Elevator Pitch on Teaching for Transfer

Scholars who study knowledge transfer differentiate “near transfer” from “far transfer.” Near transfer describes applying knowledge in settings similar to where it was learned, and far transfer describes applying it to settings dissimilar to where it was learned. Transfer does exist along a continuum and it is difficult to measure reliably. In these ways it is a concept more like what real human learning than we typically encounter in schools. While knowledge transfer is a very active area of scholarship with many unanswered questions, it is clear that lessons taught for far transfer show very weak effects. The assumption that students will be able to transfer skills or knowledge in one domain to another is therefore false. Many scholars in the field argue, therefore, that curriculum for generalized problem-solving (for example) are really ineffective.