The mnemonic medium could include prompts which support near transfer

The approach described in The mnemonic medium can help readers apply what they’ve learned through simple application prompts would help readers build confidence in what they’ve read by using that knowledge in simple, rote situations. To develop a more fluid understanding, though, readers must become able to creatively apply what they’ve learned in unfamiliar situations (Transfer learning).

The Mnemonic medium could include “near transfer” prompts: tasks which seem unfamiliar, but which mostly require figuring out which familiar information/procedures must be used (at which point they become straightforward).

For instance, consider:

What’s the missing gate in this circuit?
	|0> —> [?] —> Y —> -i|0>

Now, you could write lots of variants of this, but that sort of defeats the purpose. The whole point of asking questions like this is that they ask you to transfer your knowledge to some unfamiliar context. You could make the next variant look different:

How could you transform a |1> into a |+> with elementary gates?

Doing more problems like this would make you better at doing fill-in-the-gate-type problems, but I don’t think it would make you better at transferring your knowledge to unfamiliar contexts.

There are many “near transfer” tasks which would satisfy many of the assumptions described in Simple application prompts can be presented the same way as recall prompts in the mnemonic medium, but they’ll probably want a different mechanism. The role of repetition is different with these questions: with application prompts, repeated variations build familiarity with a single skill; with near transfer prompts, the variations must be non-fungible by definition.

One approach would be to think of these like a “boss fight.” You answer a couple “boss fight”-type questions when you finish reading an essay, and in each review session… but they’re different every time. Maybe there’s a set of 20-30 or something. If you get one right, there’s no need to repeat it. If you get it wrong, it comes up again in a few months, and hopefully you’ve forgotten.

This is an example of a way in which The mnemonic medium can be adapted to author an experience which unfolds over time.


Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design.