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.

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Last updated  9/01/2009
College of William and Mary, Department of Biology