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Research

I’ve been doing research on learning transfer particularly in second language education contexts for 20+ years, and this research appears in professional journals, encyclopedias, books, and conferences.

The main focus of my research is learning transfer, which is the application of learning outcomes in new situations.  For example, if I know how to play the guitar, and then try to learn to play the violin, I might apply some of my guitar skills to this new instrument.  If I know how to drive a car, and I try to drive a truck for the first time, I might apply some of my car driving skills to this new vehicle. And if I learn something in a classroom, I might apply it when I am outside the classroom, for example at work or in a social situation. In each of these situations, I am transferring learning. Here is an interesting example in the form of a TV commercial:

A fundamental goal

Learning transfer is a basic purpose of education and training:  If individuals can’t apply outside a classroom what they learn in the classroom, the value of that education or training is questionable.  In this sense, learning transfer is just as important as learning itself! 

... but here's the problem

Learning transfer is often assumed to occur in and from education and training contexts.  For example, if students can demonstrate in a classroom that they have learned something (for example, by successfully completing a test), it may be taken for granted that they will apply what they have learned outside the classroom (for example, in a different course, at home, or at work).  In other words, if students learn, then they must be able to transfer that learning.  But, a century’s worth of research shows that learning transfer isn’t inevitable and can be very difficult to stimulate!

More information about transfer

What is learning transfer?

Encyclopedia Britannica