Week 3: Schema Theory and Libraries

One example of cognitivism that I am thinking about (yes, I’m thinking about cognitivism, how “meta”) has to do with my schema of library. As a kid, I only ever went to local branches, and so in my mind, a library was comprised of children’s storytime, maybe 2000 fiction and non-fiction books, probably less than 100 magazines, maybe two to three librarians, and maybe an online database or two. As I got older, my father took me to the main library to do research, and I was faced with new information and had to alter my schema; now libraries were not just tiny branches, but could have tens of thousands of books, thousands of magazines – on microfilm no less, rows of microfilm readers, reading and study rooms, and dozens of librarians. So I had to accommodate the new information by altering my schema to reflect the new understanding of what a library was. Later, when I got into the university, my schema once again had to be altered to accommodate the new understanding of a library – now a library was a 5 story building with 2 million books, entire computer labs full of computers, thousands of databases, with collections of government documents and specialized historical collections/archives.

One of the interesting lessons from this example is that schema are based on our access to life experiences. I never had access as a child to a university library, so I naturally had a much more constrained schema of a library. And another lesson from this example is that schemas can evolve over time, or as Harasmin says, they are dynamic structures.