Transfer of Learning
This is a Work in Progress. However, sufficient progress has occurred so that many readers will find the current content quite useful. Those who want to contribute to the content should feel free do do so.
- "Blind" instruction [in which students are not helped to focus on general processes or strategies nor to understand how new concepts and strategies can function as tools for problem solving] does not usually lead to transfer to new tasks.
- ...as the instruction focuses on helping students become problem solvers who learn to recognize and monitor their approaches to particular tasks, transfer is more likely to occur. (John Bransford; University of Washington.)
Every intact person is a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher. We all help ourselves to learn—that is, we all are our own teachers. We all help others to learn through our communications with other people. (Even in a casual conversation, we are attempting to convey information and the both the sender and the receiver learn through this communication process.) And, we all live in societies that make and use tools that extend our physical and mental capabilities.
With these ideas in mind, think about transfer of learning in three ways:
- (Type 1.) As a process of a person making use of his or her learned knowledge and skills in new environments and in new problem-solving & task-accomplishing situations. (This is the traditional way of talking about transfer of learning.)
- (Type 2.) As a process of transferring some of one’s own knowledge and skills—as well as the knowledge and skills of others—within oneself and to other people. (That is, think of teaching as transfer of learning.)
- (Type 3.) Tools incorporate some of the knowledge and skills of the tool designers and producers. Thus, as a person learns to make effective use of a tool, there is some transfer of learning from the tool designers and producers to the learner. Moreover, once one learns to effectively use a tool, there is often easy transfer of the tool-using skills to new settings and to other relatively similar tools. For example, think of keyboarding on different makes, models, and designs of QWERTY keyboards.
All people, in their roles of teachers and learners, can benefit by an increased understanding of the three types of transfer listed above. The intended audiences of this document are students, teacher, and teachers of teachers. The goal is to improve education by more carefully and explicitly teaching for transfer, and by helping all students learn about transfer of learning.
Here are some possible other related ideas:
- Genes and memes.
- Can Experiences Be Passed on to Offspring
- What Your Mother Did When She Was A Child May Have An Effect On Your Memory And Learning Ability
- Rewriting Darwin: The New Non-Genetic Inheritance (July 9, 2008)
It is widely accepted that Type 1 transfer of learning is one of the most fundamental and important ideas in learning. Through both informal and formal learning, we gain increased levels of expertise in a very wide range of areas. Some of the knowledge and skills that we gain are later reused—or, modified and reused—in dealing with both old and new problems, tasks, and other types of challenges that one encounters in the future.
All preservice and inservice teachers have some knowledge about transfer of learning and how to teach for transfer. However, relatively few precollege and college students are explicitly taught about the importance of transfer of learning and how to learn in a manner that enhances and increases transfer of learning. For example, few K-12 teachers explicitly teach their students about the theory and practice of transfer of learning.
The general thesis in this document is that education can be improved by explicitly teaching for transfer of learning and by actively engaging learners in activities that increase transfer.
Some Everyday Transfer Examples
The ability to learn to do transfer of learning and to actually do transfer of learning is built into a healthy brain. Throughout the day, you encounter problems and tasks that you accomplish at a subconscious level and/or that you try to accomplish at a conscious level. In each of these situations, you make use of transfer of learning.
An Street-crossing Example
- Consider the problem of crossing a street. You have crossed lots of streets before. However, in some sense each street crossing is a new problem. The lighting conditions, time of day, weather, road surface, cars parked on the road, amount of oncoming traffic, and so on are not exactly the same as a situation you have faced before.
- However, a number of the general patterns are similar to what you have faced before, and your brain is designed to do subconscious pattern recognition. Moreover, you have memorized some rules, such as look both ways before starting to cross and listen for oncoming traffic. Your mind/brain is also quite experienced in judging the speed of oncoming traffic versus the speed of your body.
- Thus, subconscious and conscious mind and body transfer of learning help you to successfully cross the street.
A Walking to a House Address Example
- Imagine you are walking from your home to meet a friend at a street address you have written on a piece of paper. You have never been to this location before.
- You draw on some general knowledge that in your town, streets are numbered and run sort of east-west, while avenues are named and run sort of north-south. Before you started out you looked at a street map. There, you did a transfer of learning from what you have previously learned about reading street maps. Among other things, you notice that you will need to walk in a north west direction. You do a transfer of learning from your general knowledge of compass directions and build a mental picture of where you are and where you need to get.
- As you walk, you do a number of street crossings, using transfer of learning as illustrated in the previous example. From time to time you come to an intersection and street signs. You read the street signs, using transfer of learning of your reading skills. You interpret the results in the light of your general knowledge about the layout of streets in your town, your information from looking at the map, and so on.
- Perhaps from time to time you read house addresses, and incorporate that information. Eventually you get to the address you are looking for. You walk up to the front door, making use of your stored knowledge that typically houses have a front door and that is the place to seek entrance. You look for a door bell or door knocker. …
So—transfer of learning is no big deal. We all do it over and over again as we move through the events and activities of a day. However, the examples given above are based on relatively modest transfers of learning. The transfer is from knowledge and skills in which you have had a great deal of experience, and where you routinely make use of the knowledge and skills.
More Complex Transfer Examples
This section provides two more complex and challenging examples.
Small Town and Big City
- Perhaps you grew up in a small town, such as I did. An "out of town adventure" takes you to a large city via airplane. You have never flown. Think about the transfer of knowledge and skills needed to acquire an airplane ticket, get to the airport, go trough airport security, and so on. Perhaps you draw heavily on knowledge gained through watching TV and movies or by talking to friends who have already overcome this travel challenge.
- You get to the big city. How do you get from the airport to the hotel where someone has made a reservation for you? You have never taken a taxi, an airport shuttle, or used a metro transportation system. You have never checked into a hotel. You have never made use of room service. Etc. But, you are able to solve all of these problems (accomplish all of these tasks) by making creative transfer of learning use of your current knowledge and skills. Amazing!
- What is equally amazing is that all of this is accomplished drawing upon knowledge and skills that you likely learned outside of school. Remember, learning goes on all the time. You have a great deal of knowledge, skill, and life experiences that you gained outside of school. Your brain has the capabilities of creatively doing transfer of learning of your knowledge, skills, and experiences to new, challenging problems and tasks.
- Suppose that while you were growing up in the United States and attending high school, you took a science course in which you learned to convert from the English system of measurements to metric, and vice versa.
- What might the transfer of learning expectations be for this learning? For example, if you drive from the US into Canada, you will encounter metric distance measurements. The context of the situation will tell you that distances are being indicated. Will you be able to convert these distances into kilometer distances into miles and time? Or, will the passage of years and an unfamiliar setting combine to overwhelm the transfer of learning that would help you here?
- Indeed, I have heard many science teachers complain that their students learn the metric system in a math class and cannot transfer this learning to a science class a few days later.
- Or, consider the situation of learning about compound interest and periodic payments in a high school business or math course, and later being involved in having a credit card or borrowing money to make a major purchase such as a car, furniture, or a house. Many people "get in over their heads" through an almost complete lack of transfer of the math knowledge and transfer of "common sense" to these new settings.
- Or, consider the "study skills" you learned in middle school and high school? Did you get a good grounding in study skills and was this learned in a manner to facilitate long-term retention and transfer of learning? How well did this learning serve you in college?
- Probably in high school you took some math courses in which you learned how to do some geometric ruler and compass constructions (such as bisect an angle or a line segment) and solve various types of equations (such as a pair of linear equations in two unknowns, and a quadratic equation.
- In your day to day adult life outside of formal school settings, have you ever encountered a problem situation in which linear equations or quadratic equations seem relevant? If so, were you able to transfer your previous learning to the new situation?
Two Models for Transfer of Learning
Think about the types of transfer of learning situations illustrated in the examples given above. Do they seem to fit into categories? Are there a small number of patterns of types of transfer? These are challenging questions. Education could be much improved by the development of a good theory of transfer of learning. A good theory would support the needs of both teacher and learners.
This section discusses two models (theories) of transfer of learning. The first is named the Near and Far Transfer model. The second is named the Low-Road, High-Road theory of transfer. The following article is an excellent reference for this section:
- Perkins, David N. and Salomon, Gavriel (September 2, 1992). Transfer of Learning: Contribution to the International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Retrieved 2/11/2009: http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm.
Near and Far Transfer
The “near and far” transfer of learning theory has been with us for a long time, and it is still widely discussed in the literature. Often the discussion is about training—for example, training a person to do a relatively specific job. Trainers want the learner to gain skill in a specific job task or job, but to also gain general knowledge and skills that transfer to other (not too similar) job tasks and jobs.
The "near and far" theory of transfer suggested that some problems and tasks are so nearly alike that transfer of learning occurs easily and naturally. A particular problem or task is studied and practiced to a high level of automaticity. When a nearly similar problem or task is encountered, it is automatically solved with little or no conscious thought. This is called near transfer.
Learning to tie one's shoes using a bow knot provides a good example of near transfer. Once mastered to automaticity, there is easy transfer overtime, to different pairs of shoes, and to different types of shoelaces. That is, the kinesthetic memory pattern of such shoe tying is readily applied to new shoe-tying situations.
A major goal in learning to read is to develop a high level of decoding automaticity. That is, one goal in reading instruction is to have students become very good at near transfer of the decoding component of reading. Then the conscious mind of a reader can pay attention to the meaning and implications of the material being read. A significant fraction of children are able to achieve this by the end of the third grade.
Many potential transfer of learning situations do not lend themselves to the automaticity approach. These are called far transfer situations. There are many problems that are somewhat related, but that in some sense are relatively far removed from each other. A person attempting to make the transfer of learning between two such problems does not automatically "see" or sense the connections between the two problems. Far transfer often requires careful analysis and deep thinking.
The theory of near and far transfer does not help us much in our teaching. We know that near and far transfer occur. We know that some students readily accomplish far transfer tasks, while others do not. We know that far transfer does not readily occur for most students. The difficulty with this theory of near and far transfer is that it does not provide a foundation or a plan for helping a person to get better at far transfer and dealing with novel and complex problems. It does not tell us how to teach to increase far transfer.
Low-Road/High-Road Transfer Theory
In recent years, the low-road/high-road theory on transfer of learning, developed by Salomon & Perkins (1988), has proven to be a more fruitful theory. Low-road transfer refers to developing some knowledge/skill to a high level of automaticity. It usually requires a great deal of practice in varying settings. Shoe tying, keyboarding, steering a car, and single-digit arithmetic facts are examples of areas in which such automaticity can be achieved and is quite useful.
High-road transfer involves: cognitive understanding; purposeful and conscious analysis; mindfulness; and application of strategies that cut across disciplines. In high-road transfer, there is deliberate mindful abstraction of an idea that can transfer, and then conscious and deliberate application of the idea when faced by a problem where the idea may be useful.
Quoting from a 1992 article by Perkins and Salomon:
- High road and low road transfer. Salomon and Perkins (1989, Perkins and Salomon 1987) synthesized findings concerned with transfer by recognizing two distinct but related mechanisms, the ``low road and the ``high road. Low road transfer happens when stimulus conditions in the transfer context are sufficiently similar to those in a prior context of learning to trigger well-developed semi-automatic responses. In keeping with the view of Greeno et al. (in press), these responses need not be mediated by external or mental representations. A relatively reflexive process, low road transfer figures most often in near transfer. For example, when a person moving a household rents a small truck for the first time, the person finds that the familiar steering wheel, shift, and other features evoke useful car-driving responses. Driving the truck is almost automatic, although in small ways a different task.
- High road transfer, in contrast, depends on mindful abstraction from the context of learning or application and a deliberate search for connections: What is the general pattern? What is needed? What principles might apply? What is known that might help? Such transfer is not in general reflexive. It demands time for exploration and the investment of mental effort. It can easily accomplish far transfer, bridging between contexts as remote as arteries and electrical networks or strategies of chess play and politics. For instance, a person new to politics but familiar with chess might carry over the chess principle of control of the center, pondering what it would mean to control the political center.
Collaborative & Collaborative Learning and Problem Solving
Note to self: With some modification, this section could be part of an overview that comes near the beginning of the document.
There are many ways to provide teaching and learning environments that facilitate increased transfer of learning. Some of these ideas are inherent to the following diagram:
In this diagram, think of a team of two or people working with aids to their physical and mental capabilities to solve a problem or accomplish a task. In this team situation, each person brings different formal and informal education-based knowledge, skills, and experience. Each person brings different types of skills in working with others—including helping others to learn and learning form others.
There is substantial research to support use of this type of problem-solving team situation in both formal and informal teaching and learning settings. Quoting from Joel Michael's 2006 article: Where's the evidence that active learning works?:
- There are now a great many different approaches to facilitating students learning together (as opposed to learning individually). Labels such as cooperative learning, collaborative learning, peer learning, or problem-based learning each describe a different approach to getting students to learn together. Bossert (10), Lunetta (29), and Blumenfeld et al. (9) have provided useful overviews of some, but not all, of these approaches, their theoretical bases, and the research that supports them. Johnson et al. (39) have published a meta-analysis of 164 studies of cooperative learning methods; they conclude that there is solid evidence in these studies to support the benefits of cooperative learning.
- In the disciplines, there are impressive results that support the power of getting students to work together to learn. In the field of computer-aided instruction, there is a wealth of data showing that two or more students working together at the computer learn more than students working alone (40, 93). In physics, students generate better solutions to problems when they work cooperative than when they work alone (34), and peer instruction, developed by Mazur (51), has been shown to increase student mastery of conceptual reasoning and quantitative problem solving (20). In chemistry, students in cooperative learning groups show increased retention and higher scores on assessments than students learning the same material in conventional ways (21).
- Michael and Modell (61) have argued that the similarities that these approaches share are more important than their differences. While there can be little doubt that students working together learn more, the key issue now is how to implement small group work to achieve maximum learning (17).
Transfer to and from Tools
Humans collectively and individually are quite good at creating tools and learning to make use of these tools. Some tools function at an amplification level. They help a person to do something they already can do, but to do it better. Some tools help a person to move beyond amplification—to do things that are not possible without the tool.
Some tools are quite easy to learn how to use, while others can take many years of education, training, and experience. A relatively young child can easily learn how to look through the lenses of a microscope or a telescope, or to make use of a telephone, to accomplish seeing and communicatoin tasks that are far beyond the amplification level.
On the other hand, reading, writing, and math can be thought of tools that take a great deal of time and effort to learn how to use. They also move the learner well beyond amplification.
Our educational system is continually faced by the challenges inherent to the steadily growing totality of human knowledge, and by the steadily growing capabilities of tools.
- - - - This section is still under construction - - - - And, the word "construction" remeinds me that constructivism and metacognition & reflection are key ideas in transfer of learning. The process of building on one's current knowledge and skills can be thought of as transfer into and upon ones current knowledge and skills. Metacognition & reflection are one way to think about this overall process and to get better at it.
Other Key Ideas
This section lists key ideas that will from additional sections of this document.
A tool contains some of the knowledge and skill of its inventor or developer. For many tools, it is relatively easy to learn to use the tool and there is easy (Low-Road) transfer to various versions of the tool.
A computer is a type of tool. It is relevant to this document both because it is a tool and because an "I can do it for you" type of tool. Thus, it permits transfer of learning from an expert to a non-expert. This needs to be explored in some detail. I suppose that the standard approach to transfer of learning is a person learning and then transferring this learning to other settings. How about thinking of teaching as a transfer of learning activity???
A Google search on the quoted phrase "teaching is transfer of learning" produces three hits. The following seems relevant: http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:gjg1cwataOsJ:www.nrconline.org/cgi/jlrlibrary.cgi%3Fdownload%3DJLR_37_4/Dozier.pdf+%22teaching+is+transfer+of+learning%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us
Applications to Math Education
- "An individual understands a concept, skill, theory, or domain of knowledge to the extent that he or she can apply it appropriately in a new situation." (Howard Gardner, The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand, Simon & Schuster, 1999.)
The purpose of this section is to see how the transfer of learning ideas fit within a particular academic discipline. Since math is both a large and important discipline in its own right, and also an important component of many other disciplines, it provides a good testbed.
This quoted statement from Howard Gardner is applicable to a person's expertise in any discipline. Think of a "level of understanding" scale.
Very roughly speaking, the many people use the term "training" in describing the left end of the scale, and "education" when describing the right end of the scale. Most learning environments have goals that lie someplace between these extremes. Both training and education are an important part of schooling. The challenge is getting an appropriate balance to fit the needs of widely varying students in a particular course of study.
In improving math education, we need to think about current math education goals along with possible deletions, modifications, and additions to such lists.
Five Types of Math Education Goals
Here are five general types of math education goals:
- Standards-based. A stakeholder group, state government, state organization, national government,national organization, or international organization draws up a list of math topic-based and performance-based standards. For example, see the work of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
- Attitudinal. Math educators want students to have and to continually demonstrate a positive attitude in their knowledge and skills in learning and using math. Math educators are unhappy when they hear an adult claim, "I can't do math and I hated math when I was in school."
- Math cognitive development. Math educators want students to make steady progress in moving up a math cognitive developmental scale, such as a Piagetian math cognitive developmental scale. The ultimate goal is to get a large percentage of students to function at a formal operations cognitive developmental level in math. Examples of math cognitive development scales are available in Moursund, D.G. (June 2006). Computational Thinking and Math Maturity: Improving Math Education in K-8 Schools. Access at http://i-a-e.org/ebooks/doc_download/3-computational-thinking-and-math-maturity-improving-math-education-in-k-8-schools.html.
- Math maturity. It is helpful to think of math maturity as a mathematician's way of talking about math cognitive development. Math educators want their students to steadily gain in their level of math maturity. The term is most often used at an upper high school or college level. Often it is used to help describe the prerequisites for a course in computer science or mathematics . The prerequisite is more than just having passed certain math courses. It is being to learn math, think mathematically, and solve math-related problems at a level that depends on understanding and making relatively fluent use of math.
- Computers in math and math education. As noted earlier, computers are an important component of the math field and an aid to using math in many other disciplines. Computers are also an aid to teaching and learning math. Come of the key ideas are summarized under the heading of Computational Thinking. Others are discussed under the general idea of Two Brains are Better than One. Computers can solve a wide range of the types of problems that we currently teach students to solve using by-hand paper and pencil methods. In addition, ICT is a big help in distance learning and in accessing information.
Now, the issue becomes one of analyzing the various general categories of transfer of learning versus the general types of goals. At first glance, this could involve creating a three by five grid, with an analysis inside each of the 15 grid cells. However, I don't think this is going to be very productive.
Three General Types of Transfer of Learning
(Type 1.) As a process of a person making use of his or her learned knowledge and skills in new environments and in new problem-solving & task-accomplishing situations. (This is the traditional way of talking about transfer of learning.)
(Type 2.) As a process of transferring some of one’s own knowledge and skills—as well as the knowledge and skills of others—within oneself and to other people. (That is, think of teaching as transfer of learning.)
(Type 3.) Tools incorporate some of the knowledge and skills of the tool designers and producers. Thus, as a person learns to make effective use of a tool, there is some transfer of learning from the tool designers and producers to the learner. Moreover, once one learns to effectively use a tool, there is often easy transfer of the tool-using skills to new settings and to other relatively similar tools.
Transfer Type by Math Goal Analysis
Example: Tools versus Math Development.
This section is a Work in Progress as of 2/16/09.
Some General Resources
teachers toolbox.co.uk (n.d.). Instrumental Enrichment and 'Metacognition: How to teach intelligence. Retrieved 1/19/09: http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk/T_Teaching_Intelligence.html.
There has been substantial research on how to teach intelligence. The article summarizes some of the results of this work. Here is an example:
- The Israeli educationalist Reuven Feuerstein developed a hugely successful course for learners with very low academic achievement. His students had very low IQs, and started his course with a mental age three years behind other learners. There was a ‘control group’ enabling Feuerstein to measure his students’ progress against the progress of students that were matched for ability but then taught in a more conventional way.
- At the end of their two year course Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment students had shown modest gains in terms of increased IQ compared to the control group, though they showed a marked ability to transfer learning from one situation to another. Two years after the programme had ended, the students entered the Israeli army on compulsory service. On a test of general intelligence they were found to be average for the general population, though they had started Feuerstein’s programme three years behind! The control group had not shown this development. [Bold added for emphasis.]
- Feuerstein attributed this gain to the students continuing to learn without aid in the two years after the programme. He had taught them to teach themselves. More than this, Feuerstein had taught his students how to teach themselves to become more intelligent! Feuerstein’s methods require special training, and are used all over the world.
- Feuerstein developed a programme of great complexity called Instrumental Enrichment, which requires special training for a teacher to use. However it is worth looking closely at his general strategy. This was not to teach the metacognitive skills directly by explaining ‘how to do it’. This is a common approach in teaching thinking skills and study skills, used for example by Edward de Bono. Instead, he used a guided discovery approach where students had to construct for themselves the higher level thinking required. A similar process is used in Graham Gibbs' study skills programme described elsewhere. Roughly speaking his procedure was:
- Set Real Tasks: He asked students to do something real, that required information, planning, doing, and explaining your solution etc.
- Require Reflection on Metacognitive Strategies. When the task was done, he asked his students to reflect on how they did it. What had made them successful? What hindered them or caused difficulty?
- Establish Learning Points in the Students' Own Language. He asked students for very general advice on how to succeed with such tasks. This includes asking the students to name the strategies they used. The teacher then used the students’ names for these strategies.
- Bridging: Students are then asked to ‘bridge’ from this learning to other applications. That is, they were asked ‘where else might you be able to apply this principle?’ The learners are encouraged to see the application of the thinking processes that they have just described and named, in other contexts.
Moursund, D.G. (2008). Good Math Lesson Plans. Retrieved 1/10/2009: http://iae-pedia.org/Good_Math_Lesson_Plans. Quoting from the Web Page:
- Math is very useful in many different academic disciplines. Math is a general-purpose aid to problem solving—indispensable if the problem situation involves quantities. Thus, it is highly desirable to teach math in a manner that facilitates transfer of learning to other disciplines and to actual and probable problem-solving situations students will encounter.
- The 1992 article by Perkins and Salomon provides an excellent summary of this field. Over the past two decades, educational researchers have learned a great deal about the theories of low-road and high-road transfer of learning, and how to teach for transfer.
- Low-road transfer of learning is based on automaticity. For example, various number facts can be learned to such a high level of automaticity that they seem as if they are instinctive when one needs them in addressing problems both in and outside of school.
- High-road transfer is based on learning general-purpose strategies and learning how to apply these strategies over a wide range of problem situations. For example, many hard problems can be broken into sets of less difficult problems. Solve the less difficult problems, put all the results together in an appropriate manner, and the harder problem is solved. The teaching approach is to recognize when it is appropriate to generalize a strategy being taught in a specific discipline (such as math), give the strategy a name, and explicitly help students to learn to apply the strategy in a variety of disciplines. Divide and conquer (break a big problem into a coherent set of smaller problems) is commonly taught in math, and it is quite useful in problem solving in other disciplines. Two examples: Learning to drive a car, and comparing/contrasting the foreign policy/ military policy of Germany and Japan from 1932-1945.
- In summary, every math lesson plan should include a statement of how the new material is transferable to problem solving in other settings, including in non-math disciplines.
- This transfer of learning should occur from math learning to other disciplines, and from learning other disciplines to math. Suppose that you teach both math and other disciplines (This especially applies to elementary school teachers.) When developing a math lesson plan in which transfer from math to other disciplines is important, at the same time think about revising your lesson plans in the other disciplines you teach. When appropriate, integrate some math into these disciplines and stress ideas that transfer from math. For example, stating a story problem intelligibly and explaining the solution process require language arts skills. Another example: Compare popularity ratings of U. S. Presidents when they left office with their relative rankings by historians now, and discuss the relationship between popularity and enduring worth.
Passig, David (2007). Melioration as a Higher Thinking Skill of Future Intelligence. retrieved 1/10/2009: http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12716. Quoting the abstract:
- This paper examines the characteristics of the thinking skill we call “melioration” i.e., the competence to borrow a concept from a field of knowledge supposedly far removed from his or her domain, and adapt it to a pressing challenge in an area of personal knowledge or interest. The skill has its source in conscious personal meaning-making, not in the process of deduction. In the unplanned operation of connection and association, one creates a new concept generating a new insight into a phenomenon, which hitherto had not been described in such a way. This paper relates melioration to existing theories of intelligence, taking the position that human cognitive/intellectual functioning is in part the ability to learn or think in the framework of familiar systemic concepts, and in part the ability to learn or think with new systemic concepts that are then available for future application.
Quoting from the article:
- Experience has suggested that revolutionary ideas as well as tools are actually the infusion of two or more concepts from quite different realms. People, for example, can take an electric appliance that exists in one context, transfer it to another context in a completely new way, and find unexpected potential uses for it. The skill, through personal and cultural connotations, of being able to merge realms of thought that are quite different from one another, and then generate new concepts or technology, is what we call melioration. In the course of our current search of future-oriented literature for the purpose of reevaluating Bloom’s six categories of skills, we found a new, seventh category. We “stumbled” upon a skill that we could not easily integrate into other skills. We suggest that this construct might stand by itself and seek to “meliorate” as expanded upon in Table 2.
Perkins, David N. and Salomon, Gavriel (1992). Transfer of learning. Retrieved 1/10/2009: http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm.
- Perkins and Salomon (1988) introduced two broad mediation strategies for transfer that they call “hugging” and “bridging”. Hugging serves an automatic kind of reflexive transfer. It involves making the learning experience similar to the situations to which one wants transfer to occur. Strategies that belong to this category include Setting Expectations, Matching, Simulating, Modelling, and Problem-Based Learning (Fogarty et al, 1991). Bridging serves reflective transfer. Bridging means helping students to make generalisations, monitor their thinking, and be thoughtful in other ways that foster mindful connection-making. Strategies involved are Anticipating Application, Generalising Concepts, Using Analogies, Parallel Problem Solving, and Metacognitive Reflection (Forgarty et al, 1991). Quoted from http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/Ideas/iot18.htm.
Bartel, Marvin (2005). Teaching for transfer of learning. Retrieved 2/9/09:http://www.bartelart.com/arted/transfer.html.
- This article focuses on transfer of learning in creative art.
Thomas, Ruth; And Others (1992). Teaching for Transfer of Learning.. Retrieved 2/9/09: http://eric.ed.gov:80/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED352469&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED352469 The full text of this document is available on the Web.
Quoting from the Abstract:
- A study identified four principles, based on transfer of learning research and cognitive theory, for guiding curricular decisions, instructional development, and teaching practices in ways that support transferable learning. The principles were as follows: (1) emphasize intermediate-level knowledge in curricular decisions; (2) create in the learning situation fidelity to transfer situations; (3) reflect the complexities of knowledge and its application in diverse, multidimensional contexts, problems, and situations; and (4) stimulate and challenge students to transfer their knowledge during learning and support their efforts to do so on their own. The basis for each principle and ways of incorporating it in educational practice were identified. The research tested the applicability of the principles by using them to create a parent education learning environment. A case analysis approach to instruction was formulated to help parents develop flexible knowledge and appropriately complex understanding. Strategies used to stimulate learner-directed knowledge transfer during learning included a scaffolding approach to teaching and reflective dialog among parents. The learning environment was field tested in 5 sites with 31 parents. Not only did parents' learning reflect characteristics identified as enhancing "high road" transfer but parents engaged in high road learning transfer as well.
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School provided on issues of science learning and teaching. ..... transfer of learning; how the organizational structure of a discipline affects learning; ... www.nap.edu/html/howpeople1/ - 61k - Cached - Similar pages
Calais, Gerald J. (2006). Haskell’s Taxonomies Of Transfer Of Learning: Implications for Classroom Instruction.National Forum of Applied Educational Research Journal. Retrieved 2/14/09: http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic%20Journal%20Volumes/Calais,%20Gerald%20J%20Haskell's%20taxonomies%20of%20transfer%20of%20%20learning.pdf.
- ABSTRACT. Two taxonomies for transfer of learning are described. The first specifies six levels or degrees of transfer. The second employs two categories for classifying kinds of transfer: one is based on five types of knowledge, and the other is based on transfer per se, of which there are fourteen types. The implications of transfer of learning for classroom instruction are discussed.
Quoting from the first part of the article:
- Research suggests that transfer of learning differs in kind, occurs at different levels, and influences all learning, memory, problem-solving, and cognitive processes (Mayer, 1987). Although the transfer of basic skills, knowledge, and thinking skills is integral to our educational aspirations and expectations, many students believe that little of what they learned in school benefited them later in life. Not surprisingly, transfer of learning persists as one of the most vexing problems in the classroom (Bevevino, Dengel, & Adams, 1999; Borich & Tombari, 1997; Rossett, 1997). In addressing this critical educational issue, Haskell (2001) developed two taxonomies: one for levels of transfer and one for kinds of transfer.
- Level 4: Near transfer. Near transfer occurs when we transfer previous knowledge to new situations closely similar to, yet not identical to, initial situations. Transferring our experiences associated with driving a car with a manual transmission to driving a truck with a manual transmission reflects an example of near procedural transfer.
- Level 5: Far transfer. `Far transfer entails the application of learning to situations entirely dissimilar to the initial learning. This level of transfer of learning reflects analogical reasoning. For example, learning about logarithms in algebra and applying this knowledge in assessing the growth of bacteria in microbiology.
Perkins, David N. and Salomon, Gavriel (September 2, 1992). Transfer of Learning: Contribution to the International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Accessed 2/16/2009: http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm.
- Salomon and Perkins have developed the high-road/low-road theory of transfer of learning. The article listed here provides a good overview of the domain of transfer of learning and how to teach transfer. It also contains an extensive bibliography, so it is a good starting point if you want to study the research on transfer of learning.
Perkins, David (Fall 1993). Teaching for Understanding. American Educator: The Professional Journal of the American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved 2/16/2009: http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/workshops/teachingforunderstanding.html
Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. (1988, September). Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership, 22-32.
Schwartz, Daniel; Bransford, John; and Sears, David (2005). Efficiency and Innovation in Transfer. This is Chapter 1 of the book: Transfer of Learning from a Modern Multidisciplinary Perspective. Retrieved 2/17/09: http://aaalab.stanford.edu/papers/Innovation%20in%20Transfer.pdf.
- See also: John D. Bransford & Daniel L. Schwartz. It Takes Expertise to Make Expertise: Some Thoughts about Why and How and Reflections on the Themes in Chapters 15-18. Retrieved 2/17/09: http://aaalab.stanford.edu/papers/Takes_Expertise_to_Make_Expertise%5B1%5D.pdf. Quoting from this paper:
- Is the transfer literature filled with inherently contradictory claims, or is there a framework that can help illuminate how and why the varied positions on transfer are each pieces of the truth that can be reconciled through a broader theoretical foundation? We argue for the latter and use an analogy involving well-known proverbs. Consider “Many hands make light work” versus “Too many cooks spoil the broth”; “Look before you leap” versus “He who hesitates is lost”; “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” versus “Out of sight out of mind.” On the surface they contradict one another (Bransford & Stein, 1993). But if we look below the surface we can begin to see that each seems applicable in certain contexts (e.g. “Many hands make light work” is appropriate when tasks are well defined and can be modularized so that the pursuit of each can proceed independently). Our goal is to provide a framework that helps reconcile seemingly conflicting views about transfer. To develop our ideas, we divide the chapter into five sections that:
- Rethink the classic definition of transfer and show how it tends to produce assessments that make people “look dumb” rather than “look smart” (Norman, 1993).
- Differentiate “transferring in” to situations from “transferring out” of them.
- Discuss studies that show that new ways to think about transferring “in” and “out” can reveal advantages of a variety of interactive instructional techniques that remain hidden when we use more traditional measures.
- Propose a tentative learning and performance space that differentiates two dimensions of transfer -- innovation and efficiency -- and provide an example of what research might look like that explores optimal trajectories of learning and development through the innovation-efficiency space.
- Summarize our arguments and suggest some possible future directions – including new ways to create learning and assessment environments that complement but go beyond many frequently used assessments tests.
Taylor, Maurice (1997. Transfer of Learning: Planning Workplace Education Programs. Retrieved 2/15/2009: http://www.nald.ca/library/research/nls/inpub/transfer/cover.htm. Quoting from this document:
- What is Transfer of Learning? In the context of the workplace, transfer of learning is the effective application by trainees to their jobs of the knowledge and skills gained as a result of attending an educational program. Stated in another way, transfer of learning occurs when learning In one context or with one set of materials impacts on performance in another context or with other related materials. From a theoretical point of view transfer of learning occurs whenever prior learned knowledge and skills affect the way in which new knowledge and skills are learned and performed. When later acquisition or performance is facilitated, transfer is positive. When later acquisition or performance is impeded, transfer is negative. As well, transfer can be general affecting a wide range of new knowledge and skills or specific affecting only particular knowledge and skills within a circumscribed subject matter (Cormier & Hagman, 1987; Broad & Newstrom, 1992; Perkins & Salomon, 1996).
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