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Transfer of Knowledge from Group Work to Individual Level in a Professional Learning Context

Johnsson, Annette, Granklint Enochson, Pernilla, Sjöberg, Jeanette

Konferensbidrag (Refereegranskat)


That educational systems the world over recognise the importance of theteacher is often evident by the resources spent on teacher capacitybuilding. The issues have frequently been about building an effectivemodel and mechanism that would develop and enhance the teachers’capacity and provide avenues for professional development.

In this study we investigate whether knowledge acquired in acollaboration context, is perceived by the individual group member astransferable into his or hers day-to-day school development work.

The study at hand is conducted within a regional collaboration projectbetween four municipalities and a university in Sweden. The fourmunicipalities agreed on a number of priority professional researchareas, where they merge, and to use each other as critical friends inthe development work. During the meetings of the collaboration project,participants from different levels and areas in the education sector inrespective municipality, act as critical friends to one another ingroups in order to drive the projects within the professional researchareas forward. Researchers from the university provide the participantsguidance in research skills and methods in order to strengthen thescientific base for professional development work in preschools and schools.

A general assumption is that by working in groups, the group members areinvolved in collaboration which can assist them in a number of ways;e.g. generate strategies (Author, 2009) as well as better problemsolving and learning outcomes than individual work (Barron, 2000;McConnell, 2000; 2005). Even so, group work is supported by research asbeneficial for problem solving, development of critical thinking andcommunication skills (McConnell, 2000; 2005) we are interested inwhether knowledge acquired and utilized within group work in one contextis transferable into another context, although similar. This leads us toan important concept in the social constructivist theory, namelytransfer or transfer of knowledge. The concept focuses on how and if anindividual uses and transmits his or her ideas about a phenomenon fromone context to another (Mayer, 2002; Salomon & Perkins, 1989; Spiro, Collins, Thota & Feltovich, 2003). On this basis, this study concernsparticipants’ perception of utilization of research methodology in groupwork in relation to their perception of their utilization of researchmethodology in their own practice. According to Hasselhorn and Mähler(2000), it is possible to distinguish between specific and non-specifictransfer. Specific transfer involves the transfer of special factualknowledge while non-specific transmission refers to the transfer ofoverall principles or strategies to new contexts.

The authors also distinguish between positive and negative transmissiondepending on whether transmission is facilitated or is inhibited, aswell as on proximal and distal transfer depending on whether thesituation requires a higher or lower transfer need (Hasselhorn andMähler, 2000; Author, 2012). When we learn something that is repeatedrelatively often and thus automated, a "low-road" transmission canoccur. In the case of high-road transmission, it requires more abstractthinking to transfer ideas or concepts from one situation to another(Salomon and Perkins, 1989). A further distinction can be made betweenhorizontal and vertical transmission (Schönborg & Bögeholtz, 2009).Horizontal transfer is defined as the ability to transfer performancesbetween different contexts but at the same level of organization.Vertical transmission, on the other hand, aims at the ability totransfer performances between different organizational levels.

Following the theoretical assumptions outlined above, the question weask in this study is “How is transfer of knowledge from group work toown practice perceived by participants participating in a project onstrengthening organizational development on a scientific basis?”

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used in order to answer the research question regarding how the participantsin the project, described above, perceived whether the knowledgeacquired in groups in a professional training context could be utilizedinto their own school context, a questionnaire containing 19 questionswas handed out to the participants, each question with a Likert scale.The questionnaires were distributed to the 57 participants that werepresent at the final meeting of the project cycle’s first year, andmanually collected. This counts for about 65-70 percent of the totalnumber of participants in the project.The questionnaire contains questions concerning the respondent’s ownperception regarding: the individual’s relation to development work intheir daily work, the individual’s knowledge progress regarding researchskills, the process of the group work, and the collaboration model. Thelatter referring to the model of host versus critical friends in projectwork. The questionnaires were analyzed with SPSS factor analysis inorder to detect potential underlying variables.The participants of the project were divided into 12 groups, four groupsper school-level. Each group comprised of a host from respectivelymunicipality. The municipality took responsibility for the formulationof the professional research question, and the remaining members of thegroup, which all came from other municipalities, acted as criticalfriends in order to develop and process the research question.

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings although a generalisation of the study’s results may be considereddoubtful, it is important and relevant to critically discuss thefindings in a broader perspective. As earlier studies show similarities between issues of transfer of knowledge (Argote, Ingram, Levine,Moreland, 2000; Spiro, Collins, Thota & Feltovich, 2003) it isreasonable to suggest that the findings in this paper also relates to abroader, international perspective.Based on the factor analysis a strong negative relationship was foundbetween the individual’s perception of the group’s increased use ofresearch methodology and their own increased ability to use researchmethodology in their own practice. Additionally there was also anegative relationship between the individual’s perception of theresearch question’s domination in group discussions and theiropportunity to reflect on their own practice. This may imply that theparticipant’s own learning, relating to their own practice, has been putback while working with development issues not pertinent to their owncontext. This concerns the concept of knowledge transfer, which haspreviously been addressed; that knowledge relating to one context cannotautomatically assumed being transferred into another context.The results display a clear contradiction between the group’s and theindividual’s utilization and development of research methodologyrelating to respective professional research question.This pinpoints anincongruity between group learning and development regarding researchskills and the individual’s perception of the relevance of these skillsin his or her own practice.The results raise an important question; how should capacity building beorganized in order to enable individuals to transfer knowledge andskills development from one context to another? This question ispertinent in all training contexts, in continuing professionaldevelopment as well as in teacher education, in a European as well as ina global context as the introduction highlights.

Nyckelord: transfer of knowledge; professional development; collaborative learning; individual learning

Citera: Johnsson, Annette, Granklint Enochson, Pernilla & Sjöberg, Jeanette, Transfer of Knowledge from Group Work to Individual Level in a Professional Learning Context, WG 01. Continuing Professional Development : Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations., 2019