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ResearchED 2016 The Trouble with Transfer

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How can we get students to transfer learning between contexts? An overview of the research and some suggestions for teachers

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ResearchED 2016 The Trouble with Transfer

  1. 1. The Trouble with Transfer How can we get students to transfer learning between contexts? David Didau R esearchED N at ional C onf erence 1 0 t h S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6
  2. 2. A definition of learning Learning is: • the long-term retention of knowledge and skills and the ability to transfer between contexts Retention = durability Transfer = flexibility
  3. 3. Performance Learning
  4. 4. Warsaw
  5. 5. The trouble with transfer “Unfortunately, what we learn does not spontaneously or automatically generalise to new contexts and so teachers need to facilitate this process.” Didau & Rose, (2016: 62)
  6. 6. A taxonomy of transfer Content: What is transferred? Learned skill procedure restoration Principle or heuristic Performance change speed accuracy approach Memory demands Execute only Recognise & execute Recall, recognise & execute Barnett & Ceci (2002)
  7. 7. Context: When & where transferred from and to Barnett & Ceci (2002) Knowledge domain Mouse vs rat Biology vs botany Biology vs economics Science vs history Science vs art Physical context Same classroom Different classroom School vs research lab School vs home School vs beach Temporal context Same lesson Next day Weeks later Months later Years later Functional context Both clearly academic Both academic but one nonevaluative Academic vs filling in tax forms Academic vs informal questionnaire Academic vs at play Social context Both individual Individual vs pair Individual vs small group Individual vs large group Individual vs society Modality Both written MCQ vs essay Written test vs oral exam Lecture vs wine tasting Lecture vs wood carving Near Far
  8. 8. Memory & context • What we remember is dependent on the context in which we learn and retrieve information Smith (1985) &Weingartner (1977) • Varying the conditions of encoding & retrieval weaken contextual cues Smith et al (1978) • But, transfer is still tricky without explicit prompting Woodridge et al (2014)
  9. 9. How does learning transfer to new situations? • The transfer of knowledge or skills to a novel problem requires both knowledge of the problem’s context and a deep understanding of the problem’s underlying structure Deans for Impact The Science of Learning
  10. 10. Experts vs Novices Two groups were given a series of physics problems to sort in any way they wished. • The novices sorted by surface features: on inclined planes, involves springs, falling objects • The experts sorted by deep structure: conservation of energy, kinematics, Newton’s second law Chi, Feltovich, Glaser (1981)
  11. 11. 4. How does learning transfer to new situations? • The transfer of knowledge or skills to a novel problem requires both knowledge of the problem’s context and a deep understanding of the problem’s underlying structure • We understand new ideas via examples, but it’s often hard to see the unifying underlying concepts in different examples Deans for Impact The Science of Learning
  12. 12. The Wason Card Test • Which card(s) must you turn over in order to test the claim that if a card shows a 3 on one side, then its opposite side will show the letter M? 3 N8 M
  13. 13. Cheating (Cosmides & Tooby) • Which card(s) must you turn over to check that if someone is drinking alcohol, then they must be at least 18 years old? 16 Beer18 Cola
  14. 14. Flexible vs inflexible knowledge “Knowledge is flexible when it can be accessed out of the context in which it was learned and applied in new contexts.” Dan Willingham
  15. 15. What we need to know • Transfer can be facilitated by explicitly telling students that they will need to retrieve what they’re studying in a new context • Memory is context dependent – vary the conditions of learning to weaken dependencies • The more you know, the easier it is to transfer what you know • Examples & narratives help
  16. 16. @LearningSpy learningspy.co.uk ddidau@gmail.com

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