Becvar Weddle, A. and Hollan, J. D. (2010) Scaffolding Embodied Practices in Professional Education. Mind, Culture, and Activity: An International Journal, 17, 119-148.


From vocational education to neurosurgery residencies, apprenticeship training is characteristic of how people are acculturated to a profession. One of the primary goals of professional education is to develop skillful performance. Expert skill includes an integrated set of perceptual and motor abilities. During practical teaching, instructors deploy a set of discursive practices that nurture skilled performance in trainees. These practices scaffold particular patterns of movement, patterns that students can assimilate and subsequently use to guide or govern tool-based actions. We conducted in-depth ethnographic research in a dental hygiene program to gain a deeper understanding of the hands-on training environment: the activities in which participants engage, the circumstances they typically encounter, and the tools and technologies they rely upon in accomplishing their work. The primary data are video recordings of naturally occurring instructional interactions, chosen to be representative of broad classes of interactions observed. This article documents three practices used to entrain students with professional perception and scaffold expert action: guidance, demonstration and modeling, and embodied conceptual metaphor.


Jim Hollan


Distributed Cognition and Human-Computer Interaction Lab