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The use of schema theory in the design of instructional materials: A physics example

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What are the implications of cognitive science for the design of instructional materials given its central concern with meaningful learning? This question was addressed during an attempt to improve the quality of learning in an introductory non-calculus college physics course where a major intellectual problem that many students face is the development of a coherent view of the information provided to them. The absence of a conceptual framework may contribute to the rapid loss of information often observed among many students shortly after their taking a test. Lack of a conceptual framework also may account for the frequent use of trial-and-error approaches to using formulae. This report cites the use of schema theory for the development of a generative schema or a set of schemas that could be used by students to integrate all of the physics content, and for the design of a means for representing and teaching the schema(s) in a set of instructional materials.

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This research was supported in part by a Hatch Research Grant in both the Physics Department and the Education Department while the senior author was a Visiting Lecturer at Cornell University (1978–1979).

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Hewson, P.W., Posner, G.J. The use of schema theory in the design of instructional materials: A physics example. Instr Sci 13, 119–139 (1984).

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