Toward a Model of Transfer as Sense-Making

Timothy J. Nokes-Malach, Jose P. Mestre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a novel theoretical framework for knowledge transfer that consists of constructing a representation of context, generating a solution, and evaluating whether the solution makes sense given that context. Sense-making and satisficing processes determine when the transfer cycle begins and ends, and the classical mechanisms of transfer (identical rules, analogy, knowledge compilation, and constraint violation) are triggered under different representations of context. We use this framework to interpret student transfer behaviors with examples from the literature in the domains of physics and mathematics. We view this framework as a research tool to explore the dynamic nature and complexity of transfer by highlighting critical features and issues that a complete model of transfer must address. We describe how the framework relates to the classical and recent alternative approaches to understanding transfer and discuss the implications for theory development and instruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-207
Number of pages24
JournalEducational Psychologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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