Schema theory as a guide for educational research: white knight or white elephant?

by Perry W. Thorndyke


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback35 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

Much recent cognitive and artificial intelligence research has focused on the development of "schema theory." This theory supposes the existence of knowledge structures that encode prototypical descriptions of familiar concepts. Schema theory has developed in a scientific environment that stresses interdisciplinary approaches to the study of intelligent behavior (cognitive science). Consequently, much of the development of schema theory as a descriptive theory of behavior has emphasized its theoretical utility and generality. In contrast, few rigorous tests of the theory have established its psychological validity. Nevertheless, schema theory provides a promising framework for the development of prescriptive methods for learning and reasoning. In particular, schemata may provide (1) memory organizations for use in rapidly acquiring new knowledge, (2) representations for problem-solving strategies, and (3) multi-dimensional data structures for use in problems requiring situation assessment.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.