Cognitive apprenticeship theory emphasizes the process of making expert thinking “visible” to students and fostering the cognitive and meta-cognitive processes required for expertise. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the use of cognitive apprenticeship theory with the primary aim of understanding how and to what extent the theory has been applied to the design, implementation, and analysis of education in the health sciences. The initial search yielded 149 articles, with 45 excluded because they contained the term “cognitive apprenticeship” only in reference list. The remaining 104 articles were categorized using a theory talk coding scheme. An in depth qualitative synthesis and review was conducted for the 26 articles falling into the major theory talk category. Application of cognitive apprenticeship theory tended to focus on the methods dimension (e.g., coaching, mentoring, scaffolding), with some consideration for the content and sociology dimensions. Cognitive apprenticeship was applied in various disciplines (e.g., nursing, medicine, veterinary) and educational settings (e.g., clinical, simulations, online). Health sciences education researchers often used cognitive apprenticeship to inform instructional design and instrument development. Major recommendations from the literature included consideration for contextual influences, providing faculty development, and expanding application of the theory to improve instructional design and student outcomes. This body of research provides critical insight into cognitive apprenticeship theory and extends our understanding of how to develop expert thinking in health sciences students. New research directions should apply the theory into additional aspects of health sciences educational research, such as classroom learning and interprofessional education.
- Clinical education
- Cognitive apprenticeship