Thursday, January 19, 2017

Transfer Learning in Math

Learn, Know, Students, Chalk, Children  Today I read a description about a class being offered through the state.  It is on visual learning.  The four topics covered in the class include laying the foundation, surface learning, deep learning, and transfer learning.  I've heard of the surface and deep learning but I've never seen transfer learning listed separately.

Transfer learning refers to taking the learning from one situation and applying it to another.

There are four key concepts associated with transfer learning.
1. The initial learning is important to transfer learning.  It is important students master the material during initial learning otherwise they will find it difficult to transfer their knowledge.  In addition, students need to understand the material rather than just memorizing it.  Finally, students need enough time to master and understand the topic being taught.

2. Students who understand abstract representations of the topic find it easier to transfer knowledge.  One way to help develop understanding of abstract representations is to have students solve a problem for one situation, then provide additional examples for students to solve so they work on creating and understanding abstract knowledge. 

Another way is to teach the material in a specific context and then pose several what if scenarios. The third way is to have students create a solution to a class of problems such as figuring out the best travel times for boat trips in a specific part of the country rather than for one trip. It helps to introduce material in multiple contexts rather than a single context so students develop a sense of its wider applications. This includes providing examples for each context.  

3. Transferring knowledge is an active dynamic process and should be viewed as such.  Transferring is the path between what is learned and what is being tested. Part of the process involves selecting and using strategies, knowing available resources, and feedback.  Sometimes, transference of knowledge requires prompting which can help increase the amount being transferred.  One way to improve transference is to help students become more self-aware and actively monitor their own learning.

4.  All new learning needs to be based on prior knowledge.  It is important to activate prior knowledge that many students may already have.  Second, it is possible or students to misinterpret the new knowledge by not correctly using previous knowledge incorrectly.  Finally, some of the new information may seem to be in opposition to what they already know which makes it harder to transfer knowledge.