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Schema theory seeks to explain how we are able to cope with our constantly changing daily environment. Discuss

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ABSTRACT Schema theory seeks to explain how we are able to cope with our constantly changing daily environment. Obviously, we do not see each circumstance as unique and unfamiliar. We are able to recognize familiar elements and patterns (schema) in the activities unfolding around us. This enables us to behave correctly in situations as diverse as a history class, a fast food restaurant, or crossing a busy street in a large city in a foreign country. Educationalists ought to become sentient with the ways to exploit potential knowledge (schemata) gained by learners who are already familiar with another language. Schema theory depicts the process by which readers coalesce their own background knowledge with the information in a text to comprehend that text. All readers carry different schemata (background knowledge) and these are also often culture bound. This is an important concept in ESL teaching and pre-reading tasks are often designed to build or activate the learner's schemata. This study summarizes some of the research into schema theory and how its application enhances reading comprehension in ESL reading. INTRODUCTION Schema theory originated with studies of cognition. It is based on the belief that "every act of comprehension involves one's knowledge of the world as well" (Anderson et al. in Carrell and Eisterhold 1983:73). Thus, readers develop a coherent interpretation of text through the interactive process of "combining textual information with the information a reader brings to a text" (Widdowson in Grabe 1988:56). According to McCarthy (1991), schemata are "the underlying connections that allow new experiences and information to be aligned with previous knowledge" (p.168). Coherent relationships are required to make sense of text. Readers' mental stores are termed 'schemata' (after Bartlett in Cook 1997:86) and are divided (following Carrell 1983a) into two main types: 'content schemata' (background knowledge of the world) and 'formal schemata' (background knowledge of rhetorical structure). Content refers to clearly evident relationships obvious from a topic. ...read more.


Overall, readers appeared to have a higher level of comprehension when the content was familiar to them. Given this, second language readers do not possess the same degree of content schema as first language readers, and hence, this can result in comprehension difficulties. BACKGROUND What is a schema? According to Anderson and Pearson (1998:39), it is "an active organization of past reactions, or past experience." Reader's schemata comprise their prior knowledge or knowledge of the world that is stored in long-term memory. As Rumelhart (1980:33-34) explains: Schemata truly are the building blocks of cognition. They are the fundamental elements upon which all information processing depends. Schemata are employed in the process of interpreting sensory data (both linguistic and non-linguistic), in retrieving information from memory, in organizing actions, in determining goals ad sub-goals, in allocating resource, and generally, in guiding the flow of processing in the system. Different readers have different past experiences and therefore different schemata. That is why different people, depending on factors such as reader's age, beliefs, s*x, race and culture, may comprehend the same text differently. This brings us into the next subtopic 'The Reading Process and Schemata'. The Reading Process and Schemata The main rationale of reading is to discern the information in the material. Without comprehension reading would be bare. In the course of reading, "comprehension of a message entails drawing information from both the message and the internal schemata until sets are reconciled as a single schema or message" (Anderson et al. in Hudson 1982:187). It is also claimed that "the first part of a text activates a schema... which is either confirmed or disconfirmed by what follows" (Wallace 1992:33) but the process begins much earlier than this: "The environment sets up powerful expectations: we are already prepared for certain genres but not for others before we open a newspaper, a scholarly journal or the box containing some machine we have just bought." ...read more.


This in return builds on the reading habit. REFERENCE Aebersold, J.A. and Field, M.L. (1997) From Reader to Reading Teacher. Cambridge: CUP. Anderson, R.C. and Pearson, P.D. (1984) "A Schema-Theoretic View of Basic Processes in Reading Comprehension", in Carrell, P.L., Devine, J. and Eskey, D.E. (eds) (1988) Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP. Carrell, P.L. (1983a) "Some Issues in Studying the Role of Schemata, or Background Knowledge, in Second Language Comprehension." Reading in a Foreign Language, 1:81-92. Carrell, P.L. (1988a) "Some Causes of Text-boundedness and Schema Interference in ESL Reading," in Carrell, P.L., Devine, J. and Eskey, D.E. (eds) (1988) Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP. Carrell, P.L. and Eisterhold, J.C. (1983) "Schema Theory and ESL Reading Pedagogy", in Carrell, P.L., Devine, J. and Eskey, D.E. (eds) (1988) Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP. Cook, G (1997) "key Concepts in ELT:Schemas." ELT Journal, 51(1):86. Grabe, W. (1986). The transition from theory to practise in teaching reading. In F.Dubin, D.E.Eskey and W. Grabe(Eds). Teaching Second Languge Reading for Academic Purposes. Reading, Massachusetts.: Addison-Wesley. Gunning, Thomas G. (1996). Creating Reading Instruction for All Children. Chapter 6, 192-236. Hudson, T. (1982) "The Effects of Induced Schemata on the 'Short Circuit' in L2 Reading: Non-decoding Factors in L2 Reading Performance," in Carrell, P.L. Devine, J. and Eskey, D.E. (eds) (1988) Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP. Johnson,P.(1981).Effects on Reading Comprehension of Language Complexity and Cultural Background of Text. TESOL Quaterly, 15:2, 169-181. Kitao, Kathleen S. (1990). Textual Schemata and English Language Learning. Cross Currents, Issue 3, 147-155. McCarthy, M. (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: CUP. McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. (1994) Language as Discourse: Perspectives for Language Teaching. London: Longman. Perkins, D.N. (1991). Educating for Insight. Educational Leadership. Issue 2, 4-9. Rumelhart, D.E.(1977). Toward an Integrated Model of Reading. In S.Dominic (ed.), Attention and Performance. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. Steffensen, M.S. & Joag-Dev,C. (1984). Cultural Knowledge and Reading. In J.C. Alderson and A.H. Urquhart (Eds.),Reading in a Foreign Language. London: Longman Swales, J.M. (1990) Genre Analysis. Cambridge: CUP. Wallace, C. (1992) Reading. Oxford: OUP. ...read more.

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