11 September 2016

Transfer in Chess Learning

Continuing with 'Chess in Primary Schools' Studied, my previous post -- Does Chess.com Make You Smarter? -- looked at Chess.com's take on the recent English study and ended with

Chess.com isn't the only chess organization looking at the EEF study: more about that in my next post.

I imagined that Chess in Schools & Communities (CSC; chessinschools.co.uk) would have something to say about the study, but as of today there is only an 'EEF Project' link in their left navigation bar that goes directly to the relevant EEF page (see that first 'Studied' post for subject matter background including links).

Richard James, another expert on English school chess, weighed in with two posts on Chessimprover.com:-

Perhaps you saw the recent headlines here in the UK. It's now official that chess doesn't make kids smarter. [...] While there is much that is excellent about CSC, there has always, it seems to me, been a conflict between two very different aims which would involve approaching chess in very different ways: chess as a non-competitive learning tool and chess as a competitive activity, and they've been trying to do both at the same time instead of just concentrating on one aim.
I've always been sceptical about the research concerning chess making kids smarter. Apart from whether or not 'making kids smarter', whatever that means, is as desirable an aim as it sounds (I think it's not) I have two problems...

Add to this a brief discussion on the English Chess Forum -- Chess and schools (ecforum.org.uk) -- which points to another brief discussion, where we learn,

Stewart Reuben: 'Malcolm Pein says the CSC will give a response in due course. He feels the results were disappointing but the methodology flawed.'

Perhaps the best general take on the controversy is from several years ago in a non-English publication: Do Music Lessons Make You Smarter? (scientificamerican.com; March 2013).

Practice makes progress, if not perfection, for most things in life. Generally, practicing a skill -- be it basketball, chess or the tuba -- mostly makes you better at whatever it was you practiced. Even related areas do not benefit much. [...] That said, some learning does transfer from one skill to another. [...] But experts have long debated the effects of any of these or others on general intellect. That is, does engaging in these optional activities really build the brain in any fundamental way?

Keyword: 'transfer', as in 'The learning would indeed transfer to a broad set of other tasks and people would consider the activity particularly worthwhile.' Most criticisms of the EEF study amount to tacit support of the concept of transfer. Who is going to study that?

No comments: