professional instruction is to teach students how to treat patients; this goes much deeper than the mechanics surrounding proper clinical technique. Ethical behavior, accountability in decision making, and practicing with integrity must be included in the curriculum along with clinical skill, procedure, and competency. The question is how to do this. The answer is cognitive apprenticeship.

Performance Objectives

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Learners will be able to:

• identify the meaning, goals, and strategies of cognitive apprenticeship

• create tasks and projects using cognitive apprenticeship that support health professional competency

• structure activities and properly break down tasks to guide student performance

• establish visible expert thinking through modeling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection, and exploration

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: What is cognitive apprenticeship?

Learners will define cognitive apprenticeship and identify its goals and strategies.


Unit 2: Creating tasks and projects that support competency in health professional education

Learners will define competency and identify competencies that are needed in their specific field of health care education. They will utilize cognitive apprenticeship in creating field-appropriate competency tasks.


Unit 3: Guiding student performance

Learners will identify the difference between guidance and instruction, describe how to break down tasks to support student learning, and recognize the role of cognitive apprenticeship in guided learning.


Unit 4: Modeling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection, and exploration

Learners will define modeling, scaffolding, coaching, articulation, reflection, and exploration in cognitive apprenticeship and identify ways in which they can be used in field-specific health professional education. Learners will describe how modeling, scaffolding, coaching, articulation, reflection, and exploration impact visible thinking and explain the role of visible thinking in student performance and career preparation.

Extended Resources

Cash, J.R., Behrmann, M.B., Stadt, R.W. and Daniels, H.M. (1997). Effectiveness of Cognitive Apprenticeship Instructional Methods in College Automotive Technology Classrooms. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(2). http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JITE/v34n2/Cash.html