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

You may have heard the word schema as it relates to coding, where it refers to how a database is structured. While a schema in psychology still refers to how information is organized, it focuses on how the human mind does it.

What Is a Schema in Psychology?

Aschemais a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. We use schemas 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)

History of Schemas

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.

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.

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.

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

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 of Schemas

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.

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.

What are the four types of schemas? They 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 education and 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 of Schemas

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.

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FAQs

What role do schemas play in the learning process? ›

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 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 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 role do schemas play in cognitive development? ›

schema, in social science, mental structures that an individual uses to organize knowledge and guide cognitive processes and behaviour. People use schemata (the plural of schema) to categorize objects and events based on common elements and characteristics and thus interpret and predict the world.

What is schema in simple words? ›

A schema in psychology and other social sciences describes a mental concept. It provides information to an individual about what to expect from diverse experiences and circumstances. These schemas are developed and based on life experiences and provide a guide to one's cognitive processes and behavior.

What is schema explain with example? ›

Schema is a physical representation of data which is present in the database management system. In simple words we can call a schema the structure of any database. It defines how the data was stored in a database and also shows the relationship among those data, but it does not show the data present in those tables.

Why is schema play important? ›

The importance of schemas in children's self-initiated and spontaneous play has become a valued and embedded part of early childhood practice. Schemas are those repeated patterns seen in children's behaviour, and they link directly to the development and strengthening of cognitive structures in the brain.

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

Have you seen a toddler repeat an activity over and over again – tipping over the Lego box and emptying its contents on the floor, swishing the paint around in a circle, rolling their toy car over the uneven tiles and refusing to stop? It's actually all part of their essential brain development and is called a schema.

How do you use schema theory in the classroom? ›

A schema is a general idea about something. Its plural form is schemata. Schemata can help students learn. In order to use schemata in education, teachers should activate prior knowledge, link new information to old information and link different schemata to each other.

What is a role schema? ›

Role schemas, which encompass our expectations of how a person in a specific social role will behave. For example, we expect a waiter to be warm and welcoming. While not all waiters will act that way, our schema sets our expectations of each waiter we interact with.

How can schemas influence our thinking? ›

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 is schema theory of learning? ›

Definition: Schema theory is a branch of cognitive science concerned with how the brain structures knowledge. A schema is an organized unit of knowledge for a subject or event. It is based on past experience and is accessed to guide current understanding or action.

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.

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 Piaget's explanation of schemas? ›

Piaget suggested that we understand the world around us by using schemas. A schema is a pattern of learning, linking perceptions, ideas and actions to make sense of the world. Piaget described it simply as the “way we see the world”.

What is another word for schema? ›

OTHER WORDS FOR schema

1 outline, framework, model.

What are the 5 schemas? ›

The Five Schema Domains Defined
  • Abandonment/Instability.
  • Mistrust/Abuse.
  • Emotional Deprivation.
  • Defectiveness/Shame.
  • Social Isolation/Alienation.

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 schemas are formed? ›

Schemas are acquired and constructed through experiences with specific instances. Physiologically speaking, they start as simple networks and develop into more complex structures.

What are the different types of schema? ›

Following are the three major types of schemas: Star Schema. Snowflake Schema. Galaxy Schema.

Which of the following best defines schema? ›

Which of the following provides the best definition of a schema? They are mental templates that provide a framework for organizing information about the world. They represent a person's knowledge about objects, people or situations.

How do you support 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 play schemes? ›

play schemes – play schemes are sequences made up of connected play acts with connected toys, like a tea party or a dinosaur battle. The duration of play schemes was recorded, as well as who initiated and ended the play scheme (parent or child).

How would you explain to parents that understanding schemas can help them be better parents? ›

Here are some ideas of how to support parents to better understand schemas: Help them to recognise and identify schemas and play patterns. Talk about behaviours that could be described as schematic. Reassure them that schemas are a common way that many children learn and develop.

What is a real life example of schema? ›

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.

Are schemas good or bad? ›

Schemas are often accurate representations of our early experiences with caretakers. The problem with schemas is that they are often rigid and resistant to change. Schemas are often biased to the negative or represent a kind of fear-based thinking that is unhelpful.

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

When students are confused by a concept, their learning and growth is hindered. We need to engage them as much as possible in order to assist their development. Activating student schema means putting things in context—and by doing so, you will encourage your students' exploration of the material.

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.

How do you explain schema to students? ›

Schema is your background knowledge; it's what you already know before you even pick up the book. Its major “ingredients” are your memories, the books you've read, the places you've been, the movies you've watched, the vocabulary you know, etc. Your schema, or background knowledge, is highly fueled by your interests.

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.

How is it that schemas help people save time as they have new experiences or encounter new people or objects on a daily basis? ›

How is it that schemas help people save time as they have new experiences or encounter new people or objects on a daily basis? We compare new experiences to previously stored schemas and this allows us to put forth less effort to assess those new encounters.

What are the four types of schemas? ›

There are four types of these schemata, prototypes, personal construct, stereotypes, and scripts which we use to make sense of phenomena. One or all of these tools can be used to organize our perceptions in a meaningful way. The first of the schemata is known as a prototype.

What does schemata mean in teaching? ›

Center for Teaching Excellence

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 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.

How does schema influence success in communication? ›

Psychological schema determines how communicators analyze other people's information and respond with their own judgment about the speakers' cultural perspectives. The negative effect of the anomalous individual psychological element is fundamentally a mental process.

What are the 7 schemas? ›

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

How many schemas are there? ›

Schemas are repeated patterns of behavior that children exhibit in their play. There are nine schemas that are understood to be the most common in children's play.

At what age do schemas develop? ›

Schemas usually emerge in early toddlerhood and continue to around 5 or 6 years old. If you can learn about schemas you can learn to identify them in your child's behaviour and use them as a better way to connect with and understand your child.

What is an example of Piaget's schema? ›

For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child's sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs.

What is schema development? ›

Schemas are patterns of repeated behavior that allow children to develop an understanding of the world around them through play and exploration. Schemas are mental models or processes that we create by trial and error through experiences.

What is schema in educational psychology? ›

In psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas) describes a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them.

What is the importance of schemas? ›

It has been found in research that 'Schemas link to the development and strengthening of cognitive structures (the basic mental processes people use to make sense of information) in the brain. Children are able to act out experiences and take risks, testing out and talking about what they already know and can do.

Why is schema play important? ›

The importance of schemas in children's self-initiated and spontaneous play has become a valued and embedded part of early childhood practice. Schemas are those repeated patterns seen in children's behaviour, and they link directly to the development and strengthening of cognitive structures in the brain.

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.

How do you use schema theory in the classroom? ›

A schema is a general idea about something. Its plural form is schemata. Schemata can help students learn. In order to use schemata in education, teachers should activate prior knowledge, link new information to old information and link different schemata to each other.

How do you explain schema to students? ›

Schema is your background knowledge; it's what you already know before you even pick up the book. Its major “ingredients” are your memories, the books you've read, the places you've been, the movies you've watched, the vocabulary you know, etc. Your schema, or background knowledge, is highly fueled by your interests.

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 can schemas influence our thinking and behaviour? ›

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 is an example of a schema in child development? ›

Have you seen a toddler repeat an activity over and over again – tipping over the Lego box and emptying its contents on the floor, swishing the paint around in a circle, rolling their toy car over the uneven tiles and refusing to stop? It's actually all part of their essential brain development and is called a schema.

How do you support 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 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 did 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.

Are schemas good or bad? ›

Schemas are often accurate representations of our early experiences with caretakers. The problem with schemas is that they are often rigid and resistant to change. Schemas are often biased to the negative or represent a kind of fear-based thinking that is unhelpful.

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

When students are confused by a concept, their learning and growth is hindered. We need to engage them as much as possible in order to assist their development. Activating student schema means putting things in context—and by doing so, you will encourage your students' exploration of the material.

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 schema theory important in education? ›

One particular aspect of learning that instructors should consider is how students use prior knowledge to comprehend and learn from text. Schema Theory emphasizes the mental connections learners make between pieces of information and can be a very powerful component of the learning process.

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