Meaningful Learning and Schema Theory in Communication

To lead people well you must help them learn along the way. As a leader, you are responsible to always be growing and to assist your team in their growth too.

Meaningful Learning and Schema Theory in Communication

Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360

While reading the book, The Psychology of Learning for Instruction, author Marcy Driscoll provides three tips for leaders to help them teach their team. (This is in the context of you–the leader–being the person who is communicating the teaching material.)

1. Readiness for Learning

Readiness for Learning is the developmental level of cognitive functioning someone has on a specific topic before the topic is taught. This is not just what the learner already knows; it is also dependent on how that information has been organized by a learner.

For example, I was not ready to learn many things I was taught in my Christian Ministries and Leadership program at Fresno Pacific University about Bible study methods and leading others because I did not have a cognitive level of functioning about the topics nor much experience in the areas I was learning in. Now, as I am in seminary, I am already beginning to study Greek and learn as much about the Bible as possible so that when I take Greek and Bible classes, I will be ready for what is taught.

2. Schema

One completely new term I have learned from Driscoll’s book is Schema. Schema is:

  • The data structure that learners use to represent the generic concepts stored in memory.
  • Often referred to as Schemata, which are packets of knowledge.
  • Similar to systematic theology where new information is systematically compared to broad encompassing categories that already exist, such as Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Sprit).

Learning about Schema has encouraged me to spend more time simply thinking about what I know in order to organize what I am learning into general categories or general theories about life.

3. Activating Prior Knowledge

Activating Prior Knowledge can be done through Advance Organizers or Schema Signals. This concept has taught me that most learners already know something about what they are about to learn. Therefore, because the success of a learner acquiring new information is so dependent on the activation of prior knowledge before learning, this task must be done.

I have noticed in my life that my ability to acquire and remember information is greatly enhanced when I am familiar with what is taught because it allows the new information to not feel so “new.” Instead, the new information feels more like it is additional and complimentary to what I already know.

In March I did a training about how to lead volunteers in which I held an activity at the beginning of the training where the learners shared with me what they knew about leading volunteers. That is how I activated their prior knowledge.

Question: When you are communicating something to your team, what techniques do you use to improve their learning?

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at