Learning transfer

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Learning transfer describes the ability to transfer a learned problem solution to another, comparable situation. Knowledge about concrete objects or relationships acquired through learning can be applied to similar phenomena by generalizing or abstracting it. This transfer of knowledge to similar situations is called transfer in psychology and pedagogy ; (Latin: transferre = to transfer, to transfer). Hilbert Meyer speaks of networking .

Definition of terms

Some learning processes, such as ancient language and instrumental lessons , traditionally have the reputation of being particularly conducive to the development of other skills. Here, however, a distinction must be made between transfer effects, which can be traced back to the content and methods of this lesson, and the practice of good work habits . In particular, gifted children, because they rely on their ability to grasp things quickly over many years of school, often do not acquire good work habits, such as diligence and a systematic approach to mastering difficult learning materials, which they try to do hard on classmates who have learned from an early age work out, disadvantaged in the long term. In non- immersive foreign language as well as instrumental lessons, however, all content must be worked out hard and explicitly . Even highly gifted children who are implicit in other subjects , i. H. Learning apparently effortlessly can only survive in these disciplines if they practice a lot and acquire good work habits, which will later be useful to them in other areas as well.

In the case of transfer effects , it is not work habits that are practiced, but rather specific, well-founded cognitive skills.

Transfer performance in learning psychology

In learning psychology , transfer performance is a hallmark of successful learning processes. On the basis of a certain performed action, conclusions are drawn about the thought processes behind it. The learning transfer can concern individual elements or the rules or structures of a learning process. Transfer payments can be practiced systematically; this shows particularly good results in adulthood.

In order to be able to transfer newly learned courses of action, tasks or application situations to another situation, the new situation must have characteristics similar to the learning situation. Skills are required to recognize a new situation as suitable in order to be able to make a transfer. These abilities are of a cognitive nature and concern the ability to discern, the ability to generalize and to weigh with foresight the extent to which the means to be used serve the desired purpose. (In technical terms: ability to differentiate and generalize, as well as foresighted weighing of ends and means)

Theories on learning transfer in learning psychology

The American psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike (1930) developed the theory of "identical elements". According to this theory, the transfer from one task to another only takes place if common, identical elements of perception and behavior are present in both tasks.

Thorndike's theory was criticized and further developed by the psychologist Charles E. Osgood (1949). He tried to present the transfer effect on the basis of the similarity of the elements in the initial and the new learning situation (technical: as a function of stimulus and reaction similarity). The "Osgoodsche transfer plane" was named after him.

The American sociologist and developmental psychologist Charles H. Judd ( The Relation of Special Training to General Intelligence, Educational Review 36 (June 1908): 28-42 ) developed a theory on the transfer value of general solution principles. When used in the classroom, a curriculum based on a gradual, positive transfer from lower to higher learning levels is assumed.

Classification of learning transfers

With regard to the result of the transfer, a distinction is made:

  • Positive transfer : Skills that have already been learned make it easier to learn new, similar skills through a high degree of correspondence between the previous and the new learning situation. For example, anyone who can play the recorder learns the flute more easily.
  • Negative transfer : here the so-called “proactive inhibition” makes it difficult or disturbs the new to be learned, or the “retroactive inhibition” impairs a content learned earlier by the later learned. An inhibition of the existing on the new learning material takes place if z. B. a car driver in another country has to deal with left-hand traffic instead of right-hand traffic.
  • Zero transfer : has no effect on the subsequent learning. The person stands perplexed before a comparable task or situation as if he were something completely new. Mentally disabled people often suffer from this transfer weakness.

With regard to the complexity of what has been learned, a distinction is made:

  • Lateral transfer describes the application of what has been previously learned to a subject of the same complexity (Event 9 with Robert M. Gagné )
  • Vertical transfer refers to the application of what has been previously learned to a subject of higher complexity ( cumulative learning )

A similar concept is stimulus generalization in behavioral biology. It occurs when a response learned to a particular stimulus is transferred to similar stimuli.

Area-specific learning transfer

History didactics

Gerhard Schneider defines the transfer for history lessons: "the reactivation and transfer of what has already been learned and the application and use of knowledge, insights, abilities and skills that were acquired in previous teaching contexts, in new learning and extracurricular contexts". This applies, for example, to all forms of reference to the present and to longitudinal sections . He further differentiates between four forms: method transfer (reading a history map), content transfer (similarities between events), conceptual-categorical transfer (basic concepts such as revolution), transfer to understand historical-cultural objects in the everyday world.

Mathematics didactics

The mathematics education describes learning transfer as the possibility to use the result of a bill to another zurückzuschließen without having to calculate the result. If knowledge of the decimal system is the basis, for example, the result of the addition 7 + 8 can be used to infer the result of the addition of 17 + 8 directly. The ability to transfer benefits contrasts with simply reproducing results. Students with dyscalculia often lack the ability to perform cognitive transfer.

Traffic didactics

Traffic learning takes place largely in protected areas because of the dangerous nature of real traffic areas. Open spaces, official traffic training areas , game arrangements with self-constellated problem situations and solution attempts, play equipment, toy vehicles, role-playing games are used for this purpose. The basic techniques and behaviors can be practiced in a gradual approach to the conditions of real traffic. Analogous to room learning in school education, it is assumed that the learner is able to at least partially transfer physical, psychological and cognitive learning outcomes into the real situation.

Since not every conceivable requirement and dangerous situation can be practiced, we also work on selected topics in the form of exemplary learning . In the game with the Verkehrskasper , traffic problems of all kinds can be simulated , discussed, analyzed and converted into practical decision-making and action in a child-friendly manner, if the willingness of the learners to do so is developed.

The transfer of learning successes in a certain learning area cannot be guaranteed either in the school as a safety facility in general or in individual educational areas. It depends on the one hand on various factual factors such as the closeness to reality or the intensity of the exercise, and on the other hand on the learner's requirements such as intelligence , creativity or motivation . Its success is also due to the character of the freedom of human decision-making. However, its acceptance is inevitable from an educational and didactic point of view.


  • B. Kochan (Ed.): Role play as a method of social learning , Königstein 1981
  • Rolf Oerter , Leo Montada (Ed.): Developmental Psychology . 5th edition, BeltzPVU, Munich-Vienna-Baltimore 2002, ISBN 3-621-27479-0 .
  • Stefan G. Lemke: Transfer Management. Psychology and innovative management , Verlag für Angewandte Psychologie, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-8017-0854-3
  • Helmut Messner: Knowledge and Application. On the problem of transfer in class , Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-12-925531-1 .
  • Gerhard Schneider : Transfer. An attempt on retaining and applying historical knowledge, Schwalbach / Ts. 2009 ISBN 978-3-89974531-3
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz : The question of learning transfer . In: Traffic education from the child. Perceive-play-think-act . 6th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2009, pp. 280-281, ISBN 978-3-8340-0563-2 .
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Punch and Judy Theater . In this. (Ed.): On the sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5 , pp. 225–228.

Web links

Wiktionary: learning transfer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Latin makes you wise About learning errors and their causes
  2. ^ Carol S. Dweck: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids , Scientific American , November 28, 2007
  3. Manfred Spitzer: Music in the head . Listening, making music, understanding and experiencing in the neural network. 8th edition. Schattauer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7945-2427-3 , p. 325 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  4. Gerhard Schneider: Transfer: An attempt on the application and retention of historical knowledge . Wochenschau-Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-89974-531-3 ( google.de [accessed June 7, 2020]).
  5. B. Kochan (Ed.): Role play as a method of social learning . Koenigstein 1981
  6. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Kasperletheater . In: Dies .: The sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5 , pages 225–228
  7. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz: The question of learning transfer . In: Traffic education from the child. Perceive-play-think-act . 6th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2009, pp. 280-281