The word transfer is used to describe the effects of past learning upon present acquisition. In the laboratory and in the outside world, how well and how rapidly we learn anything depends to a large extent upon the kinds and amount of things we have learned previously.

In simple way transfer may be defined as “the partial or total application or carryover of knowledge, skills, habits, attitudes from one situation to another situation”.

Hence, carryover of skills of one learning to other learning is transfer of training or learning. Such transfer occurs when learning of one set of material influences the learning of another set of material later. For example, a person who knows to drive a moped can easily learn to drive a scooter.

Types of Transfer of Learning:

There are three types of transfer of learning:

1. Positive transfer:

When learning in one situation facilitates learning in another situation, it is known as positive transfer. For example, skills in playing violin facilitate learning to play piano. Knowledge of mathematics facilitates to learn physics in a better way. Driving a scooter facilitates driving a motorbike.

2. Negative transfer:

When learning of one task makes the learning of another task harder- it is known as negative transfer. For example, speaking Telugu hindering the learning of Malayalam.

Left hand drive vehicles hindering the learning of right hand drive.

3. Neutral transfer:

When learning of one activity neither facilitates nor hinders the learning of another task, it is a case of neutral transfer. It is also called as zero transfer.

For example, knowledge of history in no way affects learning of driving a car or a scooter.

Theory of generalization of experience:

This theory was developed by Charles Judd. Theory of generalization assumes that what is learnt in task ‘A’ transfers to task ‘B’, because in studying ‘A’, the learner develops a general principle which applies in part or completely in both ‘A’ and ‘B’.

Experiences, habits, knowledge gained in one situation help us to the extent to which they can be generalized and applied to another situation.

Generalization consists of perceiving and understanding what is common to a number of situations. The ability of individuals to generalize knowledge varies with the degree of their intelligence.

Along with food, air and other necessities of life, experience has also greatly helped the humans in surviving the harsh conditions and trying to prevent further mishaps by preparing for the expected ones. It works because experiences and the knowledge gained from one situation can be generalized, modified and applied to another situation in the life.

This theory of the generalization of experience was developed by Charles Judd. According to this theory, it can be assumed that, whenever, when one performs a particular task, he gains experience from it, turns it into generalization and apply this experience to another task. In some cases, this experience proves to be far more useful than the face to face training, no matter whether he is an employee or a college student.

On the way, as one gains more and more understanding of the common problems, it becomes easier for him to start perceiving and deducting the solutions. This capability of individuals to generalize knowledge differs from person to person, in accordance with their degrees of intelligence.

The Importance of Transfer

From both theoretical and practical points of view, however, the principle of transfer is important for understanding  the  effects  of  practice  on  performance. This is perhaps best exemplified by recent advances  in  our  understanding  of  how  expertise develops  in  sport.  Experts  often  display  developmental histories that are characterized by participating in many other sports. Transfer of learning is an obvious explanation for such a phenomenon. Experts, for example, are better than non-experts at  recalling  patterns  of  play  from  not  only  their own  sport  but  also  sports  in  which  they  are  not expert,  suggesting  that  learning  to  recognize  patterns  of  play  in  one  sport  transfers  to  another  to some extent.

With  respect  to  motor  tasks,  the  consensus probably  is  that,  although  transfer  is  generally positive when it comes to motor tasks, the effects are  trivial  unless  the  tasks  are  almost  duplicates. Nevertheless, the principle of transfer implies that the practice of one skill will affect the learning of subsequent  skills,  which  suggests  that  sequencing skills to be learned in a logical progression is important  when  designing  training  protocols  or programs. For example, when physical educators, coaches, or therapists teach motor skills in school, at  a  club,  or  during  rehabilitation,  they  often follow the simple-to-complex rule so that learners progress from fundamental skills through to complex skills that require mastery of the basic skills. Additionally,  the  principle  of  transfer  informs diversity  of  instructional  and  training  methods. Modern  technology  is  advancing  so  quickly,  for instance, that surgeons are able to train on simulators that mimic more and more of the underlying  similarities  of  real  surgery  on  actual  patients. Thus, the costs and the risks associated with training can be largely reduced. Indeed, virtual reality training, which allows practice of a skill in three dimensional, computer-generated environments, is becoming more accessible and thus more popular, as a training procedure that relies on the principle of  transfer.  Finally,  the  principle  of  transfer  provides the best assessment of the effectiveness of a practice routine or instruction method. For sports coaches,  the  transfer  test  is  whichever  game  or competition that the team or the athlete was preparing for. For piano teachers, the transfer test may be next week’s recital at school. For physical therapists, the transfer test may take place the moment the  patient  leaves  the  clinic  or  perhaps  later  at home.  Performance  in  the  transfer  test,  whatever the test may be, is the true test of practice.

Classroom Implications of Transfer of Learning

1. The teacher should know that transfer of learning will not take place when both the old and new are unrelated. Hence, the teacher should endeavor to teach his/her subject-matter in a more meaningful and detailed way rather than by rote.

2. The teacher should provide the opportunity for his/her students to practice a subject-matter being discussed along with him/her. When the learners are allowed to take active part in teaching learning activities, they will be able to repeat the task at another time.

3. For a transfer of learning to take place, the teacher should always emphasize the relationship that exists between one subjectmatter and another.

4. The teacher should endeavor to develop positive attitudes towards a learning task so that the students can be motivated to like the task rather avoiding it.

5. It is believed that what students see, touch, feel or manipulate will be better remembered than the one they are not familiar with. Hence, for a meaningful transfer of learning to take place, the teacher should incorporate exercises that task the various senses of learners in the learning process.