What is Schema Theory? | Definition, Importance, Applications, Impact on Education

Schemata in Education: A schema is a mental structure that helps to understand how things work. It deals with how we organize knowledge. When we store new information, we connect to other things. All those connections make a structure in the brain.

Grouping of things acts as a cognitive shortcut, making storing new things in long-term memory. Here you will learn about what is schema theory, schema theory in education, applications, impact, and other useful information.

What is Schema Theory?

Schema theory deals with how people group together associated memories. Those groups are called schemata. For example, when you think about the house, the list of things that comes in your mind are windows, doors, rooms, roofs etc. So, your house schema allowed you to retrieve data related to the cars.

This process of retrieving data makes schema theory important in education. If students can associate new ideas with a schema they already have, their remembering chances are very high.

Bartlett's Schema Theory

Firstly, schemata were introduced into education and psychology by a British psychologist named Frederic Bartlett. When dealing with a series of studies on the recall of Native American folktales, he noticed that many of the recalls were not accurate, but involved the relevant information.

As per this, Bartlett proposed that schemata or unconscious mental data structures represent a person's generic knowledge about the world.

Minsky's Frame Theory

Again in 1970, the schema construct was reintroduced into psychology through the computer scientist Marvin Minsky. He was trying to develop machines that display human-like abilities. In the period of attempting to find the answers, he came to know about Bartlett's work.

After that, Minsky realised that human was using their stored knowledge about the world to carry out many of the processes so he decided to provide these abilities to his machine. Thus, he designed a framing construct.

Modern Schema Theory

Minsky's statement on schemata has a strong impact on psychology and education. A psychologist named David Rumelhart conducted research on Minsky's ideas and turned them into an explicitly psychological theory of the mental representation of complex knowledge.

He concluded that schemata can represent knowledge at all levels from ideologschemes to knowledge about the meaning of a word to knowledge about patterns.

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Schemata in Education

An educational psychologist played an important role in introducing schemata to the educational community. Schema theory was applied to understanding the reading process. It approaches reading emphasizes that reading involves both bottom-up information and top-down knowledge.

Importance of Schemata in Teaching

Schemata have provided education with a way to think about the representation of some forms of complex knowledge. It focused attention on the old knowledge in acquiring new knowledge. The difference between bottom-up processing and top-down processing gives the schemata in education importance.

Bottom-UP Processing: In the process of reading, the word buttom denotes the words on the page you are reading from. Bottom-Up processing is the influence exerted on your storage by the words on page.

Top-Down Processing: It refers to your preexisting knowledge being used to make sense of words on the page.

Applications of Schema Theory

Richard Aderson said that "The schemata an individual already possesses are a principal determiner of what will be learned from a new text". Schema theory has multiple applications in education, especially in the literacy field.

Understanding how preexisting knowledge can influence new data that could help design better reading programmes and help students develop better reading comprehension skills. The schema theory is also useful to explain how stereotypes affect our behaviour.

Schema Theory and Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction

Our cognitive framework organises our knowledge. We use this framework as a mental structure of not only what we have learnt but also what we know. Rosenshine places great store on review, effective teaching, and reviews make sure that students have a firm grasp of the concepts. Rosenshine's second principle states that new material must be presented using small steps and we see the development of schema.


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