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If She Weighs The Same As A Duck, Then She’s A Witch: Using A Classic Monty Python Movie To Stimulate Transfer Of Learning

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

The Fundamentals of Fun

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.682.1 - 9.682.7



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Hanus

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Stephen Ressler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1615

If She Weighs the Same as a Duck, Then She’s a Witch: Using a Classic Monty Python Movie to Stimulate Transfer of Learning in Engineering Mechanics Stephen Ressler, Joseph P. Hanus United States Military Academy

Transfer of Learning

Much of the literature on teaching and learning emphasizes the importance of transfer of learning. This concept is based on a simple premise—that the information, concepts, and problem-solving strategies students learn in the classroom do not become fully operative until the learning can be transferred to entirely new and unfamiliar contexts. When transfer of learning happens, students can effectively apply new learning to the solution of problems unlike those experienced in the classroom environment. As a National Research Council report notes, “A major goal of schooling is to prepare students for flexible adaptation to new problems and settings.” [1] This is particularly true for engineering graduates, who will likely encounter many real-world situations that are vastly different from the types of problems they learned to solve as students. Thus transfer of learning should be a explicit objective of engineering education and an integral component of instructional design.

All too often, however, it is not. Engineering educators generally recognize, at least implicitly, that transfer of learning is important. Many evaluate it, for example, by using conceptually challenging exam questions that are substantially different from problems that students have worked in class and on homework assignments. However, for many students—particularly immature learners—the ability to transfer learning does not come naturally or easily. (Witness students’ common complaint that “the exam questions were nothing like our homework problems.”) Like most skills, transfer of learning must itself be learned—preferably before it is evaluated. And as with most skills, an effective way to learn how to transfer learning is through practice and feedback.

The Project

This paper describes a novel attempt to stimulate transfer of learning in an introductory course in Statics and Dynamics at the U.S. Military Academy. The authors developed a rather unorthodox course project that was explicitly designed to provide students with an opportunity to practice the application of newly learned concepts in an unfamiliar context.

The Statics and Dynamics course is taken by second-semester sophomores and first-semester juniors at the Academy. The student population includes approximately equal numbers of engineering majors and non-engineering majors (to include many humanities and social sciences majors). Thus the course must address a broad range of student capabilities and motivations. In practically all cases, students are taking this course as their first engineering course; thus, we feel a special obligation to ensure that the course provides students with a positive, enjoyable

Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Hanus, J., & Ressler, S. (2004, June), If She Weighs The Same As A Duck, Then She’s A Witch: Using A Classic Monty Python Movie To Stimulate Transfer Of Learning Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13076

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