Friday, March 10, 2017

Transfer In Education: A Summary

Below is a summary of what I have gleaned about Transfer in Education.


Our desire in educating students is to have them apply their knowledge and skills both inside the classroom and in their daily life. This is called Transfer.


Transfer is the ability to take knowledge and experiences you have and apply this to a new idea. You will use both old and new knowledge to solve a problem that you have encountered before.




There are 4 steps students need to employ to transfer learning successfully.


  1. On their own they must realize what the question is asking and think about which approach to answering it makes the most sense.
  2. They must decide which prior learning is the most relevant.
  3. They must try out an approach and make adjustments as needed.
  4. They must adapt their answer when faced with an unusual setting


In order for the above to be able to happen certain things need to be in place.


  • Initial learning is necessary for transfer
  • Knowledge that is overly contextualized can reduce transfer.
  • Abstract representations of knowledge can help promote transfer.
  • Transfer is best viewed as an active, dynamic process
  • All new learning involves transfer based on previous learning, and this fact has important implications for the design of instruction


Many teachers just expect transfer to happen if the content is well-taught. Transfer may happen that way but generally doesn’t. It needs to be taught so that students have an understanding of how it works rather than be left up to chance.


Often teachers will teach a concept one day and expect the students to be able to transfer it right away. Researchers have found that often a concept will transfer better the second day, after it has had some time to filter through our brain processes.

Students are motivated to spend the time needed to learn complex subjects and to solve problems that they find interesting. Opportunities to use knowledge to create products and benefits for others are particularly motivating for students.

The most difficult tests questions involve transferable ideas and processes, not obscure facts. The student must first determine if the question requires mere finding or inference, then determine which prior learning – main idea? Character development? – applies, test out their answer, and adapt their somewhat general or formulaic view of the content to this particular passage and prompt.


One way to deal with lack of flexibility is to ask learners to solve a specific case and then provide them with an additional, similar case;


A second way to improve flexibility is to let students learn in a specific context and then help them engage in “what-if” problem solving designed to increase the flexibility of their understanding.


A third way is to generalize the case so that learners are asked to create a solution that applies not simply to a single problem, but to a whole class of related problems


Everyday Setting and School Environments


One major contrast between everyday settings and school environments is that the latter place much more emphasis on individual work than most other environments


A second major contrast between schools and everyday settings is the heavy use of tools to solve problems in everyday settings, compared with “mental work” in school settings


A third contrast between schools and everyday environments is that abstract reasoning is often emphasized in school, whereas contextualized reasoning is often used in everyday settings


Instructional differences become more apparent when evaluated from the perspective of how well the learning transfers to new problems and settings rather than testing concrete facts only.