Transfer of learning

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In education Transfer of learning or transfer of knowledge or transfer refers to learning in one context and applying it to another, i.e. the capacity to apply acquired knowledge and skills to new situations. “Transfer of training is of paramount concern for training researchers and practitioners. Despite research efforts, there is a growing concern over the "transfer problem.” (Baldwin and Ford, 2006).

“There are three kinds of transfer: from prior knowledge to learning, from learning to new learning, and from learning to application” (Simons, 1999).

The issue of transfer of learning is a central issue in both education and learning psychology. There is probably a subtle difference between transfer of learning (that addresses what is learnt in school) and transfer of knowledge (that addresses the general issue of applying knowledge to new situations). Transfer of knowledge is very much related to the problem of knowledge integration, knowledge application and knowledge use in "the real world". As such it usually is a component of general instructional design models, e.g. Merrill's first principles of instruction.

Another related topic is conceptual change and concept learning in general.

Alternative definitions not discussed here: Knowledge transfer or transfer can have many other meanings: It can be synonym for teaching, in particular direct instruction. It also can refer to development problems of the third world, etc.

Pedagogic strategies that may help transfer


  • Psychological And Educational Factors In Transfer Of Training, Section Two--Bibliography Of Studies Of Transfer Of Training ERIC Full Text ED010113 (1966)


This short bibliography is neither representative nor complete !

  • Biemans, H.J.A. and Simons, P.R.J., (1995). How to use preconceptions? The contact strategy dismantled. European Journal of Psychology of Education 10, pp. 243–259.
  • Biemans, H.J.A. and Simons, P.R.J., (1996). A computer-assisted instructional strategy for promoting conceptual change. Instructional Science 24, pp. 157–176
  • Bransford, J.D. and Schwartz, D.L. (????). Rethinking transfer: A simple proposal with educational implications. In A. Iran-Nejad & P.D. Pearson (Eds.), Review of Research in Education, (Vol. 24). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
  • Bransford, John D., and Schwartz, Daniel L. 1999. "Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple Implications." In Review of Research in Education, ed. Asghar Iran-Nejad and P. David Pearson. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
  • Broad, M.L. and Newstrom, J.W., (1992). Transfer of training. Action packaged strategies to ensure high payoff from training investments Addison-Wesley, Reading.
  • Brown, Ann L., and Kane, Mary Jo. 1988. "Preschool Children Can Learn to Transfer: Learning to Learn and Learning from Example." Cognitive Psychology 3 (4):275 - 293.
  • Ceci, Stephen J., and Ruiz, Ana. 1993. "Transfer, Abstractness, and Intelligence." In Transfer on Trial, ed. Douglas K. Detterman and Robert J. Sternberg. Stamford, CT: Ablex.
  • Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick, Knowing, learning and instruction. Essays in honour of Robert Glaser (pp. 453–494). Hillsdale: Erlbaum..
  • Cormier, S. M., & Hagman, J. D. (1987). Introduction. In S. M. Cormier & J. D. Hagman Transfer of learning; contemporary research and applications (pp. 1–8). San Diego: Academic Press..
  • De Jong, F.P.C.M. and Simons, P.R.J., (1990). Cognitive and metacognitive processes of self-regulated learning. In: Pieters, J.M., Simons, P.R.J. and de Leeuw, L. Editors, 1990. Research on computer-based instruction Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse, pp. 81–100.
  • Gaines-Robinson, D., & Robinson, J. C. (1989). Training for impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Gentner, D., Loewenstein, J., & Thompson, L. (2003). Learning and transfer: A general role for analogical encoding. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(2), 393-405.
  • Gick, M. L., & Holyoak, K. J. (1983). Schema induction and analogical transfer. Cognitive Psychology, 15, 1-38.
  • Gick, Mary L., and Holyoak, Keith J. 1983. "Schema Induction and Analogical Transfer." Cognitive Psychology 15 (1):1 - 38.
  • Greeno, J. G., Moore, J. L. et Smith, D. R. (1993). Transfer of situated learning. In D. K. Detterman et R. J. Sternberg (dir.), Transfer on trial: Intelligence, cognition, and instruction (p. 99-167). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  • Halpern, D. F. & Hakel, M. D. (2003). "Applying the Science of Learning to the University and Beyond Teaching for Long-Term Retention and Transfer". Change July/August:36-41. PDF
  • Hewson, P.W. and Hewson, M.G.A., (1984). The role of conceptual conflict in conceptual change and the design of science instruction. Instructional Science 13
  • Holbrook, J.K., Fasse, B.B., Gray, J. & Kolodner,J.L. (2001). Creating a Classroom Culture and Promoting Transfer with "Launcher" Units. AERA, Seattle, WA, April 2001. PDF
  • Mayer, R. E., & Wittrock, M. C. (1996). Problem-solving transfer. In R. Calfee & R. Berliner (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 47-62). New York: Macmillan.
  • Mayer, R. and Greeno, J.G., (1972). Structural differences between learning outcomes produced by different instructional methods. Journal of Educational Psychology 63, pp. 165–173. Abstract/PDF (Access restricted).
  • Mendoza, R. A. and Ellis, H. J. 2003. Knowledge transfer in is education: a project-based pedagogical approach to bridging the applicability gap. J. Comput. Small Coll. 18, 3 (Feb. 2003), 87-99. Abstract/PDF (Access restricted)
  • Novick, Laura R. "Analogical Transfer, Problem Similarity, and Expertise." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 14 (3):510 - 520.
  • Nussbaum, J. and Novick, S., (1982). Alternative frameworks, conceptual conflict and accommodation: Towards a principled teaching strategy. Instructional Science 11, pp. 183–200.
  • Pea, R.D., (1987). Socializing the knowledge transfer problem. International Journal of Educational Research 11, pp. 639–663.
  • Perkins David N. (2008), Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education,San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Perkins, D.N. & Salomon, G. (1988). Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership, 22-26.
  • Rittle-Johnson, B. & Star, J. (2007). Compared to what? How different types of comparison facilitate transfer in mathematics. In D. S. McNamara & G. Trafton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 29th Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 21-22). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [1]
  • Royer, J. (1979). Theories of the Transfer of Learning. Educational Psychologist, 14, 53-69.
  • Salomon, G. and Perkins, D.N., (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanisms of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist 24
  • Simons, D. and Keil, F.C. (1995). An abstract to concrete shift in the development of biological thought: the insides story. Cognition, 56, 129-163
  • Simons, PRJ (1999), Transfer of learning: paradoxes for learners, International Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 31, No. 7. pp. 577-589. doi:10.1016/S0883-0355(99)00025-7
  • Star, J.R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2007, April). Does comparison support transfer of knowledge? Investigating student learning of algebra . Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. [PPT slides
  • Strebelle A., Depover Ch. et Noël B. (2002). Favoriser l'acquisition et le transfert de compétences à l'école. Actes de la 6e biennale de l'éducation et de la formation, Paris.
  • Taylor, Maurice (1998). Partners in the Transfer of Learning. A Resource Manual for Workplace Instructors, ERIC, Ed 424 412. PDF
  • Uttal, David et al. (2007). Fostering Transfer of Knowledge in Education Settings. Proceedings of the 29th Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. PDF



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