Significant considerations in esl/efl literacy
Theories of reading and their implications to the
teaching of reading in esl/efl classes & the place of
schemata theory on foreign language reading
by Hasan Bilokcuoglu
1.2.3. Interactive models
In interactive models, developed by the theorists as a new approach after the criticism against bottom-up and top-down models, readers are usually expected to go through both bottom-up and top-down processing before eventually settling upon an interpretation of a text. In other words, interactive models involve both a collection of lower-level comprehension skills and an array of higher-level comprehension skills. In interactive approaches, readers get to train their bottom-up processing skills and top-down processing skills at the same time. Readers should be fast in order to recognize the letters in interactive models, just like what the readers do in top-down models when they skim a text for the main idea.
According to Barnett (1989:26), "bottom-up models do not allow for higher-level processing stages to influence lower-level processing". Simultaneously, "top-down models do not account for the situation in which a reader has little knowledge of a text topic, therefore, cannot form predictions". That is why Day and Bamford (1988:12) define reading as a process which starts with "the automatic, lightning-like recognition of words" and then involves reasoning, knowledge of the world, and knowledge of the topic.
Rumelhart (1989) was the first scholar to develop interactive reading model. In this theory, the following terms are important:
VIS (visual information store) – a place in one's mind where all the words and their corresponding spelling are kept.
Feature extraction device – a mental device that is used for the recognition of distinctive traits of words kept in VIS.
Pattern synthesizer – a mental device that interprets the previous knowledge about the language spelling patterns, syntax, vocabulary, semantics and context.
According to Rumelhart (1989), interactive process of reading begins with the reader, looking at the items kept in VIS. The next stage is that, to be able to extract characteristic features of words stored in VIS and to place them in the pattern synthesizer, the feature extraction is employed. In the last stage, the pattern synthesizer, we arrive at meaning by processing syntactic, semantic, orthographic, and lexical knowledge. What is important here is that the pattern synthesizer handles all the knowledge sources simultaneously. The interpretation becomes more dependent on other sources when/if any of the sources are not sufficiently developed.
Chapter II: An introduction to 'schema theory'
Learners' background knowledge has greatly been taking attention in recent theories of second language acquisition, and schemata theory, which is one of the significant theories of learning, has been the subject of considerable studies because of its impact on perception and memory. Many researchers currently acknowledge the importance of background knowledge, i.e. schematic knowledge, in foreign/second language teaching. This theory has a number of definitions and has three types: content schemata, formal schemata, and cultural schemata. The three types are all very closely bound to learners' reading as well as to their listening comprehension (in gaining the L2).
2.2. what is a schema?
A schema (plural schemata) is a hypothetical mental structure for representing generic concepts that are stored in memory. It is a kind of plan, framework or script. We start to make generalizations around the notion expressed by using our experiences to develop an abstracted, generic set of expectations about what we will encounter for that particular notion. For instance, when a student tells a story about a lesson in a school, s/he does not necessarily add all the details about taking the school bus to the school, attending the class on time, being seated, greeting the teacher, doing the activities etc., since our schema for a lesson experience can fill in these missing details. Schemata can be defined as the organized background knowledge, which leads us make expectations or predictions within our interpretation.
According to Brewer (1999), Bartlett developed and proposed the schema notion in 1920s, whereas; the idea gained its importance with the developments in cognitive psychology and cognitive science in the 1970s and 1980s. The reason why there was a 50 years-gap was that; unluckily for Bartlett, he proposed his new form of mental representation during the period when behaviourism was the dominant intellectual framework in psychology, and the mental entities which are a core component of the behaviourist framework were excluded from scientific psychology. Despite the fact that Bartlett gathered very much of his care on human memory during World War I, in the early 1920s he became frustrated by his inability to work out a theoretical account of his data, and he eventually destroyed the chapters for a book which was describing his research on memory. Nevertheless, he spent much time interacting with Herry Head, a neurologist, and his reports on the discussions with him led to the construction of the schema notion in the early 1920s. In the end, in 1932, Remembering, his famous book, was published, in which the idea of schema was suggested the first time on a written material.
Bartlett (1932) posited that people's expectations and prior knowledge shape their understanding and remembrance, and these expectations are mentally presented in some kind of schematic organization. Similarly, Rumelhart (1980) defines schema as follows:
"All knowledge is packed into units. These units are the schemata. Embedded in these packets of knowledge is, in addition to knowledge itself, information about how this knowledge is to be used. A schema, then, is a data structure for representing the generic concepts stored in memory."
Pritchard (1990) states that schemata can be defined as our theories on the way things are, or as representations of one's background experiences, and it is obvious that the culture one lives in influences schemata. Moreover, Yekovich and Walker (1990) call a schema as scripted knowledge, whereas; Poplin (1988) names it as the spiral of knowledge. Zhu (1997) simply defines it as background information and background knowledge.
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