Transfer of Learning: An Inquiry into the Generalizability of Metacognitive Thinking Strategies

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Carol Smith


Transfer of learning, a criteria or outcome of learning, is one of the most important goals of education, and the ultimate aim of teaching. However, over 75 years of cognitive psychology research on transfer produced mostly negative results. I will argue that this research, often based on static models of learning and memory, produced negative results because the experiments failed to take into consideration the dynamic interaction of cognitive, affective, and social variables in the learning environment. Contemporary research and theory has re-framed the transfer problem in terms of a dynamic model of learning which takes into consideration new understandings of how the mind processes information, how affective traits of learners influence cognitive processes, and how social structures and conditioning frame the whole. This paper will introduce the reader to basic definitions, history, and terms related to transfer, then discuss the cognitive, affective, and social dimensions of transfer, examine in detail the most successful program which has achieved positive transfer results, the Reciprocal Teaching program, and explain how it has achieved success. Finally, this work will suggest guidelines for how future learning designs can promote transfer of learning.


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