What Role Do Schemas Play in the Learning Process? (2022)

Aschemais a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment.

However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to focus instead only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world.

What Role Do Schemas Play in the Learning Process? (1)

Historical Background

The use of schemas as a basic concept was first used by a British psychologist named Frederic Bartlett as part of his learning theory. Bartlett's theory suggested that our understanding of the world is formed by a network of abstract mental structures.

TheoristJean Piagetintroduced the term schema, and its use was popularized through his work. According to his theory of cognitive development, children go through a series of stages of intellectual growth.

InPiaget's theory, a schema is both the category of knowledge as well as the process of acquiring that knowledge. He believed that people are constantly adapting to the environment as they take in new information and learn new things.

As experiences happen and new information is presented, new schemas are developed and old schemas are changed or modified.

Examples

For example, a young child may first develop a schema for a horse. She knows that a horse is large, has hair, four legs, and a tail. When the little girl encounters a cow for the first time, she might initially call it a horse.

After all, it fits in with her schema for the characteristics of a horse; it is a large animal that has hair, four legs, and a tail. Once she is told that this is a different animal called a cow, she will modify her existing schema for a horse and create a new schema for a cow.

Now, let's imagine that this girl encounters a miniature horse for the first time and mistakenly identifies it as a dog.

Her parents explain to her that the animal is actually a very small type of horse, so the little girl must at this time modify her existing schema for horses. She now realizes that while some horses are very large animals, others can be very small. Through her new experiences, her existing schemas are modified and new information is learned.

Types

While Piaget focused on childhood development, schemas are something that all people possess and continue to form and change throughout life. Object schemas are just one type of schema that focuses on what an inanimate object is and how it works.

(Video) Schema Learning: The patterns of behaviour in your child's play

For example, most people in industrialized nations have a schema for what a car is. Your overall schema for a car might include subcategories for different types of automobiles such as a compact car, sedan, or sports car.

Other types of schemas that people often possess include:

  • Person schemas are focused on specific individuals. For example, your schema for your friend might include information about her appearance, her behaviors, her personality, and her preferences.
  • Social schemas include general knowledge about how people behave in certain social situations.
  • Self-schemas are focused on your knowledge about yourself. This can include both what you know about your current self as well as ideas about your idealized or future self.
  • Event schemas are focused on patterns of behavior that should be followed for certain events. This acts much like a script informing you of what you should do, how you should act, and what you should say in a particular situation.

How Schemas Change

The processes through which schemas are adjusted or changed are known as assimilation and accommodation.

Inassimilation, new information is incorporated into pre-existing schemas.

Inaccommodation, existing schemas might be altered or new schemas might be formed as a person learns new information and has new experiences.

Schemas tend to be easier to change during childhood but can become increasingly rigid and difficult to modify as people grow older. Schemas will often persist even when people are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs.

In many cases, people will only begin to slowly change their schemas when inundated with a continual barrage of evidence pointing to the need to modify it.

How Schemas Affect Learning

Schemas also play a role in the learning process. For example:

  • Schemas influence what we pay attention to. People are more likely to pay attention to things that fit in with their current schemas.
  • Schemas also impact how quickly people learn. People also learn information more readily when it fits in with the existing schemas.
  • Schemas help simplify the world. Schemas can often make it easier for people to learn about the world around them. New information could be classified and categorized by comparing new experiences to existing schemas.
  • Schemas allow us to think quickly. Even under conditions when things are rapidly changing our new information is coming in quickly, people do not usually have to spend a great deal of time interpreting it. Because of the existing schemas, people are able to assimilate this new information quickly and automatically.
  • Schemas can also change how we interpret incoming information. When learning new information that does not fit with existing schemas, people sometimes distort or alter the new information to make it fit with what they already know.
  • Schemas can also be remarkably difficult to change. People often cling to their existing schemas even in the face of contradictory information.

Challenges

While the use of schemas to learn, in most situations, occurs automatically or with little effort, sometimes an existing schema can hinder the learning of new information.

Prejudiceis one example of a schema that prevents people from seeing the world as it is and inhibits them from taking in new information.

By holding certain beliefs about a particular group of people, this existing schema may cause people to interpret situations incorrectly. When an event happens that challenges these existing beliefs, people may come up with alternative explanations that uphold and support their existing schema instead of adapting or changing their beliefs.

(Video) What is Schema Theory in Psychology?

Resistance to Change

Consider how this might work for gender expectations and stereotypes. Everyone has a schema for what is considered masculine and feminine in their culture. Such schemas can also lead to stereotypes about how we expect men and women to behave and the roles we expect them to fill.

In one interesting study, researchers showed children images that were either consistent with gender expectations (such as a man working on a car and woman washing dishes) while others saw images that were inconsistent with gender stereotypes (a man washing dishes and a woman fixing a car).

When later asked to remember what they had seen in the images, children who held very stereotypical views of gender were more likely to change the gender of the people they saw in the gender-inconsistent images. For example, if they saw an image of a man washing dishes, they were more likely to remember it as an image of a woman washing dishes.

How Cultural Norms Influence Behavior and Gender Value

A Word From Verywell

Piaget's theory of cognitive development provided an important dimension to our understanding of how children develop and learn. Though the processes of adaptation, accommodation, and equilibration, we build, change, and grow our schemas which provide a framework for our understanding of the world around us.

3 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

(Video) 🧠 What is a schema? 🧠 Cognitive Developmental Psychology

  1. Baldwin MW. Psychological bulletin. American Psychological Association. 1992. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.112.3.461

  2. Padesky CA. Schema change processes in cognitive therapy. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 1994;1:267–278. doi:10.1002/cpp.5640010502

  3. Aosved AC, Long PJ, Voller EK. Measuring sexism, racism, sexual prejudice, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance: The Intolerant Schema Measure. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2009;39(10):2321-2354. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2009.00528.x

Additional Reading

  • Levine, LE & Munsch, J. Child Development. Los Angeles: Sage; 2014.
  • Lindon, J & Brodie, K. Understanding Child Development 0-8 Years, 4th Edition: Linking Theory and Practice. London: Hodder Education; 2016.

What Role Do Schemas Play in the Learning Process? (2)

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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FAQs

What is the role of schemas in child development and learning? ›

Schemas are useful in observation and assessment because they demonstrate the journey children make from sensory learning and physical movement to understanding and becoming skilled in symbolic and cause and effect learning, which enables executive functioning.

What is the main benefit of schemas? ›

The primary benefit of Schema Therapy is its ability to 1) help people identify and adjust their negative patterns of behaviour and 2) learn how to ensure their emotional needs are met, in a healthy way.

What is schema and what role does it play in memory? ›

Schemas are semantic memory structures that help people organize new information they encounter. In addition they may help a person reconstruct bits and pieces of memories that have been forgotten.

What are schemas What is their role in reading? ›

It is a process of using reader's existing knowledge (schemata) to interpret texts in order to construct meaning. Many reading experts agree that the schema theory is one of the reasonable theories of human information processing. Schemata, the plural of schema, are believed to be the building blocks of cognition.

How do you use schema theory in the classroom? ›

How To Use The Schema Theory In eLearning
  1. Provide Pre-Assessments. ...
  2. Develop Real World Associations. ...
  3. Encourage Online Learners To Reevaluate Existing Schemata. ...
  4. Use Branching Scenarios And eLearning Simulations To Build eLearning Experiences. ...
  5. Rely On A Self-Paced Learning Approach. ...
  6. Put Information Into Context.
1 Jul 2016

What is an example of a schema in child development? ›

Schema Examples

For example, a young child may first develop a schema for a horse. She knows that a horse is large, has hair, four legs, and a tail. When the little girl encounters a cow for the first time, she might initially call it a horse.

How do schemas influence behavior? ›

Schemas can influence what you pay attention to, how you interpret situations, or how you make sense of ambiguous situations. Once you have a schema, you unconsciously pay attention to information that confirms it and ignore or minimize information that contradicts it.

What is an example of schema in education? ›

For example, when John understands that leaves change color in the fall, he has a schema about leaves and fall. Learning involves forming schemata. When John learns that white and red make pink, or that houses have windows and doors and roofs, he is forming schemata. But learning also involves revising our schemata.

What is an example of schema and what good is it? ›

For example, when a child is young, they may develop a schema for a dog. They know a dog walks on four legs, is hairy, and has a tail. When the child goes to the zoo for the first time and sees a tiger, they may initially think the tiger is a dog as well.

What role do schemas play in recognizing and understanding new experiences? ›

Schemas are dynamic – they develop and change based on new information and experiences and thereby support the notion of plasticity in development. Schemas guide how we interpret new information and may be quite powerful in their influence (see work of Brewer and Treyens below).

What is schema theory of learning? ›

Simply put, schema theory states that all knowledge is organized into units. Within these units of knowledge, or schemata, is stored information. A schema, then, is a generalized description or a conceptual system for understanding knowledge-how knowledge is represented and how it is used.

How does schema influence attention? ›

The brain therefore constructs a schematic model of the process of attention, the 'attention schema,' in much the same way that it constructs a schematic model of the body, the 'body schema. ' The content of this internal model leads a brain to conclude that it has a subjective experience.

What does schemata mean in teaching? ›

Schema is a mental structure to help us understand how things work. It has to do with how we organize knowledge. As we take in new information, we connect it to other things we know, believe, or have experienced. And those connections form a sort of structure in the brain.

What are schemas in children's play? ›

In children's play, schemas are used to refer to children's natural urges to do things, like hide, jump, run, and throw things. We've all had the frustrating experience of a child dumping out a box of toys that was just cleaned up or ignoring your pleas to stay clean and jumping into a pile of mud!

What is schema theory and why is it important for listening comprehension? ›

When listening, learners try to recall their background knowledge (schemata) along with their linguistic knowledge in order to comprehend what is being said. This is the field of schema theory. Schema theory is one of the important theories of learning that affects perception and learners' memory.

What is schemata and how does it affect the learning process? ›

A schema is a knowledge structure that allows organisms to interpret and understand the world around them. Schemata are a method of organizing information that allows the brain to work more efficiently. Piaget's theory of cognitive development put the concept at the forefront in cognitive science.

Why is it important for teachers to activate learners schema? ›

If you don't activate your students' background schema when teaching English as a foreign language, your students might not be interested in listening and reading, have a purpose for listening and reading, or even be ready to successfully listen and read.

Why is schemata an important feature of teaching? ›

Why are schemas important? These repeated actions are strongly linked to early cognitive development, and are embedded within our early years practice. The ability to explore schemas will improve children's cognitive brain structures, and help them develop new neurological pathways.

What are the 3 types of schema? ›

Schema is of three types: Logical Schema, Physical Schema and view Schema. Logical Schema – It describes the database designed at logical level. Physical Schema – It describes the database designed at physical level. View Schema – It defines the design of the database at the view level.

How do you support children's schemas? ›

Transporting schema

Children enjoy repeatedly moving resources, and themselves, from one place to another. Providing blocks, puzzles and vehicles will encourage them to pick up, move along and put down objects. Being physically active outdoors and using wheelbarrows to move sand will also support this behaviour.

What are the main schemas? ›

List of Schemas
  • Emotional Deprivation: The belief and expectation that your primary needs will never be met. ...
  • Abandonment: ...
  • Mistrust/Abuse: ...
  • Defectiveness: ...
  • Vulnerability: ...
  • Dependence/Incompetence: ...
  • Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self: ...
  • Failure:

Do schemas make thinking more efficient? ›

A schema contains groups of linked memories, concepts or words. This grouping of things acts as a cognitive shortcut, making storing new things in your long-term memory and retrieval of them much quicker and more efficient.

What is schema in simple words? ›

Definition of schema

1 : a diagrammatic presentation broadly : a structured framework or plan : outline. 2 : a mental codification of experience that includes a particular organized way of perceiving cognitively and responding to a complex situation or set of stimuli.

What is a real life example of schema? ›

For example, when a fire alarm goes off, you should leave the building. This might seem like common sense, but at one point, you didn't know what such a signal meant. You learned through experience and retained the information through schema. Object schemas focus on inanimate objects and how they work.

Does schema influence our understanding? ›

One way schemas can influence cognition is that they can affect our ability to comprehend new information. When we're exposed to new information we relate it to our existing knowledge (our schemas) and this can improve our comprehension of that information (as seen in Bransford and Johnson's study).

What does Piaget mean by schema? ›

A schema, or scheme, is an abstract concept proposed by J. Piaget to refer to our, well, abstract concepts. Schemas (or schemata) are units of understanding that can be hierarchically categorized as well as webbed into complex relationships with one another.

What are the four types of schemas? ›

Types of schemas
  • Role schema.
  • Object schema.
  • Self-schema.
  • Event schema.
9 Feb 2021

What is another term for schema? ›

schema chart. scheme. step-by-step diagram. structural outline.

How do schemas aid in decision making? ›

Schemas affect everything we perceive and help us interact with the world around us efficiently. They help us think and learn new information quickly, with minimal cognitive effort, by helping us categorize and organize new information from existing schemas. Some schemas change over time.

How does schema improve memory? ›

How does use of a schema improve memory? A schema improves memory for details. A schema provides a framework to use in interpreting a situation. A schema helps avoid making errors in remembering the details of a situation.

What are the key features of schema theory? ›

Key features of schema theory

Here are some basic principles of schema theory: Schemata are abstract mental structures. People build on these structures to understand the world. People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding.

What can we conclude about the role of schemas in memory? ›

What can we conclude about the role of schemas in memory? Schemas often operate; however, we sometimes remember material that is not consistent with a schema. According to the parallel distributed processing approach to semantic memory, several patterns of activation can proceed at the same time.

Where do the schemas we develop during our life span come from? ›

The schemas we develop during our life span come from the foundations we build through our own experiences. In turn, this is how our relationships are established and maintained. The influences of schema development start when we learn how to construct behaviors and process information.

What are schemas play? ›

What is a Schema? Schemas are patterns of repeated behaviour that allow children to explore and develop their play through their thoughts and ideas. As an adult, you can learn about your children's interests by observing their play. By stepping back and watching, you may notice how apparent some of these schemas are.

What is schema how it develops? ›

In Piaget's epistemology, cognitive schemas are acquired and formed through a process of internalization conceived of as a functional incorporation of the regular structure of actions into the memory (Piaget 1954). Schemas are higher-level cognitive units that are acquired through slow learning.

What are the schemas in early years? ›

Schemas are behaviours that children go through when they are exploring the world and trying to find out how things work. Children have a very strong drive to repeat actions, move things from one place to another, cover things up, put things into containers, move in circles and throw things.

How do children learn to listen? ›

Listening skills can be taught directly through everyday interactions, listening activities and targeted games. They are also learned during free play. Reading to children and telling them stories are excellent options for encouraging listening at all ages.

What are schemata what is their role in reading Ignou? ›

Thus schemata are knowledge structures which represent a generalized knowledge about objects or events, or even about a language system which are activated while processing a text.

What are the three during listening strategies? ›

Effective listening has three modes: attentive listening, responsive listening, and active listening. Understanding these modes will help you increase your listening accuracy and reduce the opportunity for misunderstanding.

What is schema in children's learning? ›

What is a schema? Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour which allow children to explore and express developing ideas and thoughts through their play and exploration. The repetitive actions of schematic play allow children to construct meaning in what they are doing.

What does the Eyfs say about schemas? ›

The EYFS states that practitioners should support children's schematic play patterns so that they can build on individual children's interests, therefore taking part in powerful learning opportunities through sustained shared learning experiences.

What does Piaget mean by schema? ›

A schema, or scheme, is an abstract concept proposed by J. Piaget to refer to our, well, abstract concepts. Schemas (or schemata) are units of understanding that can be hierarchically categorized as well as webbed into complex relationships with one another.

What is an example of a schema? ›

Examples of Schemas

For example, when a child is young, they may develop a schema for a dog. They know a dog walks on four legs, is hairy, and has a tail. When the child goes to the zoo for the first time and sees a tiger, they may initially think the tiger is a dog as well.

How can a teacher encourage the development of a schema? ›

Transporting schema

Children enjoy repeatedly moving resources, and themselves, from one place to another. Providing blocks, puzzles and vehicles will encourage them to pick up, move along and put down objects. Being physically active outdoors and using wheelbarrows to move sand will also support this behaviour.

What the term schema means? ›

Definition of schema

1 : a diagrammatic presentation broadly : a structured framework or plan : outline. 2 : a mental codification of experience that includes a particular organized way of perceiving cognitively and responding to a complex situation or set of stimuli.

What are the main schemas? ›

List of Schemas
  • Emotional Deprivation: The belief and expectation that your primary needs will never be met. ...
  • Abandonment: ...
  • Mistrust/Abuse: ...
  • Defectiveness: ...
  • Vulnerability: ...
  • Dependence/Incompetence: ...
  • Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self: ...
  • Failure:

What are Montessori schemas? ›

Schemas are patterns of repeated behaviour that allow children to explore and develop their play through their thoughts and ideas. As an adult, you can learn about your children's interests by observing their play. By stepping back and watching, you may notice how apparent some of these schemas are.

What are the 7 schemas? ›

How many schemas are there?
  • Connecting.
  • Orientation.
  • Transporting.
  • Trajectory.
  • Positioning.
  • Enveloping.
  • Enclosing.
  • Rotation.
30 May 2022

What is schema how it develops? ›

In Piaget's epistemology, cognitive schemas are acquired and formed through a process of internalization conceived of as a functional incorporation of the regular structure of actions into the memory (Piaget 1954). Schemas are higher-level cognitive units that are acquired through slow learning.

How do schemas affect behavior? ›

Schemas can influence what you pay attention to, how you interpret situations, or how you make sense of ambiguous situations. Once you have a schema, you unconsciously pay attention to information that confirms it and ignore or minimize information that contradicts it.

What are the 3 types of schema? ›

Schema is of three types: Logical Schema, Physical Schema and view Schema. Logical Schema – It describes the database designed at logical level. Physical Schema – It describes the database designed at physical level. View Schema – It defines the design of the database at the view level.

How do schemas affect memory? ›

Schemas can have a negative impact on memory performance. According to the false memory literature, activation of a schema can often lead to false memory for non-presented information that is consistent with the activated schema.

What is an example of schema in education? ›

For example, when John understands that leaves change color in the fall, he has a schema about leaves and fall. Learning involves forming schemata. When John learns that white and red make pink, or that houses have windows and doors and roofs, he is forming schemata. But learning also involves revising our schemata.

How do you explain schema to students? ›

Schema is a mental structure to help us understand how things work. It has to do with how we organize knowledge. As we take in new information, we connect it to other things we know, believe, or have experienced. And those connections form a sort of structure in the brain.

What are the four types of schemas? ›

Types of schemas
  • Role schema.
  • Object schema.
  • Self-schema.
  • Event schema.
9 Feb 2021

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