Making adequate decisions requires considering input from a variety of continuously evolving sources rather than adhering to predetermined procedures. Adopting a position in a debate necessitates the critical evaluation of different alternatives, while solving a problem entails selecting appropriate problem-solving strategies. Meanwhile, studying requires students to integrate a range of interventions, and treating a patient involves making a differential diagnosis. The common factor, cognitive flexibility, lies at the core of effective functioning in complex, domain-specific environments.
Cognitive flexibility can be described as the disposition to consider diverse information elements while deciding on how to solve a problem or to execute a learning-related task in a variety of domains. The concept of ‘disposition’ implies that individuals will not always demonstrate cognitive flexibility even if they are in principle able to act in a cognitively flexible way. The notion does not require that alternatives are always deliberately considered, which is why this volume’s tandem discussion of beliefs is key element of the discussion. Beliefs play a central role in cognitive flexibility and relate to what individuals consider to be important, valid and/or true. Of specific interest is the relationship between epistemological beliefs and cognitive flexibility, especially as a particular subset of epistemological beliefs seems to be a prerequisite to a cognitively flexible disposition.
Use of Representations in Reasoning and Problem Solving brings together contributions from some of the world’s leading researchers in educational and instructional psychology, instructional design, and mathematics and science education to document the role which external representations play in our understanding, learning and communication. Traditional research has focused on the distinction between verbal and non-verbal representations, and the way they are processed, encoded and stored by different cognitive systems. The contributions here challenge these research findings and address the ambiguity about how these two cognitive systems interact, arguing that the classical distinction between textual and pictorial representations has become less prominent. The contributions in this book explore:how we can theorise the relationship between processing internal and external representations what perceptual and cognitive restraints can affect the use of external representations how individual differences affect the use of external representations how we can combine external representations to maximise their impact how we can adapt representational tools for individual differences.
Using empirical research findings to take a fresh look at the processes which take place when learning via external representations, this book is essential reading for all those undertaking postgraduate study and research in the fields of educational and instructional psychology, instructional design and mathematics and science education.