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The big idea is that Schema is an important concept to understand in regards to how we encode, organize, and retrieve information.
What is Schema?
Put simply schema are webs of interconnected information that we create in our mind.  This interconnected information helps us develop patterns of behavior and thinking to understand the world around us.  
Assimilation and Accomodation
When you are introduced to a new concept or idea, there are two ways we genearlly think about how you process and connect that information to already learned information in long-term memory.   Assimilation and Accommodation,.  
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Assimilation is when you learn a concept and then you can take the rules you learned about that concept and apply them to a new situation.   If this works the information is assimilated.  In this case the cat is black and a little different shape, but the generalization works.   So you can successfully assimilate that new information to your CAT schema.  
Accommodation is when the rules you learned DON’T generalize well enough and you need to make a new category. In this case the bark didn’t connect to the “cat schema” so we had to make a new schema for a dog.    Accommodation is harder because you are not generalizing as much, and you need to make whole new categories for learning.  
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Positives and Negatives of Schema and Learning
Schema is a great system for our brain to use to learn, but we need to be careful because it has some important downsides that are important for use to know as well. 
  • Schemas allow us to assimilate information quickly and automatically, this takes pressure off working memory so it can quickly move on to other information. 


  • Schemas can often make it easier for people to learn about the world around them by organizing and grouping new information.

  • People are more likely to pay attention to things that fit in with their current schemas.

  • Because new information is harder to encode,  people can choose to focus on information they already know rather than important or interesting new information that can help them learn and grow.   

  • The organizing and grouping aspects of schema can lead to negative stereotyping.

  • Schemas can also change how we interpret incoming information. When learning new information that does not fit with existing schemas, people can distort or alter the new information to make it fit with what they already know.

  • Schemas can also be remarkably difficult to change. This can lead to a lack of motivation or a lack of self confidence.  

  • Schemas can lead educators and parents to misunderstandings about your students or kids learning needs, or can lead to a lack of necessary empathy, support, and scaffolding.    

If you want to learn more about Schema:

References I used for this page: 

Griffin, Cynthia & Jitendra, Asha. (2009). Word Problem-Solving Instruction in Inclusive Third-Grade Mathematics Classrooms. Journal of Educational Research - J EDUC RES. 102. 187-202. 10.3200/JOER.102.3.187-202.

Jitendra, A., Star, J., Starosta, K., Leh, J., Sood, S., Caskie, G., Hughes, C., & Mack, T. (2009). Improving seventh grade students’ learning of ratio and proportion: The role of schema-based instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 250–264.

Cooper, Graham, and John Sweller. "Effects of Schema Acquisition and Rule Automation on Mathematical Problem-Solving Transfer." Journal of Educational Psychology 79, no. 4 (1987): 347.

Meta, J. & Fine, S. (2019). In search of deeper learning. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lee J., Seel N.M. (2012) Schema-Based Learning. In: Seel N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA.
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