The Name of the Game is Transfer, Transfer is the Name of the Game

or reflections on Chapter 3 from How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School…

This chapter discusses transfer and student learning, especially in school settings.   The authors first take us through various forms and elements that approach teaching and learning from the perspective of transfer.  These elements include “mastery of the initial subject”, understanding instead of memorizing, being realistic about the time needed to learn for transfer and providing extended time on concepts.

These all seemed to make perfect sense in the reading, especially since they were explained succinctly and with purpose.  I am still not convinced that schools and students actually learn in this way, though I do hope that we get there someday soon.

Some interesting thoughts I had while reading this chapter included the discussion of how many hours it takes to create or be an expert.  This book says it is somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of learning and using a subject for someone to be an expert.  Although the video games TED talk had a figure of 10,000 hours, I feel like there is a big jump between 10,000 and 100,000.  This speaks to it being hard to say “when” someone is an expert – but the section popped out at me while reading.

The other part that seemed contradictory (at least in the sense of what actually happens in schools) is that of transfer from school-life to everyday life.  Although there are some things you just have to learn before you can perform practical application (such as, you should understand what addition is before using a calculator to find the sums but as long as you know what it is, you can use the calculator all you want) but there was a discussion on how most professions are not done alone and most professions use tools to help them successfully attain goals but in school it is much different.  In school students are valued if they work independently and alone and are discouraged from using tools (or the school budget cannot buy the tools for students to use).

Although we all groan when we receive another group project, I do realize that the majority of professional life is working on projects and committees to get X,Y,Z accomplished.  Maybe some of the mentality of teachers has to change from valuing independent workers (but they are so quiet!) to valuing collaborative work in the classroom.

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One response to “The Name of the Game is Transfer, Transfer is the Name of the Game

  1. I too feel like the jump from 10,000 hours to 100,000 hours to become an expert is a huge leap. I just have a hard time qualifying when someone is an actual expert so putting a minimum amount of hours seems wrong to me. I feel like if I spent those 10,000 hours trying to learn biochemistry, I would only come out with the basics and not an expert understanding of the topic. But I don’t know – maybe I would surprise myself.

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