Thinking like a Research Expert: Schemata For Teaching Complex Problem-Solving Skills

Paul D. Callister, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law


The difference between expert and novice problem-solvers is that experts have organized their thinking into schemata or mental constructs to both see and solve problems. This article demonstrates why schemata are important, arguing that schemata need to be made explicit in the classroom. It illustrates the use of schemata to understand and categorize complex research problems, map the terrain of legal research resources, match appropriate resources to types of problems, and work through the legal research process. The article concludes by calling upon librarians and research instructors to produce additional schemata and develop a common hierarchical taxonomy of skills, a “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” which would define problem-solving skills more precisely and set benchmarks for assessment.