What Is ‘Transfer of Learning’ and How Does It Help Students?


(upbeat instrumental music) – [Larry] Hey there, I’m Larry Ferlazzo. I write the classroom Q+A
with Larry Ferlazzo blog for Education Week Teacher. Today I want to chat with you about transfer of learning. You may be wondering what
is transfer of learning, and why is it important? Transfer of learning is the process of applying learning from
one situation to another. We study history not
just to memorize dates, but to understand the world around us. There are two important
types of learning transfer, near and far. Near transfer is when
students apply skills they’re learning in one
area to a similar situation. For example, students can
use essay writing skills from English class to write
a paper in social studies. Far transfer, which is more difficult, is when students apply
what they’re learning to a completely different context. Chess players might use strategies they learn in the game to understand a political campaign. This kind of learning is critical. It helps students use their knowledge in all types of situations, both inside and outside the classroom, but how do we help students put transfer into practice? Here are five strategies that you can try. First, there’s explicit teaching. We can encourage transfer
by teaching students how to apply what they learn each day to other parts of their lives. After writing an argument essay in class, students can talk about
how to use those skills to persuade a future boss to give them a raise. Next, try group learning. Allowing students to
work together in groups mirrors the kinds of experiences they are more likely to have outside of the classroom. Students can create their own work first, then bring it to a smaller
group for feedback, which helps them improve individually. Third, reflection is important. Challenge students to think about which learning strategies
personally works best for them. For example, if taking
notes in science class help them learn key concepts, can it be helpful in other classes? If planning an outline
before they wrote a paper improves their essay, can planning ahead for other
projects also be helpful? Fourth, use analogies and metaphors. Analogies and metaphors take what students already know and apply it to a new situation to understand it better, such as comparing how a
heart works to a pump. Five, try generalizing. We should push students to
generalize broader principles from specific situations. After studying the early
Women’s Rights Movement, we can ask students
what elements are needed to create a successful
social change movement? These five strategies
for transfer of learning can help students stop asking the common question, “Why
are we learning this?” They will understand that
what they’re learning now may help them in many situations
throughout their lives, so that’s transfer of learning. This will help students
apply the lessons you teach to learning beyond your classroom. (upbeat instrumental music)

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