Let's talk about Schemas

Paul Main

Piaget believed that children actively construct knowledge through their interaction with the environment. So it's very important for the child to be interacting with the environment in order to construct knowledge about the world.

Don't just tell them, show them

We've been using the word 'Schema' a lot recently. I first encountered it during my A-levels when we begun looking at several prominent psychologists. We thought it would be a good idea to revisit this in light of the Mental Modelling classroom approach we have developed. As we read through the literature, we begun to see a lot of synergy with our block-building approach.

Child Development: Theories of Piaget and Vygotsky

To start with, we're going to be looking at Piaget and then we're going to have a little look at Vygotsky. And at the end, we're going to look at some theories of memory development. So Piaget had a cognitive developmental stage theory where he believed that children went through different stages. Vygotsky, unfortunately, died at the age of 37 before he had time to complete much of his theory. But he introduced something extra into our ideas of cognitive development, and that was the idea of the social environment.

Give children the opportunity to interact with the world.

Piaget believed that children actively construct knowledge through their interaction with the environment. So it's very important for the child to be interacting with the environment in order to construct knowledge about the world. Piaget said that children do this through the use of schemas. Schemas are organized ways of understanding the world. As the child interacts with the world, these schemas develop and they improve with age. Initially, it was believed that these schemas were action based. That is, it was to do with the child's physical interaction with the environment. And then as a child gets older, this changes to mental interaction with the environment as they're able to mentally represent the world around them.

A child's intelligence is shaped by the world around them

Piaget believed that Schemas developed through two key processes, assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation was when children use their current schemes to incorporate information that they encounter in the world. If a child discovers a new object and that object is sufficiently similar to objects that they've already encountered, then they can include the information about that object into their existing schema. This means that the childs schemas are in a state of equilibrium. If the information that they've encountered is sufficiently similar to what they already know, they can incorporate it into an existing schema. Accommodation is when the object that the child encounters or the information that the child encounters is actually sufficiently different from the pre existing schema. This is when they accommodate their schema to better fit that knowledge which they're encountering. This is the thing that creates a disequilibrium, the new information doesn't fit into the schema, it's a disequilibrium and that encourages the child to accommodate their new schema. This process of assimilation and accommodation keeps going on until the child schemas become more and more complex.