Surface, Deep & Transfer Learning
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"What and when are equally important when it comes to instruction that has an impact on learning.
Approaches that facilitate students' surface-level learning do not work equally well for deep learning, and vice versa.
Matching the right approach with the appropriate phase of learning is the critical lesson to be learned."
- Hattie, Fisher and Frey (Visible Learning for Mathematics, 2017)
Surface learning does not mean superficial learning. Rather, surface learning is a time when students initially are exposed to concepts, skills, and strategies. Surface learning is critical because it provides a foundation on which to build as students are asked to think more deeply.
We define deep learning as a period when students consolidate their understanding and apply and extend some surface learning knowledge to support deeper conceptual understanding . . . We think of this as a 'sweet spot' that will often take up more instructional time, but can be accomplished only when students have the requisite knowledge to go deeper.
Transfer learning [is] the point at which students take their consolidated knowledge and skills and apply what they know to new scenarios and different contexts. It is also a time when students are able to think metacognitively, reflecting on their own learning and understanding.
Source: Hattie, Fisher and Frey (Visible Learning for Mathematics, 2017)
Surface Learning Strategies
- Jigsaw method (1.2)
- Integrating prior knowledge (0.93)
- Summarization (0.79)
- Mnemonics (0.76)
- Leveraging prior knowledge (0.65)
- Vocabulary programs (0.62)
- Direct instruction (0.6)
- Organizing (0.6)
- Recordkeeping (0.52)
- Note-taking (0.5)
- Imagery (0.45)
Deep Learning Strategies
- Organizing and transforming notes (0.85)
- Classroom discussion (0.82)
- Reciprocal teaching (0.74)
- Concept mapping (0.64)
- Metacognitive strategy instruction (0.60)
- Self-questioning (0.55)
- Teacher Questioning (0.48)
- Inquiry-based teaching (0.40)
- Simulations (0.33)
Transfer Learning Strategies
- Identifying underlying similarities & differences (1.32)
- Example 1 to 5 assessment of comparison and contrast
- Transforming conceptual knowledge (0.85)
- Organizing conceptual knowledge (0.85)
- Formal discussions (0.82)
- Problem-solving teaching (0.68)
- Synthesizing information across texts (0.63); reading across documents
- Peer tutoring (0.53)
Core Teaching Factors That Influence Learning
- Teacher credibility (0.90)
- Spaced (vs. massed) practice (0.60)
- Teacher clarity (0.75)
- Cooperative learning: compared to individual (0.57); compared to competitive (0.55)
- Feedback (0.70)
- Teacher-student relationships (0.52)