Educational Psychology: What are the various ways teachers can teach for transfer of Learning?

Chapter Five 

Transfer of Learning

5a iv). Explain the various ways teachers can teach for transfer of Learning

Teaching for transfer

There are several basic ways of teaching for transfer

  • Substantive (specific).
  • Procedural (general) transfer.
  • High road transfer.


  • The substantive method

The substantive method refers to specific transfer of rules, facts or skills. It is the direct transfer of knowledge from one situation to another. For example applying rules of punctuation to write a job application letter or using the knowledge of the alphabet to find a word n the dictionary. To facilitate this type of transfer the teacher exposes the learner to the substance of the material to be applied. This is a very common phenomenon in computer programming. If a certain computer program is required in a person’s occupation, the person is taught that particular computer program during training. Also in dress making the person is exposed to actual dressmaking skills needed on the job. A surgeon is trained in a hospital setting and performs surgery under supervision. There are many examples that can be cited. The most important concept here is the exposure of the substance of material to be applied and lots and lots of practice.

  • High road transfer

This is training learners to consciously apply abstract knowledge learned in one situation to different situations. There are two methods of doing this:”

  1. Forward reaching method
  2. Backward reaching method
  • Forward reaching method

This method is used when a learner intends to use a principle or strategy in future. He plans transfer in advance. For example, a surgeon taking theory and practical during subsequent semesters may do some forward planning. During the theory semester he may search for and collect all the relevant skills and procedures from the surgeons’ literature with the intention of applying them during the practical or “hands-on” sessions. Also, a teacher preparing for teaching practice may search for principles about teaching and learning (pedagogical skills). He may search in the focus areas like how to motivate learners, the art of classroom management and so on with the intention of applying the same during actual teaching. This kind of transfer is forward reaching in the sense that the person looks forward to applying it in future situations.

  • The backward reaching transfer

This method is used when the learner is faced with a problem situation that requires some prior knowledge. The person has to look back on what has been learned in previous situations to help to solve the new problem. This method requires the person to search for other related situations that might provide clues to the solution of the current problem.

The most important thing in this kind of transfer is mindful abstraction or deliberate identification of a principle or main idea, strategy or procedure that can apply to many situations. This guides future learning and problem-solving.

  • The Procedural Method

This method is useful when applying knowledge about how principles and rules apply across a wide variety of situations. It includes the learning of broadly applicable concepts, principles, and procedures. For example when pupils learn the meaning of words such as untie, unfair, is useful to learning that the prefix un means not or contrary to.

To train learners to use this method the teacher should present them with a wide array of examples in which they can see how new principles and techniques are used. The examples should be drawn from real world settings.



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