Catalog Home Page

Learning across cultures: Appropriateness of knowledge transfer

Volet, S. (1999) Learning across cultures: Appropriateness of knowledge transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31 (7). pp. 625-643.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0883-0355(99)00028-2
*Subscription may be required

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the issue of transfer of cognitions, motivations, and dispositions related to learningacross different cultural-educational contexts. Research with learners from Confucian Heritage Culture, mainly from Singapore and Hong Kong, studying in their home country and as international students in Australia is used to establish the usefulness of the concept of socio-cultural appropriateness to understand transfer. The examples discussed reveal how some aspects of students learning travel extremely well and are congruent with the characteristics of learning valued in the host context, while others reflect ambivalent, difficult, or inappropriate transfer. The significance of mutual individual-context dynamic interactions, subjective nature of appropriateness, and emotional dimensions involved in transfer of learning is highlighted. Implications for educational practice in an international, multicultural perspective are outlined.

The literature on transfer of learning is replete with studies investigating the most effective ways to help learners transfer their knowledge and skills flexibly and appropriately across tasks and contexts. Overall, there is a general agreement that successful transfer of learning involves more than a cognitive match between the learner's mental baggage brought to the situation and the requirements of the transfer task or situation. The importance of the person-context mutual interactions, or the match between the individuals’ effectivities and the affordances provided by the environment has been highlighted (Snow, 1994; Greeno, 1997). Recent transfer research has also stressed that attitudes (Resnick, 1987), dispositions (Bereiter, 1995), mindfulness (Salomon & Globerson, 1987), and motivation (McKeachie, 1987) are critical components of effective transfer alongside cognitive and metacognitive aspects. In addition to person characteristics, Boekaerts’ (1997) research suggests that situation-specific cognitive, motivational and emotional appraisals of tasks and contexts also have a significant influence on learning and transfer.

Without necessarily downplaying the importance of learners’ effectivities and situation-specific appraisals, recent situated cognition research (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Resnick, 1987; Rogoff, 1990; [Greeno, 1997] and [Greeno, 1998]) has emphasized the critical impact of affordances that learning contexts and activities provide to participants (Gruber, Law, Mandl & Renkl, 1995; Gibson, 1979/1986). It has been claimed that regardless of whether the focus is theory development, applied research, or improvement of educational practice, the unit of analysis must be the person-in-context or the whole activity setting. Although some situationists (e.g., Lave, 1988) have argued that transfer of knowledge may not exist since knowledge cannot be decontextualized, most theorists recognize that transfer of learning can be socially mediated and that guided forms of learning have potential for enhancing the likelihood of transferacross tasks and contexts.

This chapter examines the effectivities–affordances interface in individuals’ transfer of cognitions, motivations, and dispositions related to learningacross broad cultural-educational contexts. Research with learners from Confucian Heritage Culture, mainly from Singapore and Hong Kong, studying in their home country and as international students in Australia is used to establish the usefulness of the concept of socio-cultural appropriateness to understand transfer.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/8143
Item Control Page