No. 6: The Rule of Transfer
If you really understand something well, you can
transfer it to new situations. In other words, if you learn about principles
of pressure or friction forces in physics, you can transfer it to the movement
of blood or the mechanics of walking. If you learn about genes and
DNA in reference to basic genetics, you can transfer it to understanding
the mechanisms of speciation, EVEN IF no one ever made that connection for
you. This is what experts in any field can do quickly and easily.
In my courses, my emphasis on (1) memorizing the
basic facts, structures, events, and principles, and (2) applying what
you've memorized to a new situation is about developing skill at transfer.
You've learned material in one context, and you have to apply it in
another, somewhat different context. Even so, transfer is hard. It
is worth repeating: transfer is hard.
How do you learn transfer? You take each thing you
know, and you consider how it connects to everything else you know. You
practice this kind of thinking in different contexts. You take any
new thing you've learned, and you go through your daily life and other
classes and consider what else uses the same concept, structure, or
fact. Then think about whether the connection gives you any new insights.
Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Sounds simple. Takes practice. If you
can achieve transfer, and do it in multiple contexts and increasingly
complex ways, then you'll be a creative, innovative, and 'outside the box'
thinker for your entire life. You'll also do well on my exams.
to Seven Rules for Learning]
Last updated 9/01/2009
College of William and
Mary, Department of Biology