A Strategic Focus for Educational Leaders: The Factors that Impact Transfer of Learning

A Strategic Focus for Educational Leaders: The Factors that Impact Transfer of Learning

Mary Stack Kohn
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch089
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American education is undergoing great change, facing fiscal challenges, and slipping in international standings. Of the many areas educational leaders need to examine, teachers' transfer of learning from professional development to their classroom instruction should be a strategic focus. Transferring learning is a highly complex dynamic that encompasses multiple factors. This chapter analyzes these factors through the lenses of pertinent behavioral theories revealing the variety of influences and issues that impact teachers' transfer of learning from professional development to their own instructional practices. This chapter will also assist school, district, and state level administrators in identifying and assessing the transfer culture within their schools.
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Educational institutions face many challenges in identifying and sustaining the next generation of strategic leaders who will affect future learners. Fullan and Scott (2009) identified the criticality of developing and improving teachers’ practices through authentic, problem-based professional development (PD) programs. PD is critical for educators to stay current in the instructional best practices that improve student achievement (Barrett, Butler, & Toma, 2013; Desimone, 2009). While school, district, or state level PD offers teachers easy access to the instructional techniques that will enhance student learning, the effectiveness of these expensive programs is seldom measured (Yeh, 2009). The federal government spent $1.5 billion on K-12 teacher professional development in 2004-2005 (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). With such an investment in PD programs, the knowledge and skills gained by the participants should be justifiable from both financial and pedagogical perspectives. It becomes incumbent then that participants transfer their learning from these programs into their classroom instruction (Desimone, 2009). Often it is the responsibility of school or district administrators not only to determine the content of the PD programs, but also to evaluate whether their faculty transfers the knowledge gained from a PD program into their classroom instruction (MacDonald, 2012; Yeh, 2009). Frequently the administrators who conduct these evaluations do not have a background in measuring transfer of learning or a full appreciation of the complexity involved in transferring learning (Holton & Naquin, 2005; Hutchins, Nimon, Bates, & Holton, 2013). Understanding all the factors involved in the transfer of learning is essential in the design of PD programs. To benefit the participants and ultimately the students they serve, PD programs need to implement and promote the skills and strategies that foster learning transfer. This is an area of strategic leadership on which educational leaders need to focus to enhance their faculty’s ability to engage students in learning.

PD programs are a common method for educational institutions to develop, update, and rejuvenate their employees’ instructional skill sets (Chen, 2011; Curran, 2014; De Rijdt, Stes, van der Vleuten, & Dochy, 2013). Gaining deeper insights into how educators transfer their learning from a PD program to their classroom instruction can have both pedagogical and financial ramifications for educational institutions and school systems (Chang & Lin, 2011; Curran, 2014; Demir, 2010; De Rijdt et al., 2013; Opfer & Pedder, 2011). This is especially relevant as many American school districts are currently considering instituting merit pay for teachers based on their students’ academic performance (Ritter & Jensen 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Motivation: Motivation is defined as the participants' positive or negative motivation to transfer the PD program’s instructional techniques into their own instruction. This definition includes the participants' performance expectations and their outcome expectations.

Trainee Characteristics: The trainee characteristics are defined as the participants' performance self-efficacy and learner readiness.

Transfer System: Transfer System encompasses the trainee, the program design, and the concepts of motivation and opportunity.

Work Environment: The work environment is defined as the positive or negative encouragement or assistance from colleagues, department chairs, building level administrators, and/or district level administrators. It also incorporates the feedback or coaching participants may have received, the participants’ possible resistance to change, any supervisor or administrator sanctions, and either positive or negative personal outcomes concerning the implementation of the PD program’s instructional techniques into the teachers’ classroom instruction.

Ability: Ability is defined as the transfer design of the PD program, its perceived content validity, and the participants' opportunity to use the PD program’s instructional techniques in their classroom instruction.

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