Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup


History/Social Studies

Reading and Analyzing Texts

Cognitive Apprenticeship

The reading and writing practices that follow (sourcing, contextualization, close reading, and corroboration) promote student analysis of sources. Even though these practices are delineated here in a discrete fashion, it is important to consider that such strategies are not usually separated in the minds of historians. Rather, historians employ and integrate these ways of thinking. In order to effectively teach students how to think like experts who work to solve complex cognitive tasks, however, the processes are addressed in a slightly decomposed manner. When teachers identify the processes of cognitive tasks, they help make those invisible processes visible to students. In order for students to understand the cognitive practices a teacher uses, the teacher must be able to explain and illustrate such processes.

In order to foster students’ skills, it's important to enact methods that support students in learning the nature of expert practice. The basic notion of apprenticeship is to show the apprentice how to do a task and help the apprentice do it. In order to make their thinking visible, teachers need to both model their thinking through tangible processes and explain their thinking aloud to students.

There are three important aspects of traditional apprenticeship: modeling, coaching, and fading (or promoting independence). When teaching reading, teachers can model strategies for students while thinking aloud about their mental processes. For example, this could take the form of talking aloud while annotating a document that is projected for students to see. Afterward, teachers can coach students while students perform the same task on their own. By prompting and constructively critiquing student performance, teachers can provide scaffolding for the students. As students become more proficient, the teacher can reduce their support by only giving tips and specific feedback. Taken together, these methods for illuminating and applying thinking processes can support students as they develop skills that may at first be foreign to them.