Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_3



The word schema comes from the Greek word “σχήμα” (skhēma), which means shape, or more generally, plan. The plural is “σχήματα” (skhēmata). The term “schema” (plural: schemata [UK], or sometimes schemas [USA]) is used in the sciences of learning and cognition to designate a psychological construct that accounts for the molar forms of human knowledge. A schema represents the generic and abstract knowledge a person has acquired in the course of numerous individual experiences with objects, people, situations, and events. Schemas organize knowledge about specific stimulus domains and guide both the processing of new information and the retrieval of stored information. They can be viewed as structured expectations about people, situations, and events.

Theoretical Background

Some authors have argued (e.g., Neisser 1976) that all human knowledge – everything from knowledge about the form of the letter A to abstract knowledge about astrophysics...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany