The goal of all learning is to make information portable, so that
learning travels with the learner to new locations. In the new locations,
the learning is transferred and applied in novel, interesting, and
innovative ways. This is the phenomenon referred to as the ‘Transfer
of Learning’. When transfer of learning occurs, it is in the
form of meanings, expectations, generalisations, concepts, or insights
that are developed in one learning situation being employed in others
(Bigge and Shermis, 1992).
Basically, education that does not achieve considerable transfer
is not worth much! In its broadest sense, transfer of learning is
basic to the whole notion of schooling. If there is no transfer
at all, students will need to be taught specifically every act that
they will ever perform in any situation (Bigge and Shermis, 1992).
However, we often over-emphasise the transmission of information
(by the teacher) and the retention of information (by the student)
in our own disciplines that we overlook this very important aspect
A person is in the best frame of mind for transfer to occur when
he/she is aware of acquiring meanings and abilities that are widely
applicable in learning and living. He/she must also want to solve
new problems, or approach new situations and take risks, in the
light of the insights gained through previous experience. For transfer
to occur, individuals must generalise (i.e. perceive common factors
in different situations, comprehend the factors as applicable and
appropriate to both situations and thereby understand how a generalisation
can be used); and they must desire to benefit by the sensed commonality
(Bigge and Shermis, 1992). Teachers can act as guides and prompters
to “shepherd” knowledge and skills from one context
to another (Forgarty et al, 1991).
There are always some things that we somehow
wish that the students are able to transfer somewhere.
To uncover the sources within our curriculum that provide fertile
ground for relevant student transfer, we must “selectively
abandon” and “judiciously include” curricular
components (Costa, 1991). It is the work of a skilled teacher to
find the ‘some things’ worth teaching.
These would include “knowledge”, “skills”,
“concepts”, “attitude”, “principles”
and “dispositions” (Forgarty, et al., 1991). A topic
worthwhile as a candidate for transfer must have potential significance
in other areas: (a) significance within the discipline, (b) societal
significance, and (c) student needs, interests and aspirations (Forgarty,
et al., 1991).
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).
To facilitate the development of transfer skills, we have to help
students to see the ‘somewhere’ of
transfer. Within a course, links can be highlighted between previous
or subsequent lessons. Within a discipline, it can be targeted at
different areas. Or, efforts can be made to show students how materials
learnt can be transferred between disciplines. Ultimately, the most
important target of transfer is life situations. It would be difficult
to justify any achievement of school learning that has no bearing
upon students’ future learning and life situations.
By becoming aware of transfer, finding the some things,
using the somehows, and targeting and tracking
the somewheres, you can make transfer a lot more
likely to happen. Teaching for transfer is, not just for a test,
but for a lifetime.
Bigge, M.L. & Shermis, S.S. (1991). Learning
Theories for Teachers (5th ed.). New York: Harper
Costa, A.L. (1991). 'Towards a Model of Human Intellectual
Functioning'. In Costa, A.L. (Ed.). Developing Minds:
A Resource Book for Teaching Thinking, Vol.1. Alexandria,
VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 137-140.
Forgarty, R.; Perkins, D.; & Barell, J. (1991). The
Mindful School: How to Teach for Transfer. Palatine,
IL: IRI/Skylight Publishing.
Perkins, D. & Salomon, G. (September 1988). 'Teaching
for Transfer'. Educational Leadership, 46(1),