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Finding One’s Place in Transfer Space


concerning this article should be addressed to David Klahr, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail:


Abstract— “Transfer” is a venerable issue in cognitive development and education. However, its very existence is the subject of extensive debate, and there is as yet no consensus about its definition, measurement, and implications. This article proposes a 3-dimensional conceptual model of transfer distance for thinking about transfer of concepts or strategies in children, and presents some recent findings on children’s transfer of scientific reasoning strategies—task similarity, context similarity, and temporal interval—that exemplify these three dimensions. These studies yield several important and robust findings regarding children’s learning and transfer in problem solving within this model, which provides a valuable organizing framework for objectively measuring transfer distance and for guiding future research in children’s learning.

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