Now that we have been thinking about memory, it is interesting to think about how we apply things that we know to different situations. This is known as transfer.
Transfer of information can occur in a couple of different ways. Information that was learned previously can be transferred to new settings, we can transfer what we learn in a classroom to things in our daily life such as work, and we can transfer new ideas to new situations.
There are several necessary components that help when transferring information from one context to another:
- For transfer to occur, there needs to be a certain amount of initial learning that has already happened. In other words, to be able to transfer information to a new context, there needs to be a certain amount of existing information that can be transferred.
- New learning is based on previous learning, experiences, memories, etc. When we learn new things, we relate that information to our previous learning and experiences.
- Information that is more abstract (less specific to a certain context) can help facilitate the transfer of information to new contexts.
- Transfer is a process. It takes time and intentionality and it can be challenging.
So what can educators do to facilitate transfer for our students? Well, we can try to explicitly connect what students are learning with what they previously learned. We can teach students more abstract concepts as opposed to specific, highly contextualized concepts. We can give students time to transfer that information to the new setting. And we can gauge students prior learning to help them correct any misconceptions or help them make new connections.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn.
- Simons, P. R. J. (1999). Transfer of learning: Paradoxes for learners. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 577-589.