Educational Psychology: What are the Types of Transfer of Learning?

Chapter Five 

Transfer of Learning

5a iii). Analyze the Types Of Transfer of Learning

Types of Transfer

There are three types of transfer:

  • Zero transfer.
  • Negative transfer.
  • Positive transfer.
  • Zero transfer

This refers to acquiring knowledge, skills or principles that are not transferable from one situation to another. This occurs when there is no relationship between one subject and another one. Therefore, learning one subject has no effect on the other one positively or negatively. Examples of zero transfer can be illustrated by the learning of mathematics and Kiswahili. Unless Kiswahili is used as a language of instruction in mathematics there is no other relationship between the two. Mathematical principles will not help a learner understand Kiswahili principles or vice versa.

Other examples can be illustrated between geography and music or fine art and biology. These two pairs of subjects share no meeting ground. Each is independent from the other in terms of facts, skills, principles and technical jargon. The learning of one is independent from the learning of the other and does not inhibit nor enhance the other.

  • Negative transfer

Negative transfer occurs when content in a subject or in two different subjects has a negative influence o one another. This happens when what is learned in one situation hinders or inhibits what is learned in another situation. For example, if a learner is introduced to two new languages, which are similar at the same time, negative transfer occurs. A learner who is learning English and German at the same time experiences difficulties mastering both languages simultaneously due to inhibition or interference. English interferes with German and vise versa. Negative transfer operates much the same way as proactive and retroactive inhibition does. Before mastering of each is achieved there is a lot of back and forth movement and even mix-up of English and German words. Consequently this brings about a slowed process or retardation in the learning process.

However, with enough practice and mastery of both negative transfer is minimized and even eliminated all together.

  • Positive Transfer

Positive transfer occurs, when knowledge acquired in one situation helps the learner to acquire knowledge, skills or principles in another situation much faster. For example learning of mathematical principles enables the learner to acquire principles in physics. There are many illustrations of positive transfer in the school setting, which can be mentioned here: For example, learning grammar in any language and writing compositions in the language.

The learning of biology and agriculture Learning of physics and mathematics

Learning of chemistry, biology and Agriculture, Mathematics, geography, business Education, Chemistry and Physics. Positive transfer indicates a positive relationship between particular topic areas in given subjects or even two or more content areas in different subjects.

Positive transfer can operate at two levels. These are:

  1. Lateral transfer (horizontal)
  2. Vertical transfer

    1. Lateral transfer

Lateral transfer occurs when a learner is exposed to content that is applicable to another subject or situation at the same level. For example, a child who is trying to learn basics in arithmetic discovers that (4*9=36, 9*4=36), (3+5=8, 5+3=8) is transferring knowledge laterally or horizontally. Secondly, when a learner acquires the basic skills of baking a cake in school he applies the knowledge to bake at home horizontally. He will use the same ingredients, the same measures and the same baking methods as learned at school.

Thirdly mathematical skills and principles taught in form one helps the learner to acquire principles and skills to master form-one physics. So this kind of transfer is applicable at the same level and is basically foundational.

          2. Vertical transfer

Vertical transfer occurs when knowledge is applied to other learning’s at a higher level either in the same subject or in another subject. For example form one mathematics series is a foundation for form two, form three, and form- four mathematics. This happens at all applications of subject areas in an ascending order. For vertical transfer to occur the subject should be well mastered at the foundational levels so that learning is given a chance to generalize and become useful further along the learning process. For example when a pupil masters simple grammatical rules he is enabled to speak correct English, write competently and to study other subjects in English as well. Also when a pupil masters simple arithmetic and numeracy he is enabled to acquire complex concepts in mathematics and physics.






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