The effect of learning strategies on transfer of learning in adults



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Texas Tech University


With the rapid changes in our workplace, Americans can no longer rely completely on job experiences to keep them competent. They must seek supplementary sources to keep themselves up-to-date in their skills. One major source for updating is continuing professional education (CPE). The basic assumption of CPE is that the concepts from the classroom are readily transferred to the workplace. The ability to apply previously learned knowledge and skills to the learning (work) situation is designated by educators and psychologists as transfer of learning. Recent studies on transfer, reported in the literature, have challenged this basic assumption. For CPE to continue functioning as a viable solution for keeping professionals competent, it is crucial for educators to better understand the concept of transfer of learning. The findings of this project will help toward a better understanding of this important problem.

A number of empirical studies on transfer of learning have not confirmed transfer of learning from classroom to workplace. Some educators and cognitive psychologists believe, however, that the transfer of learning can occur by deliberately using certain elements and mechanisms when acquiring new knowledge. They describe a number of learning strategies that will either facilitate or hinder transfer of learning. This dissertation examines two of the strategies, i.e., encapsulation and integration. Encapsulation occurs when instructors present a group of concepts as a tightly linked unit without providing real functional explanations for the linkages. This may lead to inaccessible future use of the learning. Integration occurs when instructors present a group of concepts meaningfully related to one another, as well as to the learners' previous knowledge and to possible future usage.

The research study is a two experimental and one control group design using a questionnaire of different form to assess each of the groups. The participants are from intact graduate classes in a College of Education at a major southwestern university with random assignment to the treatment conditions. Analysis of covariance is used to analyze the data to determine the significance at an alpha level of .05.