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Transfer to Learning. EDU 330: Educational Psychology Daniel Moos.

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Transfer to Learning

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Transfer to Learning

EDU 330: Educational Psychology

Daniel Moos

You are also a well decorated army general. It is your goal to capture an evil general in the middle of a small village. You will need the firepower of all your army to capture the general. Many roads lead to the general, but land mines lurk below their surface. Small number of soldiers can travel safely on the roads, but a large force will detonate the mines, killing those traveling on the road. How might you solve this problem so that all of your army can safely get to the middle of the small village to capture the evil general?


In addition to a well decorated general, you are a world-famous doctor. One of your patients, Joe, has a malignant tumor on his heart. Your best option is to use radiation lasers to destroy the tumor. You will need to use high-intensity gamma ray lasers to completely remove it. However, this high-intensity laser will also kill the healthy tissue around the heart. At lower intensities, the gamma rays are harmless to healthy tissue, but they will not individually destroy the tumor either. How might you use the gamma rays to destroy the tumor without killing the healthy tissue?


Situated Cognition & Education (Anderson et al., 1996)

  • Much of what is claimed is not theoretically sound

    • “Situated learning”

      • Knowledge is tied to the context to which it is learned

      • Example: State months of year…

      • Example: State months of year, alphabetically

      • Example: Have you ever had trouble applying what you learn to the “real world”?

      • Mismatch between school and real world situations

    •  Instruction must be done in complex, social environments

Transfer of Learning

  • Under what conditions do students transfer learning?

    • Theory of Identical Elements: transfer depends on the number of identical elements that two tasks share (Thorndike & Woodworth, 1901)

    • Suggests it is important to help students identify similarities between learning tasks, but…

What do novices and experts see?

Experts’ knowledge also tied to their context…impossible checkmate…difficult to remember?

Types of Transfer

  • Positive Transfer

     A situation in which prior learning aids subsequent learning

  • Negative Transfer

    • A situation in which prior learning interferes with subsequent learning

    • Example: As quickly as you can find the answer to this problem: 60 ÷ 0.50

    • Prior learning: division usually leads to a smaller number

  • Zero Transfer

     A situation in which prior learning has no effect on new learning

Types of Transfer

  • Specific Transfer

     Situation in which prior learning aids subsequent learning because of specific similarities between two tasks

  • General Transfer

     Situation in which prior learning aids subsequent learning due to the use of similar cognitive strategies

Possible Outcomes:

1 > 2 = 3


Initial TaskTransfer Task

Group 1FrenchSpanish

Group 2ChineseSpanish

Group 3Spanish

1 = 2 > 3


Types of Transfer

  • Specific Transfer, example

    French Spanish











Types of Transfer

  • Near Transfer

    • Knowledge domains similar

    • Contexts basically the same

    • Elapsed time between tasks relatively short

  • Far Transfer

    • Knowledge domains and settings are perceived to be dissimilar

    • Elapsed time between tasks relatively long

Applying math skills over the course of a unit to solve “new” problems on the unit test

Applying math skills over the course of a unit years later to determine investment options

Types of Transfer

  • Low-Road Transfer

     Previously learned skill almost automatically retrieved and applied to similar task

  • High-Road Transfer

     Requires effortful formulation of an “abstraction” that allows a connection to be made between two tasks

13 328

+ 24 +192

How long did it take you to “figure” out college and its similarities/differences with hs?

Teaching Transfer: Implications

  • Multiple opportunities for varied practices

  • Solve problems that are similar to those they will eventually have to solve

  • Teach students how to formulate general rules, strategies, or schemes (“heuristics”) for a variety of tasks

    • What should I do if I have a question?

    • How should I study for a test?

    • How should I research for a paper?

  • Provide cues that will allow them to connect to prior knowledge

    • How is what we are learning today similar to yesterday’s topic?

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