[ABCs of SPED] K is for Knowledge Transfer

abcs of sped May 09, 2018

Have you ever been asked to give a speech? Did it make you shudder with anxiety? I might be one of the few crazy people out there who loves public speaking. I know, however, that most people don't. 

Why is it that someone can have a conversation with me one-on-one, and can share all sorts of facts and opinions and ideas, but when they get in front of a crowd they don't seem to know anything at all?

Why is it that in some contexts we can perform certain skills, but in other contexts these skills evade us?

This issue is caused by a breakdown in the transfer of learningAnd this idea, knowledge transfer, is the K in our ABCs of SPED blog series!

So what is Knowledge Transfer, as it relates to education? It's the ability to apply acquired knowledge and learned skills to new situations or contexts.

And it's one of the ultimate goals of our educational system! After all, is it any good if a student can label coins on a worksheet but can't count out the correct change at the grocery store?

Knowledge transfer, or transfer of learning, is what allows students to put the skills they learned in the classroom into practice in other subjects, and more importantly, in the real world.

So how do we encourage transfer of learning for our students? Here are a few ideas:

  • Utilize work-based learning, service-learning and community-learning opportunities. There is no greater way for students to learn to put their skills into practice than by giving them the opportunity to practice! If a student is working on life skills in the classroom, they should also be working on life skills in the community-- go to a laundromat, the grocery store, ride the bus...whatever!
  • Connect concepts and material to real-life situations and problems. One of my favorite ways to introduce a new concept is to present a video or article of a current event that deals with that concept. For example, if I'm working with a student on handwriting, I might start the session with a news segment about how many people get the wrong prescription each year because of doctors' poor handwriting. Not only does this create engagement for the student, it also allows them to see 1) how the skill can be used outside of school and 2) the importance of perfecting the skill (i.e. "we don't learn this to get a good grade, we learn this because it's important in the real world").
  • Have the student become the teacher. One way to ensure that a student is really getting an idea down pat is to have them teach someone else (another student or an adult) how to do something. By taking the student out of their typical role (as a learner), it encourages them to interact with the material in a new and distinct way.
  • Teach integrated. My best piece of advice? Do away with the hard and fast definitions of what's "English" or "Science" and teach all subjects in all contexts (in ways that make sense). Can't every dinner involve math (measurement), science (mixing ingredients to make new ones), reading (get out the recipe book!) and even history (how has our food changed since the industrial revolution)? Look for opportunities to re-teach, reinforce, and add in concepts from other subjects, even when focusing on one subject in particular. It creates a holistic approach to teaching that not only supports transfer of knowledge, it's also fun!

Have you ever thought about how to help your student(s) transfer their knowledge and skills from one context to the next? If so, I'd love to hear your strategies! Jump on over to our Facebook group to share!

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