Cognitive flexibility, the ability to think flexibly, is one of the most important executive function processes to promote student success. Despite its importance, the concept of cognitive flexibility can be hard for students to visualize.
To help students understand the idea of thinking flexibly, we have come across many different ways of representing cognitive flexibility. Dr. Lynn Meltzer, president and founder of the Institutes for Learning and Development and the executive function guru behind SMARTS, often uses the example of standing on top of a mountain vs. being in the forest and looking at the trees.
The ability to switch between the big picture and the important details is essential for everything from note-taking and solving math problems to understanding jokes and deciding to go on a hike. When students do not know how to shift easily, they get caught in rigid and inefficient habits (e.g., re-reading material despite not understanding it or refusing to show their work in math despite repeatedly getting the wrong answer).
Check out the full clip below of Dr. Meltzer explaining the importance of cognitive flexibility.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org
The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org