Spiro's Cognitive Flexibility (CF) theory proposes that
learning is an adaptive response
to changing situational demands, the spontaneous restructuring
of knowledge to accommodate different environmental contexts.
Focusing on the transfer of knowledge beyond the initial learning
situation, CF theory emphasizes the presentation of information
from multiple perspectives and
use of many case studies that present diverse examples.
CF theory extends significantly the work of earlier cognitivists,
especially Allen Paivio and his
theory of Dual Coding, which stated
that human memory was highly representational
and utilized two discrete units for encoding information--imagens
for visual information, and logogens
for verbal information. The primary conclusion of Paivio's work
is that content representated in both verbal and visual form is
retained better than single forms alone; thus, instruction should
be designed accordingly.
Richard Mayer has incorporated
a similar notion, the Dual-Channel
assumption, into his cognitive theory of multimedia learning,
which emphasizes not only the utilization of verbal and visual
sensory modalities, but also the
careful selection and organization
of multimedia content. Similar to Paivio's notion of referential
processing, Mayer theorizes that similar content across
different media can reinforce initial encoding. Coordinating semantically
and sequentially appropriate graphic images to their text counterparts,
for example, produces better retention.
Cognitive Flexibility theory also draws heavily from Howard
Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences,
which suggests that there are many distinct forms of intelligence
that each learner possesses in varying degrees--linguistic, musical,
logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal,
and interpersonal. Gardner lists three principles as practical
implications of his theory: (1)
Individuals should be encouraged to use their preferred intelligences
in learning, (2) instructional activities should appeal to different
forms of intelligence, and (3) assessment of learning should measure
multiple forms of intelligence.