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The transfer problem in computing education #Education #Learning #Programming @andyjko @Medium

Andy J. Ko writes in Medium about problem of educational knowledge transfer when it comes to programming. In one sense, the entire point of school is transfer: we learn ideas in one context (school) that we then take into another (the broader world).

For school to be valuable, it has to prepare students with knowledge that is not only valuable in the new contexts they’ll encounter, but that they can also readily apply in the broader world. For example, something about a student learning Java throughout a 4-year degree should result in a new hire at Microsoft quickly thriving in a role requiring C#.

And the concepts a secondary student learns by making in Scratch should, ideally, transfer to their first programming class in college. And all of this should be true because of something essential about school that wouldn’t have happened if someone learned outside of school.

Are these skills being transferred? Typically no.

  • For knowledge to transfer at all, it has to be learned well in the first place. School rarely provides enough practice or feedback for such mastery.
  • For knowledge to be transferred to diverse contexts, it has to be understood both abstractly and concretely. Because of how learning works, it’s necessary to start with concrete, and challenging to get learners to abstract.
  • Metacognition is key, both for initial learning, and because transfer is an active process, not a passive one. Unfortunately, metacognitive skills in most learners are underdeveloped.
  • For knowledge to be transferable, it needs to be learned in more than just one context. That’s hard when the broader context is school, the smaller context is a specific class, and the even smaller context is a specific genre of problems in a class that might not represent authentic contexts in the world. School can provide multiple contexts in which to learn one thing, but it can’t provide authentic contexts.

Read more about approaching this in the article in Medium.

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