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How to Transfer Learning – Active Reviewing Tips issue 2.7


Active Reviewing Tips is a monthly ezine created by Roger Greenaway. For subscription information see the end of this article.

WELCOME to new readers - especially those who attended my reviewing skills training workshop at XCL - and showed a special interest in the Transfer of Learning - the subject of this issue. I have collected and created a lot of material on the topic of 'learning transfer' so I will be spreading it out over future issues. There are too many 'tips' to squash into one ezine!

OBSERVANT readers will notice that this July issue has crept into August - something to do with holidays. The August issue of Active Reviewing Tips will appear later this month. It is tempting to follow the practice of printed magazines and call this the 'October' issue, but I will not confuse you further. Nor will I rob northern hemisphere readers of your summer!

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Most readers of this publication would lose their jobs if transfer of learning was not taking place. Transfer is a vital issue. Do you give it sufficient attention? What do you actually do to encourage it?

In this issue I describe methods that are closely based on the metaphor of 'transfer'. This metaphor can be a source of good ideas, but it is also a very limiting one - as I explain later.

If you happen to work with adults, your first challenge is to 'transfer' the methods below from a 'youth' context into an adult one. The easiest way to do this is to mentally delete all references to 'young'!

If you would rather go straight to transfer methods used with adults, you will find 'warm seat' described at you will find several much more active methods described in my 'Active Reviewing' article at

The ideas below are based on books that I have already published - described at

Future issues of Active Reviewing Tips will include new unpublished material about how to transfer learning.

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Imagine a group of people trying to cross a river. The near bank represents the course they have just attended. The far bank represents what they are going back to.

How do they get across the river? What do they carry back with them?

Memories? Metaphors? Energy? Ideas? Diaries? Resolutions?
Plans? Reports? Stronger relationships? More confidence?
More optimism? More understanding? Different attitudes?
Changed behaviour? New choices?

Whatever they carry, how long will it last?

Learning and development can be transferred in many ways and at many levels.

Offering a variety of methods increases the chances of each person getting across the 'river' with something worth carrying and something that will last.

Reviewing throughout a course develops people's abilities to learn and 'connect' at many different levels.

If participants take home an improved ability to make connections, then they will be better able to connect back to their course experience whenever they need to.

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SOUNDTRACK is a visual method of transferring learning from one situation to another.

Young people may find it difficult to believe that an activity such as making an animal out of newspaper has anything to do with helping them to get on better with their parents. They may find it equally difficult to believe that abseiling down a waterfall can help them to get a job. If there are any connections to be made between activity-based learning and situations outside the course, then 'soundtrack' is an effective method for bringing out these potential connections.



The most important feature of 'soundtrack' is that is designed to find the most specific level at which transfer can happen. Using the paper animal (just mentioned) as an example, it could be said (at a very general level) that the activity increased a young person's confidence with the result that they now have the confidence to talk more openly with their parents.

A more specific level of transfer would result from (for example) finding out that (a) there were similarities between the group conflict during the activity and the kind of conflict experienced at home, and that (b) the young person played a key part in resolving the conflict during the activity.

'Soundtrack' helps the young person to produce a 'script' summarising their achievement (in this example their achievement in resolving the conflict), and then helps them to identify parallels with another situation in which their successful strategy can be applied.


The ideal starting point for 'soundtrack' is immediately following a significant individual or group achievement. (The 'individual' examples provided can be readily adapted for groups.) The experience may have already been partly reviewed. The satisfied participants may already be thinking about repeating the experience in some way. But the chances are that they are thinking about repeating the *activity* rather than about repeating the *experience*.



Tell (for about 2 minutes) or write the outline story of your expedition and divide the story into about six stages. (Alternatively base this on one significant event from the expedition.)

Make a strip CARTOON (one picture for each stage) with the story below each picture and with speech or thought bubbles above each picture. The bubbles should capture the essence of what you were saying or thinking at the time.

Now try to draw a new strip cartoon above the expedition story,
using as many of the bubbles as possible, and changing as few words as possible. (The new strip cartoon might be about fundraising, campaigning, organising a youth or sports club, setting up a business).

A four part bubble sequence might read:

1) We could never do it! How could we get the money and equipment?

2) We've achieved the impossible already - just getting everything set up and ready to go. Let's hope it all works out.

3) I'd never have made it if it wasn't for the others - that's what we all said. It was a brilliant team effort.

4) There's not many people who thought we'd go through with it all. They said we didn't have the experience - but now we have!



1) Sketch your climbing route on A4 paper.

2) Overlay transparent plastic and add bubbles to show what you were saying and thinking at different points of the climb.

3) Add comments from spectators if they affected you in any way.

4) Lift off the plastic film, and talk with a partner about other situations (in your own experience) which this pattern of words could fit. If none come to mind, then wipe off some words (starting with those specific to climbing) until you can think of one.

5) Describe or sketch the similar situation. See how the words fit and discuss any similarities and differences.

6) Choose a future occasion in which there are likely to be challenges or difficulties (next activity or "back home") and produce a sketch or strip cartoon (including speech and thought bubbles) to show how you would like things to work out.

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'Copy and paste' is how we 'transfer' text from one electronic document to another. The text may look a bit different in its new location. So we might choose to alter the content or layout of the text so that it 'fits' or 'works' better in its new surroundings.

How closely do these metaphors about transfer represent what actually happens when we try to take what we have learned into the future?

'Copy', 'paste' and 'transfer' are all metaphors that help us to communicate in a useful but *inaccurate* way about the complex processes that are going on underneath. Because they are metaphors they don't describe what is really happening. Fortunately, we don't need to know anything about binary code and computer electronics in order to 'copy and paste' in word processing. And we don't need to know anything about the biochemistry of the brain in order to transfer learning (or help others do so).

For example, there were many successful experiential learners around before 'Right Brain - Left Brain' theory came on the scene. And many people were using their multiple intelligences before the theory of 'Multiple Intelligences' was developed.

But I hope I have said enough to remind you that 'transfer' is a simple label for a complex phenomenon. We should not allow the images conjured up by the word 'transfer' to limit what we actually do to make 'transfer' happen. The practical ideas and tips in later issues on this topic will come from both within and beyond the 'transfer' metaphor.

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Thanks for the positive feedback received about issue 2.6 on ''reviewing with large groups''. If you missed it, you can find a copy of this and other back issues at:

If you just want the 'large groups' section without the rest of the ezine, you will now find a better presented version at: http://reviewing/toolkit/large_groups.htm

By the way, critical feedback is welcome too!

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Please write in with your own experiences of trying out ideas from Active Reviewing Tips - however things worked out. If you would like to write in on any ''reviewing'' topic please send your message to [email protected] (for private messages) or to [email protected] (for publication). If there is any doubt, I will always contact you to ask your permission before publishing anything you write.

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It doesn't exist yet, but I might set one up if there is sufficient interest from readers of this ezine. If so, I will start one up some time in the year 2000 - in addition to this newsletter. As a fan of interactive reviewing methods, a more interactive list could be a good route to follow. What do you think? If you would like to take part in a discussion list on active reviewing please send a blank email to ONE of the three addresses below:

[email protected] for a simple yes vote
[email protected] if you favour an 'unmoderated' list
[email protected] if you favour a 'moderated' list

PLEASE NOTE: This is just a survey. Sending an email to one of the above addresses is simply an expression of interest and does not commit you (or me) to anything. Except that I will publish the numbers of votes in the next issue. (For a 'no' vote just do nothing!)

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Action, Activity, Expressive, Photo, Horticulture, Occupational, Psychodrama and Drama, Writing/Narrative, Animal Assisted, Art, Dance/Movement, Recreational, Experiential, Music, Massage, Mind-Body, Meditation, Play, Bibliotherapy, Poetry, Adventure ...

Christian Itin's page 'Experiential Practice in Social Work' is probably the most extensive list of therapy links on the web - even though it is apparently still 'under construction'.

In case you have not followed this 'thread' in previous issues, I am including therapy links in Active Reviewing Tips because many of these therapies (perhaps even horticulture!) can be a great source of ideas for active reviewing - where the emphasis is learning rather than healing.

Rehab and Therapy Online Mall is Charlie Dixon's new therapy site:

Let us know if you use or convert any ideas from therapy into active reviewing methods. Perhaps you have already done so? Write to: [email protected]

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Not a lot to report during this holiday season. But you will now find that the home page is much improved - both in looks and content. When I look back at my home page of six months ago I am very pleased with the changes. When I look at other home pages I feel there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Regular readers will notice a familiar theme creeping in here! Measuring progress against the past can often be of greater benefit than measuring progress towards a goal. Looking back helps you to appreciate how much you are learning. The trick for every learner is to find the right balance between looking backwards and looking forwards.

If you do find your way to my new home page (, tell me what you think of it. This opening page is intended to be more friendly and informative. So it should be less confusing for people new to the web. If it works, repeat visitors should now discover interesting and relevant pages they missed on earlier visits.

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This is really a tip for readers of my other ezine SiteFinder, but it's so good I must tell you in case you don't subscribe to both.
gives 'IQ' ratings and snappy reviews of the best performing multi-search engines. You can also check the IQ score of your current favourite engine or directory. If it's much below 150 you'll want to switch to the top-rated search engine which is currently:

Don't ask me how they do it. And don't bother trying to tell me! Just enjoy the speed and efficiency and be amazed at how quick and easy web searching has become just lately.

You'll find more hints and links on my recently updated training and education search pages at:

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Thank you to readers who have been forwarding their copies of Active Reviewing Tips - or promoting it in other ways. Circulation has now reached 421 subscribers - without any bribery! If you like what you read, please forward this issue to a friend who will appreciate receiving it. Thanks! :-)

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1. Send comments, questions or tips to: [email protected]
2. Ask a friend to subscribe: [email protected]
3. Buy ANY book online from via my coded link: I receive a commission if you buy a book via this link :-)

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Subscribe online at
or by email: [email protected]
(if this copy is not delivered direct to you)

SITEFINDER ....................... ISSN 1465-8224
Subscribe online at
or by email: [email protected]
The latest archived issue is about 'outdoor' web sites.

Both ezines are edited by Roger Greenaway.

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EDITOR: Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
9 Drummond Place Lane STIRLING Scotland UK FK8 2JF
Editor: mailto:[email protected]
Enquiries: mailto:[email protected]
The Guide to Active Reviewing


COPYRIGHT: Roger Greenaway 1999 Reviewing Skills Training
Please feel free to forward this WHOLE newsletter to a friend who would appreciate it! Please do NOT forward it to a discussion list or newsgroup (that's 'spamming'!). But please DO recommend Active Reviewing Tips to lists or newsgroups that you visit. Just copy and paste the subscribe options below with any recommendations you make. Thanks :-)

TO SUBSCRIBE to Active Reviewing Tips
(if this copy was not delivered direct to you)
send an email to mailto:[email protected]
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