Anne Meade and Pam Cubey explain:
“Schemas are a form of thought that relate to cognitive structures. They are like pieces of ideas or concepts. Patterns in children’s actions, or in their drawings and paintings, indicate common themes or threads (schemas) of thinking running through them.
‘Schemas’ is the term Piaget gave to cognitive structures that have been developed by individuals internalizing their actions and content in the environment. He believed that ‘thought’ consists of internalised and co-ordinated action schemas’ (Piaget 1959: 357-86). [Chris] Athey defined a schema as ‘a pattern of repeatable behaviour into which experiences are assimilated and that are gradually coordinated. Coordinations lead to higher-level and more powerful schemas’ (; 2007: 50).
Athey (; 2007: 48) says that in 1969 Piaget clarified and made a distinction between ‘schemes’ (operative, a scheme of action) and ‘schemas’ (figural thought). Most contemporary writers conflate the two: ‘A schema is a pattern of action as well as a pattern for action’ (Neisser 1976, cited in Athey ; 2007: 48). At times, we keep them separate.
Bruce says that ‘there are two paths of a child’s development: the biological path and the socio-cultural path’. Schemas have both aspects.” (p.3)
- “Biological aspects A baby is born with a repertoire of schemas that are biologically predetermined and that, as they mature, coordinate, integrate, transform and ripple out into evermore complex and sophisticated forms.
- Socio-cultural aspects The socio-cultural aspects of schemas are to do with the way that experience, as opposed to biological maturation, influences the development of schemas through childhood and also through our adult lives. Because the two are in a perpetual state of interaction, each influences the other, causing changes, modifications and transformations in the ways we think, feel, move and relate to others.” (p.4)
Ref: Anne Meade and Pam Cubey (2008) Thinking Children: learning about schemas. Open University Press, NZCER Press: Wellington