By, Jenn Hayhurst
I wonder if you can relate to this. I am walking briskly to the subway turnstile, my MetroCard is out, and I’m ready to glide through the turnstile – BAM. The metal arm is locked and wont let me pass. I am stuck having to negotiate the right amount of pressure and speed to pass to the platform so I can continue on towards my destination. How can this be? I am able to swipe my debit card with no thought at all, much to my husband’s chagrin, so why can’t I swipe my MetroCard? It seems only natural that my ability for one would transfer to the other. This is my real life scenario that demonstrates the elusive nature of transfer.
On Thursday May 12, 2016 #G2Great concluded a four part series, Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. We set out to explore Teaching for Transfer Across the Instructional Day. Transfer is a complex topic for educators everywhere. Yet after an hour of good conversation I am walking away from the chat with three overarching ideas that really bring it into focus.
Demystifying Transfer: Awareness for Teachers and Students
Maximizing our instructional power potential begins by bringing clarity and intention to all that we do and transfer is no exception. Teachers who honor the importance of transfer and who actively construct understandings for themselves is the goal. When they take the next step to demystify it for their students, transfer has the power to be transformative. Generating an understanding for what transfer is and how to achieve it with our students is the work. Our planning for instruction and our emphasis on creating classroom environments fosters student ownership:
Cultivating Transfer: Intentionality for Contextual Learning
Classrooms built for transfer are more than physical spaces. They encourage intellectual and emotional experiences that invite children to apply their learning at every turn. This message came through loud and clear: the context we create for learning should work in concert with the context we create in our own learning lives. Learning is an experience and we can explore transfer through authentic engagement that is designed to be meaningful for students:
Motivating Transfer: Attitudes About Independence
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing students apply their learning in a new situation. Skillful thoughtful planning allows us to see beyond isolative learning tasks. Our work is to promote students’ understanding that learning is a meaningful endeavor. Whatever we ask of students their work, ought be driven by intrinsic desire. The work needs to spark curiosity for the learner. The student has to care about their progress if they are going to thrive:
Words like: grit, growth, mindset, ownership, and collaboration are omnipresent in school districts across our nation. What do these terms mean in terms of transfer? We are aspiring to create resilient students who embrace challenge and effort over time. It is not an easy road to work hard to learn something new. It’s that much more difficult to see the connectedness for what is being learned and then to apply learning in a new context. Now more than ever we have to build our students up and celebrate those efforts. They have to know that we believe in their potential to do amazing work. Every time they transfer their learning during their independent work they will believe it for themselves. Transfer is the work of a lifetime, hopefully we never stop learning. My emerging ability to glide in and out subway turnstiles may seem small, but it renews my faith that opportunities to learn and grow reside in the everyday. This is a miracle that needs to be shared enthusiastically again and again with our students.