ROY D. PEA New York University
I want to tell you something my brother David, may he rest in peace, once said to me. He said it is as important to learn the important questions as it is the important answers. It is especially important to learn the questions to which there may not be good answers. ( Potok, 1986, pp. 295-296.)
Questions about how people learn so that they can use their experiences productively and creatively when facing new situations are at the heart of psychology and education. These are questions about the transfer problem. But these questions have not been met with good answers--if by good answers we count those that would have enabled us to formulate designs of learning activities and environments that promote appropriate knowledge transfer. Are good answers available? And will better questions--addressing broader aspects of the transfer problem than ones about the isolated "cognitive" learner--improve our answers?
Contemplating the needs of education in the year 2020 would give anyone deep pause in thinking about these questions. Perhaps new kinds of interactivity, or organizations of learning and teaching, or representations of knowledge, or views of the learner might fundamentally improve the state of knowledge transfer achieved through educational practices. Although many new worlds will be technically possible, can we begin to say what features of specific possible worlds might actualize the transfer of learning so long desired?
I believe we are beginning to gain new insights into the problem of knowledge transfer. These insights have as much to do with recognizing the impacts of the sociocultural organizations of activities in which learning takes place as they do with psychological findings from research on learning. To make our