Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Cognitive Apprenticeship Approach to Facilitating Web-Based Collaborative Problem Solving

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Cognitive Apprenticeship Approach to Facilitating Web-Based Collaborative Problem Solving

Article excerpt


With the rapid spread and advancement of information technology, schooling not only plays an important role in imparting knowledge to students, but also in cultivating their abilities of collecting data, extracting information from the data, and applying the collected information to deal with upcoming challenges and problems (Ates & Cataloglu, 2007; Dogru, 2008; Francis, 2008; Pimta et al., 2009; Saskia & Gerjets, 2008; Zakaria & Yusoff, 2009). Consequently, fostering students' problem-solving abilities has become an important and challenging issue (Chiou, Hwang, & Tseng, 2009). Previous studies have revealed several factors that affect students' problem-solving abilities, such as the students' level of intelligence and the socioeconomic background of their parents, the quality of the learning materials, the learning methods, and the adopted instructional strategies for problem-solving (Mustafa & Ozgul, 2009; Oloruntegbe, Ikpe, & Kukuru, 2010; Zheng, 2007).

Among these factors, learning methods and problem-solving instruction strategies are considered as being key factors that determine students' problem-solving abilities (Harskamp & Suhre, 2007; Lo, 2009; Tsai & Shen, 2009). Researchers have reported that information searching skills and problem-solving abilities are highly correlated (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1990). Bilal (2001, 2002) further indicated that the lack of effective information searching strategies and high-order thinking abilities could influence students' performance in searching for information on the Internet; moreover, it would be difficult for students to enhance their high-order thinking ability by only observing and imitating the cognitive skills of teachers in a traditional learning context. In other words, a more effective learning approach is needed for helping the students to acquire both cognitive and metacognitive skills. Cognitive apprenticeship is such a learning model which has been reported to be effective in promoting students' high-order thinking, cognitive skills and oral presentation abilities (Ertl, Fischer, & Mandl, 2006; Hwang, Yang, Tsai, & Yang, 2009; Schellens & Valcke, 2006).

In this study, a cognitive apprenticeship approach for conducting inquiry-based collaborative learning activities is proposed. With this approach, the students are given the cognitive apprenticeship strategy, and complete learning tasks collaboratively. An experiment has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach. More specifically, the test scores of the students using this approach are compared with those of a group of students who learned with the cognitive apprenticeship strategy individually and another group who learned with the traditional form of instruction. In addition, to investigate the effects of our approach in depth, the cognitive styles of the students are taken into account when analyzing their learning performance.

Literature Review

Cognitive apprenticeship was proposed by Brown, Collins and Duguis (1989). It provides an opportunity for novices to observe how instructors or experts solve complex problems in an authentic context via the following steps: (a) Modeling: the experts demonstrate and explain their way of thinking for students to observe and understand; (b) Coaching: the students practice the methods, while the experts advise and correct; (c) Scaffolding: through increasing the complexity of problems and decreasing the level of assistance according to the students' progress, the experts progressively help the students successively approximate the objective of accomplishing a task independently; (d) Articulation: the students are given opportunities to articulate and clarify their own way of thinking; (e) Reflection: the students compare their own thoughts with those of experts and peers; (g) Exploration: the students manipulate and explore the learned skills or knowledge to promote their true understanding. …

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