Learning Might Transfer Back to the Job … But Not to Other Endeavors
Learning Chess won’t transfer to Strategic Business Planning.
And this leads me to the conclusion that resilience (or whatever you want to call it) doesn’t really exist as a teachable skill.
And that’s my conclusion. People are no more resilient than they are lazy. No one is lazy at doing what they most enjoy and no one – or vanishing few people – resiliently stick at stuff they think is pointless and stupid. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but in the ability to start over.” We make calculations about how much effort to invest based on our feelings, the approval of those around us, the carrots and sticks waved at us and a multitude of other imponderables.
Of course, we don’t want children to give up when things get tough. We all probably need to be a bit better at sucking it up and getting on with chores. I love, Housman’s advice: “Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.” But still, I tend to think we need to offer more than ale. My suggestion is simply this: if you want someone to be resilient, first ask, at what? Then help them improve their performance at whatever it is: getting better at something is the best way to improve motivation.
Transfer From Here to There? Or From Here and Up?
Chapter: 3 Learning and Transfer
Early research on the transfer of learning was guided by theories that emphasized the similarity between conditions of learning and conditions of transfer. Thorndike (1913), for example, hypothesized that the degree of transfer between initial and later learning depends upon the match between elements across the two events. The essential elements were presumed to be specific facts and skills. By such an account, skills of writing letters of the alphabet are useful to writing words (vertical transfer). The theory posited that transfer from one school task and a highly similar task (near transfer), and from school subjects to nonschool settings (far transfer), could be facilitated by teaching knowledge and skills in school subjects that have elements identical to activities encountered in the transfer context (Klausmeier, 1985).
And Then On To Another Area…
The importance of initial learning is illustrated by a series of studies designed to assess the effects of learning to program in the computer language LOGO. The hypothesis was that students who learned LOGO would transfer this knowledge to other areas that required thinking and problem solving (Papert, 1980). Yet in many cases, the studies found no differences on transfer tests between students who had been taught LOGO and those who had not (see Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1996; Mayer, 1988).
Motivation affects the amount of time that people are willing to devote to learning. Humans are motivated to develop competence and to solve problems; they have, as White (1959) put it, “competence motivation.” Although extrinsic rewards and punishments clearly affect behavior (see Chapter 1), people work hard for intrinsic reasons, as well.
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