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A Research Agenda for Scholastic Chess Fernand Gobet Department of Psychological Sciences

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Overview of Talk A research agenda The question of transfer: better data needed Mechanisms involved should be understood How to optimise chess instruction Contents of chess instruction Chess lessons based on the school curriculum Why not include other games?

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A Research Agenda

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The Question of Transfer Do the skills acquired in learning chess transfer to other domains, such as mathematics? Chess community:Yes Scientific community:We don’t know Gobet and Campitelli (2002) Systematic review of literature on transfer and chess teaching Disappointing results Few scientifically valid studies Only a couple of studies were peer-reviewed No clear evidence for transfer

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Obviously, more research carried out since 2002 But Gobet and Campitelli’s basic conclusions are still valid For example, two more recent studies have different results Scholz et al. (2008): transfer Thompson (2003): no transfer

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The Ideal Experiment Random Allocation Pre-test Treatment Group No- change Group Placebo Group Post-test Additional pluses Participants blind to the goal of the experiment and even that they participate in one Teachers and experimenters blind as well Standard design in Education Medicine

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This design has never been used with chess instruction! This is disappointing Many opportunities to do so Only one study had a placebo group Fried and Ginsburg (1979) Children with learning difficulties Placebo group attended counselling sessions But a placebo group is needed Allows one to reject the effect of unspecific factors e.g. participation in experiment; experimenters’ expectations

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Mechanisms Behind (Potential) Transfer Non-specific to chess Chess teachers are highly motivated and passionate Topic is novel and different to standard schools activities Chess is a game, and thus fun Chess is a competitive activity Chess shows that school can be fun and interesting This why a ‘placebo’ control group is needed Playing video games Learning to play Go

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Mechanisms Behind (Potential) Transfer Factors specific to chess Diversity of pieces help maintain attention Chess offers an optimal trade-off between complexity and simplicity Balance between tactics and strategy is ideal Chess combines numerical, spatial, temporal and combinatorial aspects These factors foster Attention Learning Problem solving and decision making

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Optimisation of Chess Teaching Many parameters have not been systematically studied Optimal duration of a chess lesson? Optimal number of sessions of chess instruction? Too short, not enough time Too long, diminishing returns What are the most efficient teaching methods? With computers or without computers? Group vs. individual activities Etc. Order of covering the material

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Optimisation of Impact Make sure that all children (at least most) profit from chess Non only the smart ones Non only the competitive ones Material suitable for adult education

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Content of Chess Instruction

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Typical Chess Instruction Most chess programmes Take chess as starting point Do not go beyond chess For example: Rules of the game Basic tactics Basic strategy Some openings etc...

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Why not start from the school curriculum, at least in part? Obviously, needs to be adapted to the level of the children This would increase the likelihood of transfer Instruction Based on School Curriculum

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Example 1: Mathematics Basic arithmetic Value of pieces Control of squares Cartesian geometry Coordinate system (a, b,..., h) x (1, 2,..., 8) Geometric series One places one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on, doubling each time. What is the total? or

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Geometry Euclidian vs. city-block distance Reti (1921)

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Combinatorics How many paths can a rook take from square a1 to square h8 if it can only move up and to the right? The solution generates Pascal’s triangle (Meijer, 2010)

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Example 2: History Development of civilizations Through diffusion paths of chess Key events in history Reflected in modification of rules, changes of names of the pieces Reflected in theories of chess (e.g. Role of pawns in Philidor’s theory and French Revolution)

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Using Other (Board) Games Some aspects of the school curriculum might be better illustrated by other games Awele (Tano, 1985) Counting Basic arithmetic Modulo arithmetic Concept of a one ‑ to ‑ one correspondence

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Bridge (Minibridge) Numbers and operations Probability Reasoning and proof Go Counting Combinatorics (Wikipedia)

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Summary and Conclusions (1) Transfer of chess instruction should be established scientifically More and better data needed (ideal design!) Results should be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals This is needed to ensure quality of research Mechanisms behind (potential) transfer should be studied Chess-specific vs. Non-chess-specific

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Summary and Conclusions (2) Chess instruction should be informed by school curricula Other games could be added to teach specific points

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