Modes of Openness and Flexibility in Cognitive Flexibility Hypertext Learning Environments

Modes of Openness and Flexibility in Cognitive Flexibility Hypertext Learning Environments

Rand J. Spiro (Michigan State University, USA), Brian P. Collins (Michigan State University, USA) and Aparna R. Ramchandran (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-935-9.ch152
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The words openness and flexibility—the latter is the topic of this volume—are joined in the title of this chapter. We see them as two sides of the same coin—structure and process, as well as antecedent and consequent. Closed structures of presentation (how instructional materials are organized in delivery systems) and of representation (how knowledge is structured and operated upon in the mind) produce rigidity of thought and action. The antithesis of this rigidity is a kind of “openness-based” flexibility necessary for adaptive knowledge application, for transfer of knowledge to new situations, for situation-sensitive use of knowledge, and for the kind of world-fitting complexity of understanding that cognitive flexibility depends upon—and that the increasingly complex modern world of life and work needs now more than ever. Rigidity and oversimplification are rampant in learning and teaching (e.g., Feltovich, Coulson, & Spiro, 2001; Feltovich, Spiro, & Coulson, 1989, 1996; Spiro, Feltovich, & Coulson, 1996), but with the affordances of new media, we do not need to live complacently with this state of affairs (Spiro, in press). The perspective of cognitive flexibility theory (CFT; Mishra, Spiro, & Feltovich, 1996; Spiro, Coulson, Feltovich, & Anderson, 1988, 2004; Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson, 1992a, 1992b; Spiro & Jehng, 1990) enacts openness in many ways—in the theory itself and in the multimedia learning systems based on the theory (cognitive flexibility hypertext learning environments, CFHs). A recent overview of CFT can be found in Spiro, Collins, and Thota (2003).

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