Cognitive Flexibility Theory

Cognitive Flexibility Theory focuses on the nature of learning in complex and ill structure domain. It emphasizes the advanced knowledge acquisition, which allows "flexible reassembly of preexisting knowledge to adaptively fit the needs of a new situation." (Sprio, Feltovich, Jacobson & Coulson, 1991). The cognitive flexibility theory intends to foster the learners' ability to spontaneously reconstruct their knowledge to adopt different situational demands (Spiro & Jehng, 1990).

Spiro and Jehng (1990) used Wittgnestein's (1953) " criss-crossed landscape" as an analogy to explain the complexity of the advanced knowledge acquisition.

"…because the complexity of a single region (issues, example, case) in a landscape would not be fully graspable in any single context, its full multifacetedness would be brought out by rearranging the sequence of sketch presentations in the album so that the region would be revisited from a variety of vantage points, each perspective highlighting aspects of the region inn a somewhat different way than the other perspectives." (p. 170)

The means to achieve the cognitive flexibility of the learner is to manipulate the way that knowledge is represented and the process that operate those mental representations. The major principles of doing these are:

Spiro, R. J., Jehng, J. C. (1990). Cognitive flexibility and hypertext: Theory and technology for the non-linear and mulit-dimensional traversal of complex subject matter. In D. Nix and R. J. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education, and multimedia: Exploration in high technology. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Sprio, R. J., Feltovich, P. J., Jacobson, M. J., & Coulson, R. L. (1991). Cognitive flexibility, constructivism and hypertext: Random access instruction for advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. Educational Technology, May, 24-33.