2 Ways Video Games Encourage Transfer of Learning

By: Joanne Oh

Source: Pexels, Jessica Lewis


In Part 1, we looked at 6 ways learning can transfer to different contexts. Given that we know players can learn a variety of skills from playing video games, and that they are able to apply these skills to contexts outside of video games, how can we use games to benefit learning?


One way is to help students become more consciously aware of how learning transfers to new contexts so that they can become involved in the process. Lieberman, Biely, Thai, and Peinado (2014) have suggested practicing this act of transfer in a virtual context first. A video game could teach information through a lesson in one context, then require players to apply this information to other scenarios within the game. The idea is that if players have already rehearsed the process of transfer within a virtual setting, then they may be able to conduct the transfer more easily, even when it is from a virtual to non-virtual context, given the prior experience.


To encourage this kind of transfer to occur, Perkins and Salomon (1988) developed two famous techniques.


1. Hugging uses approximations of the original context to help students see similarities to new contexts. For instance, to get students to apply their knowledge of biology to current ecological problems, one might introduce biology concepts in ecological contexts. This method works better for near or low-road transfers and is good for showing students how their knowledge is applicable to a wide range of tasks and environments.

2. Bridging uses abstractions to make connections between contexts that are not very similar. For example, one could explicitly point out to students that the skills for gathering, investigating, and analyzing elements of literature share some of the same basic principles as the skills necessary to work on a court case. This method works better for far or high-road transfers and is good for helping students develop an eye for detail and think more conceptually.


Source: Jeshoots.com from Pexels

With both hugging and bridging, students learn to look at their knowledge in multiple contexts, be that physical or abstract, and make connections between them. Developing this ability is important because it is the key to good problem-solving, something students will need to be able to do throughout their lives. Video games, which constantly present players with new challenges, are a fertile environment for learning how to transfer learning to various situations to  solve problems. Through trial and error, they can try different approaches to problems and see the outcome immediately.


In Part 3, we will explore how video games have the potential to support and motivate learning in other capacities.

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