Why Is Transfer Important?

Transfer is important because, well-designed, it can provide evidence that the student understands.

And if a student can transfer their learning, that means they have at least some ability to actually use what they’ve learned and understand.

Transfer is usually framed in terms of assessment, as it is a kind of marker for understanding. But considered differently, transfer can become a powerful framework to design projects, lessons, units, performance tasks, curriculum maps, self-directed learning projects, and more. It forces the student to consider important questions, including:

What do I know?

How do I know it?

Where and how can I use what I know?

(These kinds of questions are central to the TeachThought Self-Directed Learning Model.)

In short, at the core of transfer is understanding the value of information. We can push this idea further, then, to include the concepts of the adaptation and ‘movement’ of knowledge. Since transfer is, at its essence, about applying knowledge to new and unfamiliar contexts, we can personalize that transfer by seeing it differently–breaking it apart into ‘types’ of transfer. The net result, done well, is a more personalized, authentic, rigorous, and creative learning experience for students.