From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A schema (pl. schemata), in psychology and cognitive science, is a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world. This learning theory views organized knowledge as an elaborate network of abstract mental structures which represent one's understanding of the world. Schema theory was developed by the educational psychologist R. C. Anderson. The term schema was first used by Jean Piaget in 1926, so it was not an entirely new concept. Anderson, however, expanded the meaning. (See LinguaLinks external reference below).
People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. Examples of schemata include Rubric (academic), stereotypes, social roles, scripts, worldviews, and archetypes. In Piaget's theory of development, children adopt a series of schemata to understand the world.