portant guides to complex thinking, including analogical reasoning: “Successful analogical transfer leads to the induction of a general schema for the solved problems that can be applied to subsequent problems” (National Research Council, 1994:43). Memory retrieval and transfer are promoted by schemata because they derive from a broader scope of related instances than single learning experiences.

Active Versus Passive Approaches to Transfer

It is important to view transfer as a dynamic process that requires learners to actively choose and evaluate strategies, consider resources, and receive feedback. This active view of transfer is different from more static views, which assume that transfer is adequately reflected by learners’ abilities to solve a set of transfer problems right after they have engaged in an initial learning task. These “one-shot” tests often seriously underestimate the amount of transfer that students display from one domain to another (Bransford and Schwartz, 1999; Brown et al, 1983; Bruer, 1993).

Studies of transfer from learning one text editor to another illustrate the importance of viewing transfer from a dynamic rather than a static perspective. Researchers have found much greater transfer to a second text editor on the second day of transfer than the first (Singley and Anderson, 1989): this finding suggests that transfer should be viewed as increased speed in learning a new domain—not simply initial performance. Similarly, one educational goal for a course in calculus is how it facilitates learning of physics, but not necessarily its benefit on the first day of physics class.

Ideally, an individual spontaneously transfers appropriate knowledge without a need for prompting. Sometimes, however, prompting is necessary. With prompting, transfer can improve quite dramatically (e.g., Gick and Holyoak, 1980; Perfetto et al., 1983). “The amount of transfer depends on where attention is directed during learning or at transfer” (Anderson et al, 1996:8).

An especially sensitive way to assess the degree to which students’ learning has prepared them for transfer is to use methods of dynamic assessment, such as “graduated prompting” (Campione and Brown, 1987; Newman et al, 1989). This method can be used to assess the amount of help needed for transfer by counting the number and types of prompts that are necessary before students are able to transfer. Some learners can transfer after receiving a general prompt such as “Can you think of something you did earlier that might be relevant?” Other learners need prompts that are much more specific. Tests of transfer that use graduated prompting provide more fine-grained analysis of learning and its effects on transfer than simple one-shot assessments of whether or not transfer occurs.



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