Transfer of learning is one of the major purposes of education. Theories and research have tried hard to answer questions such as: how does transfer occur? and how is transfer enhanced? Situated cognitive theory and research about anchored instruction together bring some positive findings. Anchored instruction provides the learner with a situated, authentic, and social learning environment, and students learn to solve problems rather than learning facts or principles. Although students are able to solve various problems in this rich context, whether they can solve problems successfully in a novel context remains to be determined. This study investigates how different knowledge abstraction strategies affect students' transfer ability. The teaching of problem-solving strategies in anchored instruction was hypothesized to help students abstract knowledge from context. An experiment was conducted with 72 Taiwanese fifth graders to compare how three different knowledge abstraction strategies affect near- and far-transfer: (1) teaching problem-solving strategies; (2) practicing various problems with self-reflection activity; and (3) no knowledge abstraction activity (control group). Results indicate that all three groups performed better on solving far-transfer problems than on solving near-transfer problems. Possible reasons for this abnormal result are discussed. Group differences were not statistically significant. Comparing group performance finds: the self-reflection group outperformed the other two groups on far-transfer and overall transfer tests; the control group did the best on near-transfer, and performed worst on far-transfer; and the problem-solving strategies group performed worse than the other two groups in overall learning transfer.
1997 Annual conference of association for educational communication and technology