Sameness and Difference in Transfer

What Is Transfer?

Transfer of learning can be described as the process  to which past experiences affect learning and performance in a new situation. Transfer theory is to consider how individuals transfer learning in one context to another similar context.

What Is Learned?

If we think of transfer in terms of considering how learners do something in a situation thanks to having done something similar in a previous situation. From an educational point of view, Marton makes us consider that the learner may be able to do something different in other situations, thanks to perceived differences (and also the similarities) between situations.

So in nursing we may relate to past experience to deal with a clinical situation. This can be a positive aspect where we can be systematic and provide effective and timely interventions. The nurse educator needs to train staff to follow process (such as the A-E of assessment in clinical deterioration), to avoid our ‘priors’ making us think this situation is identical to a past experience, we may miss something new related to this unique situation.

Historical origins and culture of transfer

The Behaviour Paradigm: Thorndike (1913) the human mind makes “particular reactions to particular situations” (pg 249). Do not expect learning something specific to have a general effect on other things. “Learning is conceived as the constitution of bonds between stimuli (features of the environment) and responses (reactions of the learner)”.

The Cognitivist Approach: Judd (1908) where learning involves the constitution of more and more powerful representations of the world around us.

The Functionalist View: Lave (1988) provides the metaphor of knowledge, as a set of tools stored in the memory of the learner for use in different situations.

Situated learning suggests that what surrounds the learning event is also important in understanding learning.


“Transfer is about people being able to do similar things in different sitautions because of similarities between those situations. The key aim is that “by learning (now) how to learn (in the future), learners will be better able to cope with novel situations”.


Marton, F. (2006). Sameness and difference in transfer. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499-535.

Blended Synchronous Learning

Journal Club Article: Bower, M., Kenney, J., Dalgarno, B., Lee, M. J., Kennedy, G. E., Carter, H., … & Hedberg, J. (2013). Blended synchronous learning: Patterns and principles for simultaneously engaging co-located and distributed learners. Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite.


The traditional view of learning is of the on-campus University experience is changing, with students wholly or partially participating away from their institution (Gosper et al, 2008). Factors such as lifestyle demands of work, financial and social commitments mean universities now need to find new ways of engaging students irrespective of their geographic location.

The Answer?

“Blended synchronous learning approaches use media-rich synchronous technologies to enable remote and face-to-face students to co-participate in live classes”. The challenge is to provide collaborative learning activities in blended learning to ensure a social constructivist pedagogy is delivered.

Synchronous or Asynchronous?

Distance students have primarily been supported through asynchronous resources such as recorded lectures, electronic documents, discussion forums and course content delivery through a learning management system. But this does not provide vital real-time conversations, so a synchronous and multi-modal approach needs to be delivered.


Media-rich synchronous technologies such as:

  • Video conferencing (Skype, Google Hangout).
  • Web conferencing (Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate).
  • Virtual worlds (Second Life, Minecraft).

Learning: Student Tasks

  • Collaboration evaluation.
  • Group questioning.
  • Class discussion.
  • Problem solving.
  • Role play.
  • Collaborative design.

Teacher Needs

  • Extensive preparation.
  • Clear instructions.
  • Flexibility.
  • Student preparation.
  • Support staff.

Pro’s of Blended Learning

  • Equity of access.
  • Flexible course.
  • Technology aids work ready skills.
  • Continues a collaborative approach to learning.


  • Preparation for student and teacher to be prepared, don’t assume everyone is tech savvy.
  • Minimal software requirement, which may add to costs.
  • Broadband can effect user experience in the online learning world, may disrupt teaching sessions.
  • Capturing real time and ensuring quality online delivery.
  • Difficult to manage remote and face-to-face demands on the teacher (may need a support person to manage the online world).


Blended learning can provide a synchronous learning experience that allows the community of practice to continue. Resources are needed for the technology, training and supports required to deliver a quality education program. The question of relevance in the vocational setting such as healthcare needs to be researched to question if blended learning can really replace hands on training and if nurses are actually ready for this approach.


Bower, M., Kenney, J., Dalgarno, B., Lee, M. J., Kennedy, G. E., Carter, H., … & Hedberg, J. (2013). Blended synchronous learning: Patterns and principles for simultaneously engaging co-located and distributed learners. Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite.

Nursing Education Network (2016) Blended Learning

Blended Synchronous Learning (2017)

Experiential Learning from Five Perspectives

Journal Club: Fenwick, T. J. (2001). Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives. Information Series No. 385.

Experiential Learning


The importance for the educator in understanding the adult learner and their experience in a world of lifelong learning, workplace learning, informal learning and self-directed learning. Experiential learning means a process of human cognition (or to learn).

Three main perspectives of experiential learning exist:

  1.  Phenonomenological: use of reflection to analyse self (Schon, Kolb and Bould).
  2.  Critical Theory: use of critical self reflection (Habermas, Mezirow, Foucault and Friere).
  3.  Situated and Action Theory: the role of cultural action and power (Lave and Wenger).

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ― John Dewey

Five orientations on experiential learning in adult education are explored by Fenwick.

Reflection: Constructivism

Reflection is the most prevalent understanding of experiential learning. Reflecting and interpreting lived experience, and then transferring this understanding to new situations. Kolb (1984) theory of  learning through the cognitive process by integrating their ‘concrete’ emotional experiences with reflection. “The learner takes some time for reflective observation. The learner asks of the experience: What did I observe? What was I aware of? What does this experience mean to me? How might this experience have been different?”

Schon’s reflection theory focuses on everyday action by professional workers. Reflection-in-action” and “reflection-on-action” provides critical reflection on what informs practice and how they develop or hinder workplace practices.

Some constructivist theorists:

Interference: Psychoanalytic Perspective

Educational analyses are drawn from the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. “The inside world is configured by knowledge dilemmas, these unfold through struggles between the unconscious and the conscious mind”. Learning and desire to learn are considered enmeshed, in that as we learn we may learn to desire to learn more. Lacan (1978) learning theory of experience is where the psychic mind meets the external world, where understanding self, ego, unconsciousness and reality are explored and where the problem is attempted to be solved.

Participation: Situative Perspective

“Knowing and learning are defined as engaging in changing processes of human activity in a particular community. Knowledge is not a substance to be ingested and then transferred to new situations, but part of the process of participation in the immediate situation”. Lave and Wenger (1991) state that learning is entwined participating an interacting with the community. The objective is to become an active participant in this ‘community of practice’.

Simulation provides the possibility of designing environments that promote embodied, situative learning. A simulation or case study can be ways top integrate learning whilst tackling work problems.

Resistance: Critical Cultural

Critical cultural perspectives focus on power, and the relations in human cultural systems. Political, historical, cultural and gender provide conflicting perspectives and practices in critical cultural perspectives. Learning occurs informally and incidentally in everyday life, and some of the most powerful learning occurs as people try to make sense during the struggle against oppression (Foley, 1999). The need for individualism in learning, through choice and learning needs.

Some critical cultural theorists:

C0-Emergence: Enactivist Perspective

“Enactivism is a theory explaining the co-emergence of learner and setting. Enactivism explores how cognition and environment becomes simultaneously enacted through experiential learning” (Maturana and Varela, 1987; Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1991). The person and context are deemed inseparable, influencing systems. As learners participate, they adapt, develop and learn, their behaviours then effect and change the systems themselves. An environment and learner approach is central to the process of cognition in the enactivist perspective.

For The Educator

As the educator consider these perspectives on experiential learning and if the issues of reflection, inferences, participation, power and co-emergence are raised in your education setting. Do your beliefs of adult learning experience and learning match the education philosophy of your workplace?


Fenwick, T. J. (2001). Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives. Information Series No. 385.


John Dewey: Educational Philosopher

Experiential learning & Critical Thinking

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ― John Dewey

Education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. Education and learning are deemed social and interactive processes, where school is considered as a social institution and social reform is undertaken. Students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning journey and be allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum. In other words, remove the passive role of student and create an enquiry and problem based education system. The difference between the traditional ‘cultural heritage’ school to the new ‘learner focused’ school, provides a learning environment for an ever changing society.

Concepts of Teaching

Central to Dewey’s system is experience. Sound educational experiences involves connectivity and interaction between the learner and what is actually learned. The educator needs to build worthwhile learning experiences and shape theses learning experiences through the surroundings, both physical and social.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey

Traditional education is based around information and skills that have been worked out in the past, so the question is how to prepare for a future where we are not even certain of the jobs that will be required in the future. So for Dewey, a student with a the capacity to learn, with critical thinking skills and an inquiring mind is the focus of learning. Education and social change involves finding a new path and not returning to a beaten path.

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” ― John Dewey

Progressive education aims to ‘connect education with experience’.

Keywords: Dewey; Learner focused; Enquiry; Education: Experience.


Dewey, J. (1986). Experience and education. In The Educational Forum (Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 241-252). Taylor & Francis Group.

Goodreads (2016) John Dewey Quotes

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.

Wikipedia (2017) John Dewey

Book Club: Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

Book: Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York, 56.

Summary: The education practised in schools in modern societies is based on education from the industrial age. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the year this book was wrote makes it irrelevant, the topics are still very relevant today, using learning networks to connect and learn. Illich critiques school as a form of institutionalised education and makes the reader really contemplate the role of school and the teacher. Everyone has some story regarding their experience of school and often we have strong ideas on the form and purpose of  the schooling we believe in.

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

Illich proposes 4 Learning Networks (Wikipedia, 2016):

  1. Reference services to educational objects: access to formal learning such as libraries or museums.
  2. Skill exchange: individuals record their skills, conditions they wish to model with others who may want to learn these skills and a contact method.
  3. Peer-matching: a communications network where an individual can engage in finding an appropriate skills partner.
  4. Reference services to educators: access to a network of educators with conditions of their skills and preferences.

Areas of Particular Interest:

  • Background of traditional education in industrialised society and relevance in today’s modern society
  • Link to health and in particular the medicalisation of death, very interesting reminder that in recent history society died in their homes not in a hospital. Disagree with Illich? See this TedTalk by Ken Hillman which confirms society’s change in end of life approach.
  • The potential impact of big business on education.

Questions this resource raises for nursing educators:

  • This review of school education fits into the “traditions” of University and higher education settings, how do we move into using learning networks and away from silo teaching? 
  • How do we as individuals teach undergraduate and postgraduate nursing? Are we a teacher, educator or facilitator? #heutogogy
  • The increasing emphasis on IT as educational resources opens up new traditional and non-traditional sources of knowledge, how do we ensure quality before profits in a consumer driven higher education system?


Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York, 56. (also in Audio-book)

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. Audiobook          

GoodReads (2016) Deschooling Society Quotes by Illich, I.

Wikipedia (2016) Deschooling Society.



Global Adult Education Policy, Agendas and Ideologies

Nurse educators often work in their own speciality areas of nursing and so I thought this post on global adult education may provide a brief overview on wider education policy, agendas and ideologies in the globalised world we now work in.


Global neoliberalism policies have been progressively applied either directly or indirectly to education systems, similar to economic policy with the aim to deregulate education systems (Moutsios, 2009). Human capital production enhancement through systems of education, improving the cost effectiveness of education, promoting ‘lifelong learning’ and the proliferation of indicator markers are some of the developments in globalization education ideologies (Walters, 2006). These provide a transnational education policy for prominent globalized organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and adult education ideology has acquired a transnational voice by actors such as UNESCO (Milana, 2012). These actors have shifted the vocabulary from adult and continuing education to lifelong learning for the acquisition of marketable skills (Milana, 2012). Reports such as Lifelong Learning for all from OECD (1996) and UNESCO international commission on education and learning for the twenty first century have placed increasing substance on lifelong learning.  Lifelong learning is part of the relationship between education, work and socio-economic which is part of the globalized education ideology (Bond, 2001).

World Bank

Education from the World Bank (2011) perspective is seen as a “powerful driver of development and is one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability”.  Education for the World Bank has consistent returns in terms of income and improves equality, and to do this their aim is raise low learning levels in the developing world. This ideology is prevalent throughout the World Bank education strategy plan for 2020.

Performance measurements, indicators and targets are prominent in World Bank policy. Measurements such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) are exemplified by the World Bank as better predictors of economic growth than number of schooling years (World Bank, 2011). This economic and workforce philosophy is similar for adult education, where the emphasis is on work skills to increase employability and the knowledge economy (World Bank, 2015).

Education and financial support from the World Bank are linked to these concepts of human capital needs and the impacts on national policies are influenced through these financial agreements (Bond, 2001).  What this means, is the World Bank are influencing national policies and ideologies on education through economic support to create open market conditions.

International Monetary Fund

As the IMF has fiscal responsibility of international monetary markets, then education policy and ability to reduce income inequality is part of the IMF policy. As IMF is involved with social policies and lending constraints, then a countries macro-economics are designed for growth and poverty reduction (IMF, 2001).


UNESCO policy sees adult education as a means for governments to globally overcome disadvantages (Milana, 2012). The UNESCO “Hamburg Declaration” considers education as a right for adults and part of participating fully in society (Milana, 2012). The idea of lifelong education “is the keystone of the learning society (Medel-Añonuevo, Ohsako & Mauch, 2001).  

Lifelong Learning

The shift from education to lifelong learning is now a consistent global policy, which Delors et al (1996) report to UNESCO, emphasised the shifting the “education paradigm” from a local to world scale to allow democratic participation and economic growth to human development. UNESCO’s (2001) publication ‘Revisiting lifelong learning for the 21st century’ visions were guiding principles utilised by other transnational organizations such as the World Bank to guide lifelong learning educational agenda (Milana, 2012).

Globalisation (+ Noam Chomsky)

Keywords: Neoliberalism; Globalisation; Noam Chomsky; Lifelong Learning


Boeren, E. (2016). Lifelong Learning Participation in a Changing Policy Context: An Interdisciplinary Theory. Springer.

Bond, P. (2001). The IMF and World Bank Reconsidered. In Development: Theory, policy and practice (pp.230-249). Oxford University Press Southern Africa.

International Monetary Fund (2001) Social Dimensions of the IMF’s Policy Dialogue.

Medel-Añonuevo, C., Ohsako, T., & Mauch, W. (2001). Revisiting Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century. UNESCO.

Milana, M. (2012). Globalisation, transnational policies and adult education. International Review of Education58(6), 777-797.

Milana, M. (2012). Political globalization and the shift from adult education to lifelong learning. European journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults3(2), 103-117.

Moutsios, S. (2009). International organisations and transnational education policy. Compare, 39(4), 469-481.

Moutsios, S. (2010). Power, politics and transnational policy‐making in education. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(1), 121-141.

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light. Journal of education, 39(1), 6-26.

The World Bank (2011) Learning for All: Investing in people’s knowledge and skills to promote development.

The World Bank (2015) Education overview.


Power & Foucault for the Nurse Educator

Hierarchy and traditional roles such as doctor to nurse, nurse to student, genders, patient to nurse/doctor are some of the relationships which come to mind when thinking of power in a hospital setting.  For this post we are looking at Michel Foucault and the theory of the relationship between power and knowledge. Thinking about power can be insightful to consider all other parties who may be effected by planned change and to ensure equality ensues.

Foucault Theory

According to Foucault, power is everywhere, in relationships, learning and shapes people’s behaviour. Foucault’s theory states that “knowledge is power” (1998, pg.93).

“Knowledge linked to power, not only assumes the authority of ‘the truth’ but has the power to make itself true. All knowledge, once applied in the real world, has effects, and in that sense at least, ‘becomes true.’ Knowledge, once used to regulate the conduct of others, entails constraint, regulation and the disciplining of practice” (Foucault 1977, pg. 27).

The metaphor for power discourse is the panopticon according to Foucault (see image below). The panopticon allows one guard to view and control hundreds of prisoners, the prisoners have no way of knowing when they are being observed, which places all power to one person. The armed forces, schools, factories, technology and hospitals are all modern disciplinary power settings where a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination to occur.

Power Play in Nursing

The relationship of the educator and student in nursing highlights the potential healthcare hierarchical regime.  Students can be undergraduate or postgraduate (meaning they are employed professionals), all which may create power play within the educator-student relationship in the process of completion of appraisals or assessments. The stakes are high, as success for a student could mean their first job or ongoing employment for the postgraduate student. Is the structure in hospital set up to allow speaking up and junior staff to question care?

Clutterbuck (2004) highlights the locus of power in mentoring relationships and, that mentors should work with mentees to increase empowerment and the independence of mentees. Clutterbuck (2004) states mentors should respond to mentees’ developmental needs, and the mentee should accept increasing responsibility for managing the relationship. Employment, hierarchy, culture and ‘speaking up’ are all likely power constraints.

“Adult educators talk emphatically of empowerment as a process through which adult learners find their voices and develop the self-confidence to take control of their lives” (Brookfield, 2001).

Keywords: power; Foucault; panopticon.


Brookfield, S. (2001). Unmasking power: Foucault and adult learning. Canadian journal for the study of adult education, 15(1), 1-23.

Clutterbuck, D. (2004). Everyone needs a mentor: Fostering talent in your organisation (4th Ed.). Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: London.

Foucault, M. (1998). The History of Sexuality: The Will to KnowledgeLondon, Penguin. [Goodreads blurb]

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punishment. London: Tavistock. [Goodreads blurb]

Wikipedia (2016) Michel Foucault

The Art of Storytelling in Nursing Education


Storytelling is an integral part of our lives, starting from childhood whilst listening to parents tell us bedtime stories or reading books for the very first time.  In an age of technology and artificial intelligence it is worth considering what happens to some of our humanistic traits, such as the art of telling a good story and how we maintain these skills. The history of storytelling within indigenous communuities for teaching, self and community development is a vital part of maintaining culture and demonstrates how important stories are.

BD Weighing of the Heart

“Communication in Indigenous American communities is rich with stories, myths, philosophies and narratives that serve as a means to exchange information. These stories may be used for coming of age themes, core values, morality, literacy and history. Very often, the stories are used to instruct and teach children about cultural values and lessons.” (Wikipedia, 2016).

Ketchican totem pole 2 stub

A Nurse StoryTeller

Ian Miller who writes The Nurse Path, is an excellent example of a storyteller,  he provides such insights and debates all though using clinical situations from his clinical career. These events are often funny and real life, and as such make an impression and then we can understand colleagues, patients or families by hearing their stories and life through their eyes. This style of delivering information is a skill and likely resonates so much more than a boring memo, update or routine education delivery. Just read some of the comments on his posts, he really generates thoughts and discussion among the nursing community. Follow Ian on Twitter (@TheNursePath).

The Narrative: Ted Talks



Afshar, V. (2014) The Art of Pursuavive Storytelling 

Azziz, R. (2013) The Critical Art of Storytelling

Duarte, N. (2011) The Secret Structure of Great Talks.

Online Universities (2016) The Art of Digital Storytelling

Wikipedia (2016) Storytelling

Book Club: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Book: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton (2010).

Ever wondered about the exciting world of biscuits? Me neither, but we don’t often think of the research and design, marketing, sales techniques and all round effort put into a simple biscuit but this book explores different occupations and into a large part of our adult lives, namely work. If we do indeed spend 1/3 of our lives at work, then understanding such environments is important.  From inspiring jobs to soul-destroying jobs, De Botton explores ten different professions and how they exist in the modern world. The reflection aspect by De Botton, where he makes the reader consider how we ended up in our professions, often stemming back from choices made as 16 year olds (our unthinking selves).

Some Points:

  • How products are made, the front end understanding only as technology underneath renders most of us helpless.
  • Specialisation of jobs, it will be a case of what can be automated in the future.
  • Mass production and megafactories moving away from local small-scale production.
  • Globalisation: in the food industry it is possible from source to table across the world in less than 72 hours is such an amazing feat, so when you shop you may never notice seasonal changes in food availability. Don’t even consider relating this to the postal service!
  • Consider all the things we are surrounded by and how they came to be there – any idea?

“The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people get up to all day – and night – to make the frenzied contemporary world function” (De Botton, 2010).



De Botton, A. (2010). The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Emblem Editions. [Goodreads blurb]

Learning Styles

Let’s get straight into the discussion first, as I predict many nurse educators will be reading this topic and wanting to say ‘what a waste of time’ as learning styles don’t exist. They may well be correct, but you can decide for yourself if learning styles exist and are appropriate to form part of your teaching strategy. The overall aim for education is to tailor teaching style to improve learning. Learner related performance may be dependent on the subject, motivation, learning space and personality of the learner. Maybe we move around the styles depending on the topic being learnt or maybe it’s all an educational myth and we need to move onto other evidence based learning theories (see reference list for more discussion on the evidence base for learning styles).

Kolb’s Experiential Learning

Kolb (2007) describes learning as an experiential learning concept forming concrete and abstract conceptualisations. Kolb and Kolb (2005) provide a discussion on the learning process in higher education and the concepts of learning styles and learning cycle.

Learning Styles

Different students have different modes of learning, and so to improve their learning could be matching one’s teaching with that to the preferred learning mode.

  • Visual learners who prefer images, pictures, diagrams, videos and demonstrations- See It.
  • Auditory learners who learn best through the process of listening and talking- Hear It.
  • Kinesthetic learners who learn by doing and hands on tasks- Do It.

Learning Styles Questionnaire

One of the popular ways to find a preferred learning style is to use a questionnaire, such as Honey and Mumford (2006).

Adapted from Kolb’s experiential learning model, below are the learning styles classifications from Honey and Mumford.

  1. Activist
  2. Reflector
  3. Theorist
  4. Pragmatist

VARK Model

The four sensory modalities in Fleming’s VARK model are:

  1. Visual learning
  2. Auditory learning
  3. Read/write learning
  4. Kinesthetic learning


Brainbase (2016) Learning Styles Questionnaire

Cassidy, S. (2004). Learning styles: An overview of theories, models, and measures. Educational psychology, 24(4), 419-444.

Kirschner, P. A., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2013). Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education. Educational psychologist, 48(3), 169-183.\

Kolb, D. A. (2007). The Kolb learning style inventory. Boston, MA: Hay Resources Direct.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of management learning & education, 4(2), 193-212.

Learning Theories. (2017). Multiple Intelligence Theories.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles concepts and evidence. Psychological science in the public interest, 9(3), 105-119.

Wikipedia (2016) Neil Fleming’s VARK Model