Conditions for Transfer

Eleanor Thonis (1983) defined transfer of learning as the application of skills, knowledge, and processes learned in one language context to another language, and noted that in a biliteracy context transfer of learning is facilitated when there is:

  • similarity in the learning conditions,
  • similarity in the learning task,
  • similarity in the expected student response,
  • a comprehensible connection between first learning and second learning, and
  • a clear understanding of rules or generalizations.

Similarity of learning conditions, task, and expected student response each imply that skills from one learning activity transfer to another as long as the critical features of the second activity resemble the first. Learners generalize from their experiences and apply what they know to the new learning. The strength and mastery of the original learning greatly influence the extent of successful new learning. (Thonis 1983) In other words, weak learning does not transfer.