Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive Flexibility

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How Cognitive Flexibility connects to...

Cognitive Flexibility, a component of executive functioning, is the ability to think about multiple concepts, either at the same time or switching between them. Cognitive Flexibility can, for example, help readers make inferences by incorporating new information with their Background Knowledge as they are reading, develop a point of view by adopting some arguments and rejecting others, or help writers proofread a passage by allowing them to attend to multiple aspects of writing, such as structure and spelling, at once.

Main Ideas

Cognitive Flexibility can also be called attention shifting or task switching, which involves adaptively shifting away from one idea or component of a task and responding or attending to something new. We use Cognitive Flexibility to effectively adapt our behavior as we face changing environment and task demands. In school, students must consider and switch between different rules and strategies to complete learning tasks. Students who frequently multi-task with media may be more likely to be distracted by a task they are not supposed to focus on during task-switching.

Cognitive Flexibility develops through mid-adolescence and allows students to be flexible and creative in their thinking. It has been shown to support both reading comprehension and writing proficiency. For example, it enables students to flexibly use different reading strategies, such as re-reading or skimming, based on the goals of the task and can also support the writing process, for example, to help students think of and use a different word to describe something in their writing.

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