Transfer is the ability to apply what was learned to new situations – especially situations outside of the formal learning environment.
We’ve all seen it: A student or employee who has been taught a specific lesson or skill but when the teaching or training ends, they seem to either forget what they learned or fail to understand how to apply what they now know. In the field of education, this is referred to as a failure to transfer knowledge.
Debriefing is an essential aspect of learning that involves reflecting on experiences, thoughts, and feelings after a lesson or training session, or even a specific event. In both the classroom and the workplace, debriefing can improve lesson transfer. Transfer is considered the pinnacle of all education because without it, the learning will only be applicable in the exact environment in which it occurred.
Here are some techniques that can be used for debriefing to improve transfer:
Reflecting on a lesson involves thinking about and also discussing what was learned and how it can be applied in the future or in different environments. In the classroom, this can be done through writing assignments, group discussions, or individual reflection. In the workplace, this can be done through post-project evaluations, team meetings, or individual reflection.1
Reviewing key points through a slightly different lens helps to reinforce what was learned and identifies areas that need further improvement. Summing up the key points of the training or lesson is good – but even better if the summation comes from the learners instead of the trainer. In the classroom and the workplace, this can be done through having the learner reframe and review the lesson by using analogies and metaphors.2
Discussing challenges and successes as it pertains to the topic being learned helps to identify personal areas of strength and weakness, and can help learners formulate solutions to any residual problems. In the classroom, this can be done through group discussions, writing assignments, or individual reflection. In the workplace, this can be done through team meetings, break out groups, and even online forums.3
Identifying transferable skills helps the learner see the big picture and how what was learned can be applied in other situations – especially through the lens of what matters to the learner. When applying the learner’s perspective of why the content matters, the learner creates a sense of ownership over the information. In the classroom and in the workplace, this can be done through group discussions, individual reflection, or follow up tasks associated with both the lesson and the interest of the learner.4
Debriefing can have a significant impact on lesson transfer and can help individuals not only understand, but also retain what was learned for a longer period. Through the use of these techniques at the end of a class or training session, you will an improvement in how your students or employees use their newfound knowledge beyond the learning environment.
- Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). Reflection: Turning experience into learning. Kogan Page Publishers.
- Stenger, M. (2017). 10 Ways to Improve Transfer of Learning. OpenColleges.edu.au
- Moon, J. A. (2004). A handbook of reflective and experiential learning: Theory and practice. Routledge.
- Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic books.