Congratulations, you’ve learned how to make a croissant. Now, is that all you can use your new knowledge for? Of course not! Once you have not only learned the steps of making a croissant, but also understand why each of the steps is necessary, you can transfer that knowledge to other, similar, recipes such as danishes, puff pastry, and Palmiers. This is the primary example I used in my recent essay about learning, understanding, and transfer.
After reading a few chapters of Bransford, Brown & Cocking’s (2000) How People Learn I spent some time thinking and writing about the difference between learning and understanding as well as how important it is for my students to know how to use the things they learn in more than one set of circumstances. Learning and understanding really are two very different things. I think of learning as knowing what a whisk is while understanding is making connections between what a whisk is, how it is used, and when it’s the right time to grab one in a recipe.
My full essay is titled “Using What You Know” and contains my thought on what transfer is, how it happens, and the way I encourage it in my classroom and content area.
I welcome comments and thoughts on the topic. A conversation is a great way to learn from each other.
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853