Transfer Students

It’s something that has been touched on in a lot of my classes this semester: transfer. How can we get learners to take in knowledge in such a way that they can use it in multiple contexts later on? It’s pretty hard to achieve in most learning environments today because so much material has to be covered in a short amount of time. But transfer is incredibly important in critical thinking and problem-solving, so I think it’s worth the challenge.

The Wiggins and McTighe article was great. I love the idea of a high school curriculum centered on transfer as well as meaning. The leap from high school to college can be pretty huge with the difference in expectations. I mean, there is still some rote learning going on in college, but a lot of courses, especially at the higher levels, are all about engaging with materials and changing how you think about things so that you can use this knowledge after you graduate. I’m finding that transfer is even more prominent in a lot of my graduate coursework; since SI is a professional program, it’s largely about skills and knowledge that we can use in our futures as librarians or information professionals or what have you, along with some more theoretical/”big picture” kind of stuff to get us thinking about the future and  what we can do to guide and change it. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that transfer is easier in graduate-level courses, but especially in a professional program it’s more likely to happen there than in high school.

The methods described by Wiggins and McTighe to encourage meaning-making and transfer connect nicely with the concepts of inquiry-based learning as has been discussed in 638 and my educational psych. class. It’s all about giving the students a problem to solve so that they have a need to use the material they are learning, and providing what an article for my ed. psych class (and likely one for 638 as well) called “just-in-time” instruction on the key concepts students need to solve the problem. The more I learn about inquiry-based learning, the more I have come to love it; I feel like it is a great way to get students to engage in deep thinking and learning that doesn’t happen in the traditional classroom.

The chapter from How People Learn touches on a lot of the same themes – transfer is difficult, but it is certainly possible if students are active in their learning. There’s a little bit of talk on feedback, which takes me back to our readings and discussion on formative assessment. As you could probably tell from last week’s posts, I’m a pretty big fan of assessment for learning instead of assessment of learning. I want educators to share learning goals and objectives with the students and help them achieve those goals instead of just assigning grades on things. The HPL chapter mentions that students need to get feedback about how well they are understanding the material so that they can make sure they have the right information in their brain. Formative assessment can help this happen because we are letting the students know what’s up as they are learning instead of after they have mastered what turns out to be false information. The way I see it, inquiry-based learning and formative assessment can help develop the type of meaning-making and interest in what is being taught that is necessary for transfer to be possible.


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