Spiro, Feltovich, and Coulson (1995) define their Cognitive Flexibility theory as an ability to restructure schema and perform actions in a way different than what we are used to, given a change in circumstances. In not so many words, it means shifting your typical mentality depending on the situation.
This entails having the cognitive malleability to adhere to new situations, the flexibility to shift paradigms, and the willingness of being able to do the opposite of what our long term memory dictates us to do through procedural memory.
In order to achieve the flexibility skills, teachers are told to use the following strategies when teaching:
- Case-based learning- Taking a specific situation and finding several possible solutions to complete a task, or open-ended experience. Rather than teaching a unit, or a vocabulary list, a teacher presents a scenario showing a problem that needs to be solved. Using a myriad of techniques, students are allowed to apply every possible skill toward the solution of the problem.
- Scaffolding- As part of the case-based learning approach, scaffolding is at the heart of constructivism. This is the act of building knowledge upon knowledge that is already there (schema) through experiential learning moments.
- “Cognitive Flexibility Hypertexts" (CFH)- This is a teaching/learning model where the student is given "nodes", or pieces of information with which they can build a bigger picture of a specific theme. They are also given "links", or resources to work around in order to obtain the needed information to resolve a case-base scenario.
All of these practices are contained within the 21st century teaching and learning paradigm.