Schema Theory



By definition, an advanced organizer is a tool used by an instructional designer to help the learner recall and transfer prior knowledge to the new information being presented. In theory, David Ausubel was one of the developers of advanced organizers and theorized that advanced organizers facilitated learning.


1. Word Web
2. Sequence Chart
3. Individualized Graphic Organizers
4. Picture Webs


Implementation must occur in a cohesive format to have a positive impact on student learning. The learner is taught organizational skills when using graphic organizers within the lesson. Implementation needs to occur after the learner has been introduced to the content of the lesson.

The instructional designer needs to understand three principles when implementing graphic organizer in a lesson.

Consistent - Be consistent when using graphic organizers in the instructional design of a lesson.

Coherent - Be coherent when preparing a lesson, so the organizer is clear and precise.

Creative - Be creative when presenting the lesson to capture the attention of the learner.


Baxendell, B. W. (2003). Consistent, coherent, creative the 3 c's of graphic organizers. Teaching Exceptional Children , 35 (3), 46-53. Retrieved from

Rickards, J. P., & McCormick, C. B. (1977). Whole versus part presentation of advance organizers in text. Journal of Educational Research, 70(3), 147-149. Retrieved from

Story, C. M. (1998). What instructional designers need to know about advance organizers. Internaltionla Journal of Instructional Media, 25(3), 253-261. Retrieved from]

Created by:Tama Exsted and Tyler Pulkkinen

Schema Theory

The schema theory stipulates that “information that fits into a student’s existing schema is more easily understanding, learned, and retain than information that does not fit in existing schema”(Dye, 2000)
Learners possess not one, but context-specific types of schemas
Learners’ schematic inability to build up practical problem solving skills (Widmayer, 2010), and to transfer knowledge outside of the context of acquisition.

Information processing and interpreting perspective based on schema
• Can be applied to learning and instruction
• In all contexts, situations, environments, or fields: Math, science, Reading, etc.
• Very effective in reading comprehension

Guidelines for effective use
• Use real-world scenario
• Avoid abstract and unfamiliar topics
• Consider cultural differences
• Use strategies – analogies, comparisons, visuals…
• Select textbooks and materials based on students’ needs, levels…
• Design authentic instruction learners can relate to

For further reading on Schema Theory
Derry, S. J. 1996. Cognitive schema theory in the constructivist debate. Educational Psychologist, 31 (3/4), 163-174.
Dye, G. A., 2000. Helping students link and remember information. Teaching Exceptional Children, 1.
Widmayer, A. S., 2010. Schema theory: An introduction. Retrieved from

Created by Catherine Adiang