Turning Around the Question of 'Transfer' in Education: Tracing the sociomaterial

Educational Philosophy and Theory 45 (12):1276-1289 (2013)
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In this article I reconsider the issue of ?transfer? in education. Received views of learning transfer tend to rely upon a version of representation in which the world and the learner are held apart. The focus falls on how this gap can be closed; how learning can be transferred. A sociomaterial perspective, by contrast, puts learner and world back together, making each available to the other. Bringing the materialist sensibility of actor-network theory to bear and drawing on empirical data collected as part of a small-scale qualitative study of the experience of graduate teachers when moving from education into work, it is argued that transfer, and by implication, learning, primarily concerns the practical and takes multiple forms: contingently composed of social, textual and material practices of knowledge production, learning transfer is a relational effect of the intersection of these practices. Empirical analyses point to the practice of two broad patterns of learning transfer, termed here the representational and the relational. Thinking learning transfer as performed through disparate agencies and practices challenges the self-evidences of perspectives on learning which characterize contemporary education. Here, learning is primarily seen in terms of the intrinsic capabilities of people, regardless of the object-dependent qualities of their learning and lives. This human-centricity raises significant epistemological and ethical issues which are addressed by way of a discussion of the embedded normativities and politics of the practices of representational and relational transfer



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