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The case for the prosecution: Transfer as an epiphenomenon

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Abstract

a formal definition of transfer is presented, followed by a brief review of what is already known about transfer / [considers] examples of reviews, studies that find transfer, and studies that fail to find transfer there are two issues that need to be addressed with respect to the relationship between intelligence and transfer / the first . . . is the degree to which far (or general) transfer explains intelligence / the second issue is the degree to which any kind of transfer, either near or far, is central to an understanding of individual differences in mental ability transfer and education / [examines the role of transfer within two general theories of education, the doctrine of formal discipline and the theory that people learn specific examples] (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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... Increasing both kinds of transfer is a key goal of education, since schooling should prepare students for life outside of school, which requires them to apply what they learned in school to new and different contexts. However, high road transfer is rare (Detterman, 1993;Gick & Holyoak, 1983) and tends to occur only when students learn the content deeply (Bransford et al., 2000). Given that the literature suggests that curiosity should enhance learning, it is reasonable to predict that it will also increase high road transfer. ...
... In partial support of our first hypothesis, HU and LU groups made similar learning gains, but the HU group was better able to transfer their learning to novel contexts. While the size of the transfer effect was small, we view this as a fairly significant result, since transfer is often an elusive outcome (Detterman, 1993), and our condition manipulation was fairly simple and brief -the only difference between conditions was a 2.5 min video setting up the invention activities. Moreover, the effect of uncertainty was not limited to students with high or low prior knowledge or honors status. ...
... This study also contributes to the literature on transfer and how to promote it. While high road transfer is a key goal of schooling, it rarely occurs (Detterman, 1993;Gick & Holyoak, 1983). Inducing task uncertainty by withholding information is a simple yet overlooked way for educators and instructional designers to promote transfer. ...
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While many view learning as a process of reducing learners’ uncertainty, research suggests that instruction that is uncertain can promote learning and transfer better than instruction that is certain. In addition, research on curiosity suggests that uncertainty is a key trigger of curiosity, which in turn can facilitate learning. However, educational research rarely examines the direct effects of uncertainty on curiosity, learning, or transfer. Additionally, research on the effect of curiosity on learning rarely considers state-level curiosity or how curiosity changes over time. In a study with 208 middle school students learning physics, we addressed these gaps. Participants in two conditions completed learning activities where they invented their own equations for physical science phenomena. The Low Uncertainty condition received relevant information on task process before inventing, while information on task process was withheld in the High Uncertainty (HU) condition, which received irrelevant information before inventing. Both conditions learned the physics content equally well, but the HU condition demonstrated greater state-level curiosity and performed better on transfer problems. Moreover, in both conditions, curiosity decreased over time as students gained more information. Surprisingly, curiosity did not predict learning or transfer, which suggests that curiosity was not the mechanism by which uncertainty influenced transfer. This study advances the notion that introducing uncertainty in learning activities can, perhaps counter-intuitively, promote transfer of knowledge across contexts while also rousing learners’ curiosity. This work demonstrates a practical way for educators to induce uncertainty, by withholding information about task process. This research also broadens our understanding of how to provoke curiosity in classroom contexts.
... Importantly, the opposite could also be the case, that is, it can also be deduced from the theory of broader transfer that no relation exists between the effects on trained words and on general language tests. In line with the theories of Bransford and Schwartz (1999) and Detterman (1993), it is not possible to detect transfer by training in one skill and testing whether it is directly applicable to another skill. This way of evaluating transfer is too restrictive because transfer occurs on a more general level and affects broader skills, such as critical thinking and meta-cognition (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999;Detterman, 1993;Lee, 1998). ...
... In line with the theories of Bransford and Schwartz (1999) and Detterman (1993), it is not possible to detect transfer by training in one skill and testing whether it is directly applicable to another skill. This way of evaluating transfer is too restrictive because transfer occurs on a more general level and affects broader skills, such as critical thinking and meta-cognition (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999;Detterman, 1993;Lee, 1998). ...
... As opposed to earlier research showing the transfer of effects between trained vocabulary and standardized expressive measures (Melby-Lervåg et al., 2020), we do not find that trained vocabulary predicts effects on either receptive or expressive standardized measures of vocabulary. Thus, our findings support the theories by Bransford and Schwartz (1999) and Detterman (1993), suggesting that the method of testing the transfer is too restrictive to detect a possible relation. Alternatively, the results are in line with the findings of Singley and Anderson (1989) and Thorndike and Woodworth (1901) that this kind of transfer is quite rare and usually mainly occurs if the tasks are highly similar. ...
Article
Whether the effects of an oral-language intervention is tested with measures of trained vocabulary (treatment-inherent tests) or standardized measures (treatment-independent tests) can have consequences for the mean effect size in meta-analyses. Moreover, based on a theory of transfer effects, effects on the trained words could serve as an index of how much benefit is gained by children from the intervention. We present a meta-analysis that assesses the differences and relation between the intervention effects of these two types of outcomes, trained vocabulary and standardized vocabulary tests. The results show large effects on trained vocabulary, limited effects on standardized measures, and no clear relation between the two. The moderator analysis indicates that less instruction time is associated with larger effect sizes on trained vocabulary but that trained vocabulary is not a predictor of either standardized expressive or receptive vocabulary. Thus, in interventions and meta-analyses, it is important to distinguish between effects on trained vocabulary and standardized tests, and trained vocabulary effects does not necessarily transfer to standardized measures. This indicates that effects on trained vocabulary outcomes provide limited information when evaluating language interventions.
... Critically, both of these predictions are premised on the assumption that subjects can apply and transfer the knowledge they acquire during training to help them learn and comprehend information that is conceptually related to what they have learned, but which has not been explicitly trained. However, this type of discovery amounts to a relatively challenging form of transfer, which is somewhat rare (Barnett & Ceci, 2002;Detterman, 1993). Furthermore, the literature on transfer-appropriate processing (Morris et al., 1977) suggests that learning should be best for the types of concepts that are specifically trained. ...
... Furthermore, we highlight that all posttest questions involved novel scenarios that were not encountered during training, and thus provide a test of the transfer of learning. That relational and definitional training support the transfer of learning is of critical importance, as it has been a long-standing goal in education to find methods that facilitate this process (Ellis, 1965;Hajian, 2019;National Research Council, 2012), and has thus far proven fairly elusive in the cognitive and learning sciences (Barnett & Ceci, 2002;Detterman, 1993). ...
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Many concepts are defined by their relationships to one another. However, instructors might teach these concepts individually, neglecting their interconnections. For instance, students learning about statistical power might learn how to define alpha and beta, but not how they are related. We report two experiments that examine whether there is a benefit to training subjects on relations among concepts. In Experiment 1, all subjects studied material on statistical hypothesis testing, half were subsequently quizzed on relationships among these concepts, and the other half were quizzed on their individual definitions; quizzing was used to highlight the information that was being trained in each condition (i.e., relations or definitions). Experiment 2 also included a mixed training condition that quizzed both relations and definitions, and a control condition that only included study. Subjects were then tested on both types of questions and on three conceptually related question types. In Experiment 1, subjects trained on relations performed numerically better on relational test questions than subjects trained on definitions (nonsignificant trend), whereas definitional test questions showed the reverse pattern; no performance differences were found between the groups on the other question types. In Experiment 2, relational training benefitted performance on relational test questions and on some question types that were not quizzed, whereas definitional training only benefited performance on test questions on the trained definitions. In contrast, mixed training did not aid learning above and beyond studying. Relational training thus seems to facilitate transfer of learning, whereas definitional training seems to produce training specificity effects.
... Elle est devenue une réalité avec l'expansion, toujours en cours, des orientations du NMP (Hyndman & Lapsley, 2016). Certes, le processus de transfert a été considéré à un moment donné comme un épiphénomène, c'est-à-dire un processus cognitif difficile à cerner et à démontrer (Detterman, 1993), mais actuellement, les études montrent qu'il concerne deux grands types d'éléments : (i) les éléments hard tels que les législations, les réglementations, les institutions, les instruments de politiques publiques et les outils de travail et (ii) les éléments soft tels que la culture organisationnelle, les compétences, les principes ou les idées (Stone, 2004). Dans cette perspective, plusieurs chercheurs se sont intéressés au transfert des politiques (Debonneville & Diaz, 2013 ;Hassenteufel & de Maillard, 2013 ;Stone, 2017), à la diffusion des innovations (Rogers, 1995), au transfert des pratiques managériales (Hurt & Hurt, 2005 ;Warski, 2005) en général et des pratiques RH (Barmeyer & Davoine, 2011) en particulier ainsi qu'à la diffusion des pratiques du FBP (Abomo, 2018 ;Gautier et al., 2018). ...
... En effet, la littérature fait état d'une part, de nombreuses études expérimentales qui n'ont pas conclu à l'existence du transfert (Detterman, 1993 ;Reed et al., 1974) ou n'ayant mesuré qu'une faible probabilité qu'un transfert se produise (Gick & Holyoak, 1983. D'autres chercheurs (Brown, 1990 ;Brown & Kane, 1988 ;Gherardi & Nicolini, 2000 ;Pennington et al., 1995) indiquent que le transfert est un processus existant dans les faits. ...
Thesis
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Le transfert constitue un phénomène contemporain hérité de la propagation continue des idées du Nouveau Management Public et de la diffusion des innovations ; deux courants théoriques qui concourent à la convergence du management public-privé. Ce processus concernant aussi bien les politiques publiques que les pratiques managériales, s’est accéléré ces dernières années dans le cadre de nombreuses mutations engagées dans les services publics de plusieurs pays. Dans cette perspective, les pratiques du Financement Basé sur la Performance (FBP) sont transférées dans un contexte caractérisé par la quête permanente de la performance dans les systèmes de santé, plus particulièrement en Afrique. A cet effet, la littérature converge sur le rôle essentiel joué par les acteurs intervenants dans le transfert de ces pratiques. Pourtant, peu d’attention a été accordée aux interactions des acteurs dans ce processus qui constitue actuellement un phénomène complexe nécessitant des études en contexte et en profondeur. En se basant sur l’étude de cas du transfert des pratiques du FBP au sein du Système de Santé du Burundi (SSB), cette recherche mobilise le champ théorique des relations sociales pour explorer le rôle des interactions des acteurs intervenants dans le déploiement de ce processus. D’une part, les résultats montrent que les facteurs politique, économique, social, technologique, environnemental et légal interviennent dans la constitution des interactions entre les acteurs du transfert du FBP. D’autre part, il s’avère que ces interactions peuvent être coopératives, coercitives, sélectives et progressives. Notre raisonnement aboutit à la formulation de propositions théoriques qui résument, dans un modèle conceptuel, le rôle joué par les interactions des acteurs dans le déploiement du transfert des pratiques du FBP.
... In fact, they were predictable. Over the years, it has been difficult to document far transfer in experiments (Singley & Anderson, 1989;Thorndike & Woodworth, 1901), industrial psychology (Baldwin & Ford, 1988), education (Gurtner et al., 1990), as well as in research on analogy (Gick & Holyoak, 1983), intelligence (Detterman, 1993), and expertise (Bilalić et al., 2010). Indeed, theories of expertise emphasize that learning is domain specific (Ericsson & Charness, 1994;Gobet & Simon, 1996;Simon & Chase, 1973). ...
Article
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Considerable research has been carried out in the last two decades on the putative benefits of cognitive training on cognitive function and academic achievement. Recent metaanalyses summarising the extent empirical evidence have resolved the apparent lack of consensus in the field and led to a crystal-clear conclusion: the overall effect of far transfer is null, and there is little to no true variability between the types of cognitive training. Despite these conclusions, the field has maintained an unrealistic optimism about the cognitive and academic benefits of cognitive training, as exemplified by a recent article (Green et al., 2019). We demonstrate that this optimism is due to the field neglecting the results of meta-analyses and largely ignoring the statistical explanation that apparent effects are due to a combination of sampling errors and other artifacts. We discuss recommendations for improving cognitive training research, focusing on making results publicly available, using computer modelling, and understanding participants’ knowledge and strategies. Given that the available empirical evidence on cognitive training and other fields of research suggests that the likelihood of finding reliable and robust far-transfer effects is low, research efforts should be redirected to near transfer or other methods for improving cognition.
... Because deep understanding of complex systems requires learners to be able to understand and apply complex systems concepts across multiple scenarios or systems (e.g., Detterman, 1993;Gick & Holyoak, 1980;National Research Council, 2000), explicitly teaching students about the ontologies of complex systems and phenomena through participatory simulations, students might be able to learn to interpret complex systems according to underlying principles and use these for navigating subsequent encounters with other systems (e.g., Hoehn & Finkelstein, 2018;Slotta & Chi, 2006). ...
Article
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Most of humanity’s important and difficult problems such as pandemics, environmental health, and social unrest require recognizing and understanding complex systems. Students often have difficulty understanding complex systems concepts and previous research indicates that scaffolded computer simulations may facilitate learning. Few studies, however, have investigated which types of scaffolding can help students understand complex systems concepts with simulations. This study compares ontological and self-monitoring scaffolds with an agent-based participatory simulation on mainly undergraduate students’ (N = 96) understanding of complex systems. Data sources included pretest and posttest assessments of complex systems concepts. Results revealed that students in the ontological condition significantly improved from pretest to posttest on their agent actions and processes-based causality understanding, while apparently decreasing their understanding in action effects. In addition, students in the ontological condition improved more from pre- to post-test than students in the self-monitoring condition in their understanding of order. This study highlights how scaffolded, agent-based participatory simulations can help students learn complex systems concepts and that ontological scaffolding may help students understand decentralized and emergent order within complex systems.
... The concept of transfer, commonly defined as the application of prior knowledge from one situation to another (e.g., Foertsch, 1995;Perkins & Salomon, 1994), has a long and deep history in education and educational psychology (Detterman, 1993). For more than two decades, it has filtered through many of the discussions related to first language (L1) compositional studies, second language (L2) writing, and genre-based teaching and learning (e.g., Fishman & Reiff, 2008, 2011James, 2014;Wardle, 2007Wardle, , 2009). ...
Article
This paper revisited the issue of transfer in an unexplored context: the transition from instruction-based writing to the bachelor’s theses by English-major students in one university in China. To explore the extent to which the writing instruction prepared the students for thesis writing practice, we created two corpora of student writing: 591 assignments produced by 40 students in 3 writing-related courses offered in the curriculum and 40 bachelor’s theses produced between 2014–2018. Based on the taxonomy of elemental genres in the Systemic Functional Linguistics, we compared the genre distribution in the two corpora via log-likelihood tests. Results revealed that two patterns of continuity and two patterns of discontinuity existed in the students’ literacy journey. Also, framed within the theory of adaptive transfer, a focus-group interview was conducted with four thesis writers in an attempt to trace their transfer of rhetorical knowledge between the two rhetorical contexts. Findings demonstrated that the students consciously reused and reshaped a pool of rhetorical knowledge acquired from the writing courses to navigate the complex task of thesis writing. This paper then concludes with implications for L2 writing research, curriculum, and pedagogy.
... Aufgrund dieser hohen Bedeutungszuschreibung wurden in den verschiedenen lernpsychologischen Disziplinen zahlreiche Erklärungsversuche des Transferphänomens (vgl. Dettermann, 1993) unternommen. Die Transferforschung entwickelte sich zu einem vielschichtigen Forschungsfeld, aus dem eine Vielzahl an zum Teil sehr speziellen und domänenspezifischen Begriffsdefinitionen und -Unterscheidungen hervorgingen: "[...] every conceptualization of transfer reflects its own time and the concept of learning related to it" (Tuomi-Gröhn & Engeström, 2003, S. 33). ...
Book
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Sebastian Kollhoff rekonstruiert und analysiert in diesem Open-Access-Buch in einer Feldstudie mit Fünftklässlerinnen und Fünftklässlern Transferprozesse in der Entwicklung von Grundvorstellungen zu Brüchen. Anhand von umfassenden Detailanalysen der Bearbeitungen von Lernenden im alltäglichen Unterricht charakterisiert der Autor den Verlauf von Prozessen des Transfers, die das Potenzial haben fachlich optimiertes Lernen zu initiieren, aber auch die Gefahr bergen dieses zu behindern. Dabei arbeitet er heraus, dass sich bereits bei ersten elementaren Transferschritten erhebliche individuelle Unterschiede in der Ausprägung des Transfers ergeben. Der Autor Sebastian Kollhoff ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Didaktik der Mathematik (IDM) an der Universität Bielefeld und promovierte dort bei Prof. Dr. Rudolf vom Hofe. Seine Schwerpunkte sind Transfer beim Mathematiklernen, Entwicklung von Grundvorstellungen und mentalen Repräsentationen mathematischer Inhalte, Darstellungen und Veranschaulichungen mathematischer Inhalte.
Chapter
A fundamental goal of second language (L2) education is to promote learning that students will apply in new situations. For example, in an English-as-a-second-language course for engineering students at a Canadian university, a goal might be to help students learn to write lab reports so this learning can be applied in other courses with labs.
Chapter
Many people enter higher education without the skills to be fully independent lifelong learners, especially on topical areas they are not very familiar with. Heutagogy, the study of self-determined learning, focuses on the development of “capable learners” who have the ability, competence, and self-efficacy to learn on their own. Heutagogy builds on the theory of double-loop learning, in which learners adjust their beliefs and values based on experience with tackling new problems. However, it is difficult to transfer learning to new circumstances and contexts, and even proficient self-determined learners may struggle in new domains, when familiar learning strategies may not be sufficient to develop new skills. In this chapter, we discuss the concept of triple-loop learning, in which people learn how to learn in new ways as they encounter new domains. We present illustrative examples based on thought experiments about learners across the spectrum of actual ability and self-efficacy in a new domain and discuss how educators might assist learners to become capable learners in their new domains.
Chapter
This chapter describes the progress made toward understanding chess skill. It describes the work on perception in chess, adding some new analyses of the data. It presents a theoretical formulation to characterize how expert chess players perceive the chess board. It describes some tasks that correlate with chess skill and the cognitive processes of skilled chess players. It is believed that the demonstration of de Groot's, far from being an incidental side effect of chess skill, actually reveals one of the most important processes that underlie chess skill—the ability to perceive familiar patterns of pieces. In the first experiment discussed in the chapter, two tasks were used. The memory task was very similar to de Groot's task: chess players saw a position for 5 seconds and then attempted to recall it. Unlike de Groot, multiple trials were used—5 seconds of viewing followed by recall—until the position was recalled perfectly. The second task or the perception task for simplicity involved showing chess players a position in plain view.
Article
Little is known about the genetic and environmental etiology of the association between specific cognitive abilities and scholastic achievement during the early school years. A multivariate genetic analysis of cognitive and achievement measures was conducted for 146 pairs of identical twins and 132 pairs of fraternal twins from 6 to 12 years of age. At the phenotypic level, measures of achievement were moderately correlated with specific cognitive abilities. A multivariate model including one general factor and specific factors in the genetic and environmental matrices indicated that the phenotypic relationship between achievement and cognition was mediated primarily by genetic influences. Genetic correlations among the cognitive and achievement tests ranged from .57 to .85, shared environment correlations were essentially zero, and specific environment correlations were low (.00 to .19). We conclude that there is substantial overlap between genetic effects on scholastic achievement and specific cognitive abilities. Performance on ability measures differs from that on achievement measures largely for environmental reasons.
Article
An experiment was conducted investigating the effects of training two components of a dimension-abstracted oddity problem, oddity responding and attention. All Ss were given a series of three problems. Type of oddity training was manipulated on Problem 1, and Ss learned (1) an oddity response in a problem whose format was the same as the final transfer problem, (2) an oddity response in a problem whose format was different from the final problem, or (3) no oddity response. Attention training was manipulated on Problem 2. The results indicated that Ss given same format oddity training and appropriate attention training were able to integrate that information on the final problem, that the probability of transferring the oddity response learned on Problem 1 to Problem 3 depended upon the similarity of the task formats, and that the two trained components tended to combine in an interactive fashion.
An evaluation of exemplar-based models of generalization was provided for ill-defined categories in a category abstraction paradigm. 72 undergraduates initially classified 35 high-level distortions into 3 categories, defined by 5, 10, and 20 different patterns, followed by a transfer test administered immediately and after 1 wk. The transfer patterns included old, new, prototype, and unrelated exemplars of which the new patterns were at 1 of 5 levels of similarity to a particular training (old) stimulus. In both experiments, increases in category size and old–new similarity facilitated transfer performance. However, the effectiveness of old–new similarity was strongly attenuated by increases in category size and delay of the transfer test. It is concluded that examplar-based generalization may be effective only under conditions of minimal category experience and immediacy of test; with continued category experience, performance on the prototype determines classification accuracy. (22 ref)