Transfer of Learning: Concept and types

Concept of Transfer of learning or Training

Learning of one skill is used in another skill is the transfer of learning. Eg. Learning hockey and the skills used in cricket

Transfer of learning is one of the major goals of modern education. Education is worthwhile if it can be transferred

Definition of Transfer of learning

  1. According to Crow and Crow: “The carry over of habits of thinking, feelings or working of knowledge or skills from one learning areas to another is usually referred to as Transfer of learning”
  2. According to Sorenson: “ Transfer is refers to the transfer of knowledge, training and habits acquired in one situation to another situation”
  3. Acoording to Judd : “ Transfer is a form of generalization”
  4. According to Guthrie: “ Transfer may be defined as a process of extending and applying behaviour”

Characteristics of the transfer of learning:

  1. All education should partake of the nature of the transfer. The curriculum must be practical and must make provisions for transfer to out of classroom situations, knowledge, habits, skills, abilities and attitudes acquired in the classroom
  2. Subject matter must be chosen in terms of the learner’s present and future needs. The subject matter should point towards a way of life, fundamental of which are mastered in such a way that the learner can apply them progressively in the varied experiences of his life.
  3. The transfer is dependent upon the teaching and learning methods. The transfer is also enhanced by motivation. There is convincing evidence that powerful motivation and the desire to succeed aids transfer. Thus, if people work without the desire to enhance the amount of transfer, no transfer will take place.
  4. Transferability of learning outcomes depends upon the pupil’s readiness and willingness to learn. The transfer is enhanced by an emphasis on the principle of generalisation. It depends upon the ability of the individual to generalize past experience acquired in one situation and to apply it to new situations.
  5. Teaching has less transfer value unless facts, habits, skills and attitudes are generalized and related to other situations in which they can be utilized.
  6. Transfer of learning is to a considerable degree determined by intelligence.

Types of Transfer of learning or Training

The following are the different types of transfer of Learning

Positive Transfer: Transfer is said to be positive when something previously learnt benefits performance or learning in a new situation. Eg. Knowledge of typing is helpful in learning computer typing

Negative Transfer: In case the previous learning hinders or block or interfere with performance or learning in a new situation. We call it negative transfer. Eg. Having learned to pronounce ‘but’ correctly, what happens later on when a similar type of spelling ‘put’ when this thing cropped up affects the children in a negative manner. Or Pronunciation of mother tongue becomes obstacles while pronouncing of English language

Zero Transfer: When learning of one activity neither facilitates nor interferes with the learning of new work it is said to be zero transfer. Eg. There may be zero transfer between English Language and mathematics.

Vertical Transfer: When one lesson facilitates in understanding for another lesson in a subject is called vertical transfer eg. Habits and values of the family influence the child to adopt them in his daily life

Horizontal Transfer: When knowledge of one subject helps in understanding the other subject. Eg. Knowledge of the history of the Vedic period helps in understanding the literature of that period, it is called horizontal transfer.

Bilateral Transfer: When the training given to one part of the body is transferred to another part is called bilateral transfer. Eg. Writing with the right hand may be transferred to the left one

Unilateral Transfer: When the learning stored in one area is required by another area with the latter not sending its responses back, it is unilateral transfer.


we can conclude from the above points, If there were no transfers, students would need to be taught every act that they would ever perform in any situation. Because the learning situation often differs from the context of the application, the goal of training is not accomplished unless transfer occurs. All the learning involves transfer based on previous learning.

It is the very essence of understanding, interacting and creating that is the ultimate aim of learning and teaching. This underlines the very nature of the importance of transfer of learning.

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