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Schema theory revisited

by Mary B McVee, Kailonnie Dunsmore, James R Gavelek
Review of Educational Research ()


During the 1970s, schema theory gained prominence as reading researchers took up early work by cognitive scientists to explore the role of schemas in reading. In the 1980s and '90s, the field shifted as researchers increasingly used sociocultural theories, particularly the work of L. S. Vygotsky, to frame investigations of literacy. This article provides a brief review of schema theory as situated in literacy studies. The authors review various conceptions of schema theory to consider how recent social and cultural perspectives might prompt reconsideration of schemas as transactional and embodied constructs. Concomitantly, they explore how earlier conceptions of schema theory may assist researchers in their articulation of concepts such as ideal and material tools and the role of activity in Vygotsky's work. The article concludes with considerations of implications for future work.

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