Transference – the ability to extend what has been learnt in one context to other contexts (Byrnes, 1996) – is an important learning outcome for education. Learning itself is not the only implication of successful transference, since functioning in society is also dependent on the ability to use knowledge in many different rapidly changing situations. Despite the importance of transference, it is a skill that cannot be directly taught. So how can the 25 learning principles be implemented in education to promote effective transference?
Factual knowledge and understanding are necessary pre-requisites for transference (Klahr & Carver, 1988; Bransford & Stein, 1993). So the combined use of principles that promote factual knowledge with principles that facilitate understanding of this knowledge is likely to provide learners with a strong basis for transference to occur. Principles such as the testing effect and generation effect are appropriate for promoting factual knowledge, since they focus on enhancing encoding and memory for information; whilst the principles of multiple examples and explanation effects enhance in-depth understanding.
Yet I wonder if it is sufficient to provide learners with a basis for transference and expect the transfer of learning to occur automatically. Thomas, Anderson, Getahun and Cooke (1992) demonstrate through laboratory and field tests that educators can increase the likelihood of transference (once factual knowledge and understanding has been ascertained) by guiding the thought processes of learners to encourage them to become mindful of their learning and the contexts in which their knowledge is applicable. From this, the research proposes four guiding principles for promoting transference of learning:
1. Emphasise intermediate-level knowledge – knowledge that is related to several problems and situations within a topic sufficient that knowledge can be abstracted and connected to new problems as they arise.
2. Fidelity (similarity) between transfer and learning situations – learning situations that are similar to potential transfer situations are more likely to produce transfer, but a large difference between learning situations and potential transfer situations results in stronger transference.
3. Promote knowledge use across contexts, problems and situations – knowledge should be flexible to avoid misconceptions and inappropriate transfer, so educators should provide learners with multiple contexts, problems and situations.
4. Stimulate and challenge students so they develop their own transfer skills – transfer is intentional, so students should develop skills of self-directedness – when learners accept responsibility for their learning rather than expecting others to teach them. Educators can promote self-directness in students by encouraging them to use and evaluate their knowledge in different contexts.
So extending from principles that promote factual knowledge and understanding, principles that focus on the role of the learner in the learning process result in visible transference effects. Thus principles such as metacognition and cognitive disequilibrium are beneficial in encouraging the learner to consider their own knowledge and how it can be applied across contexts. Based on the findings from Thomas and colleagues, I have categorised certain 25 principles into groups necessary for transference:
|1. Factual knowledge||2. Understanding||
| Testing effect
| Multiple examples
Therefore, I believe that to promote greatest transference of learning, education should implement a combination of the 25 principles that promote factual knowledge with understanding and self-directedness. This assertion is consistent with the views of those who advocate the 25 principles, who suggest that principles should not be taken in isolation, but combined with complementing principles for effective teaching and learning.