Category Archives: Chess in Schools

The Impact of the London Chess Conference

It is useful to retread the history of the conference themes. The inaugural conference on Chess and Education in 2013 uncovered a considerable number of projects that had arisen independently around the world. It became clear that many teachers, pedadogues and tutors were working in parallel on the same issues. In the previous few years there had been an upsurge of chess activity in schools not restricted to after school clubs but also within the school timetable. To need for co-ordination and leadership in the field was recognised with the creation of the Education Commission of the European Chess Union in autumn 2014.

The connection between chess and mathematics was recognised by many educationists. Such was the level of interest that the theme of the next conference was Chess and Mathematics. This brought together experts in chess, games and mathematics in 2014 for a seminal conference. The mathematicians were positive about games as a teaching tool. It cannot be ignored that chess also brought an element of fun into the classroom. We began see that teaching chess in new ways, more specifically oriented towards educational purposes, could be productive for subjects such as mathematics.

Chess is part of our social history but the social benefits of chess have often been overlooked. Our theme in 2015 was Chess and Society. Major conflicts that year caused people to flee to Europe in large numbers. We heard about how chess, which crosses language and culture barriers, was being used for refugee integration projects, with Roma communities in Eastern Europe, with excluded children, with prisoners, for children with ADHD and Aspergers, for older people and so on. People attending the conference found spirited fellow travellers with whom they could share their ideas and enthusiasm.

The quest for new methods of teaching chess for these educational purposes led to the 2016 theme of the Didactics of Chess. Finding the best way to teach chess is a considerable challenge. The Soviet Union produced a cohort of grandmasters from the 1930s. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the methods of the Soviet chess school were spread throughout the world. A highly structured training programme with focused study from a young age was the key to their success. However, this approach is unsuitable for general education where the purpose is to provide a balanced set of mental skills. Speakers at the 2016 event explained the value of teaching games in general. Other games than chess, such as go, backgammon and bridge, can also be valuable for intellectual development. One of the objectives of teaching games is for the children to become fully engaged in experience so that they achieve the full cognitive benefits. It is not necessary to play chess to a high level to obtain the benefits. This implies that we should deconstruct and isolate those elements which give rise to specific problem solving opportunities.

The theme of the 2017 Conference is Scholastic Chess. The purpose is to explore, explain, connect and co-ordinate the way in which chess is used for educational purposes in schools. The term “scholastic chess” implies the scholarly nature of the approach to chess i.e. it is chess for educational purposes. Sometimes the term is used as a shorthand to refer to chess in schools but it is necessary to distinguish between two forms of chess in schools: scholastic chess and competitive chess. The traditional approach to chess in schools has been to get the children to compete, with educational attainment being a hoped-for by-product. The modern approach is to adapt chess so that it is easier to teach and easier to learn and delivers educational benefits. Scholastic chess is taught by regular teachers rather than relying upon chess experts.

Connecting partners for co-operation in scholastic chess is one of the motivations of the London Chess Conference. We have never been particularly interested in featuring speakers who promote teaching competitive chess in schools. We strive to attract experts and educational activists who are open-minded about didactics and are prepared to learn from others and develop together. This spirit of co-operation has attracted the Education Commission of the European Chess Union to use the event as meeting venue. At this year´s Conference they have an important gathering with the recently formed Academic Advisory Board.

Grand projects have been also born at our series. The biggest Erasmus+ sponsored school chess project CASTLE (2014-2017), which has recently been successfully completed, was first presented in a side meeting at our inaugural 2013 edition. The partners of the recently approved Erasmus+ project CHAMPS (CHess And Mathematics in Primary Schools) first met together at our conferences in 2015 and 2016. Their new project will be officially launched at this year´s edition. The partners will not meet only among themselves but also with stakeholders such as the ECU Education Commission and with specially invited experts.

Co-operation was also key to a “chess in education” wiki. This was proposed by Kevin O’Connell, chair of FIDE Chess in Schools Commission. Luis Blasco de la Cruz, a school chess activist and IT professional from Madrid, is now co-ordinating the development effort. Luis will present the current state of the project and hopes to find contributors at our conference.

Our keynote speaker, Professor William Bart from the University of Minnesota will make the constructive proposal that there should be international centre for scholastic chess research to improve its quality, push its relevance and pool resources. Bringing together teachers and social scientists who study the effects of chess in education has always been a part of the London Chess Conference. The research statistician Giovanni Sala joined the psychology department under Professor Fernand Gobet at Liverpool University where he has been evaluating the impact of chess. Reinaldo Golmia Dante, an associate professor of education from Brazil, whom we connected with our conference speaker and neuroscientist Michelle Ellefson, is shortly starting to work with her at Cambridge University. We look forward to learning more about their exciting project and earlier school chess research in Brazil.

The ECU recently launched its new certification scheme for School Chess Teachers. The first training course was held in Madrid in July and the second course will be held in London in mid-October. The course was conceived and developed by Jesper Hall and John Foley who first met at the London Chess Conference and who are both on the Education Commission of the European Chess Union. They will present the course concept at the Conference.

Many other events happened as a result of connections made at the London Conference e.g.  Chess in School conferences  in Poland and Norway, and the Baltic Summer Chess Camp. If you made some special connections please let us know.

Join us to find and meet the best co-operation partners for your project! We are happy to include your call for partners in the programme.

2017 Conference Announced

We are pleased to announce the fifth edition of the London Chess Conference. This popular event is held at the London Hilton Kensington Olympia. It coincides with the London Chess Classic tournament when the world’s top players descend on London to battle for supremacy. The theme of the conference this year is Scholastic Chess i.e. using chess for educational purposes. Registration

We have invited keynote presentations on the themes of:

  • What is Scholastic Chess.

  • Chess and Intelligence

  • A Centre for Chess Education Research

We are planning workshops on:

  • Chess and Primary School Mathematics,

  • Evaluating Chess Education Projects,

  • Settings Standards in Chess Education and

  • Quality and Certification of Teacher Training.

We have invited a range of international experts in various aspects of chess education.  Confirmed speakers include William Bart (University of Minnesota), Agnieszka Bron (Stockholm University), Fernand Gobet (University Liverpool), Jesper Hall (ECU Education Commission), Jakob Rathlev (Dansk Skoleskak) and Jorge Nuno Silva (University of Lisbon).

We invite presentations on the above-mentioned topics, suggestions for additional sessions, debating topics and calls for co-operation. Please write to us at info@chessplus.net

The London Chess Conference remains the world’s foremost meeting point for co-operation, the exchange of ideas and networking with like-minded people. Ancilliary events include the first meeting of the Academic Advisory Board of the ECU some of who will share their research wisdom.  Also taking place will be the kick-off meeting of the CHAMPS Erasmus Plus project.  The CHAMPS (Chess and Mathematics in Primary Schools) Project is a new educational research and development project funded by Erasmus Plus led by a strategic partnership between educationists from the UK, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Hungary.  The results of the project will be presented at the 2018 Conference.

We are continuing to develop the conference programme. Regarding the schedule we can announce that the formal duration of the conference will be from Saturday, 2 December, 12.00 to Sunday, 3 December, 16.00. The conference will be a plenary event i.e. there will be one session thread which will enable attendees to listen to and interact with all the speakers.

Registration is available only through EventBrite.

The conference fee has been significantly reduced to £65 for both days, which includes refreshments and access to the London Chess Classic. Unlike in past conferences, there will be no waivers with the exception of CSC tutors.

Please book your travel soon.

Sponsors

The event is sponsored by Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) and the European Chess Union (ECU). Erasmus Plus contributed towards CHAMPS project members attending the conference.

The Effects of Chess Instruction

Three of the people who have been involved with the London Chess Conference since the beginning have written a paper summarising the state of research into the effects of chess instruction.  Giovanni Sala, John Foley and Fernand Gobet have summarised the state of the art and theoretical challenges. The paper, which is an opinion piece in the the online journal Frontiers of Psychology, places the recent EEF study in a broader context. The EEF study was a large study in England conducted by the Institute of Education and funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation. The study found no long term effect of chess on academic performance. This study finding was regarded as disappointing by many in the chess community. However on closer inspection it turns out that the study had some serious weaknesses.

A major problem is the use of public examination results to indicate whether any intervention has an impact. The trouble arises because mathematics exam results in primary school in England appear to have been getting better and better over the last two decades. This may be because children are getting smarter or it may be for other reasons to do with school league tables and teaching to the test.

ks2mathsimprovement

In the upper diagram we see the latest results for KS2 mathematics (children aged around 11). Rather than the expected Normal distribution, we find what can only be described as a Half-Normal distribution.  Half the children have scored 75% or more. This is an extraordinary result because our traditional experience with children is that some are good at maths but most struggle. The skewed shape of the exam results deserves some explanation.

The lower diagram shows how the shape of the exam results distribution has shifted over the past two decades. What we are witnessing is the accumulation of effects of educational policies which produce good results irrespective of the underlying differences in personal ability of the children. Finally, in 2015, we see that the shape has shifted so far to the right (called negative skew) that the results in maths cannot be regarded as very helpful in representing the underlying reality.

The technical term for this artefact is the “Ceiling Effect”. If examinations produce an artificial limitation on the distribution of results then we cannot distinguish those children who might have done much better.  If most children are doing great, then how can an educational intervention such as chess make any noticeable difference? More generally how can any educational intervention be detected?  This is a wider issue for the mathematics education research community to resolve.

 

 

 

Reminiscences

How time flies! The Didactics of Chess are well behind us, if still fresher in our memories than the previous three editions.

Beginnings were modest. The first London Chess Conference, back in 2013, could fit in one of the commentary rooms at the London Chess Classic. With a grand total of 15 speakers (distinguished though they were), the gathering had a decidedly cosy ambience. “Plenary workshop” was not a contradiction in terms. By the first afternoon, everyone had met everyone else. Forget cursory introductions: one would have had a long, stimulating conversation with every other delegate over the course of the weekend. Sessions ran consecutively, aministrative work was minimal, and the networking gathering was an affair so quiet and serene that many would entertain ideas of a quick game of chess. Those were simpler times.

Fast forward three years and we all found ourselves at an eight-room conference centre to discuss teaching chess with 150 delegates working in 25 countries of the world. The 4th London Chess Conference was by far the largest and most international ever gathering of educators, researchers, schoolteachers, coaches, organisers, civil servants and non-profit executives interested in how chess can be used as a force for driving educational attainment. Disappointment was universally voiced at having to choose between concurrent sessions, all equally excellent. But there was no alternative: who would have time to attend a fortnight-long conference? That is what it would have taken to run all talks, workshops, seminars, debates and panels consecutively.

The diversity of topics was staggering and the quality of sessions universally excellent. As has become a tradition, a competition was also held: this time for the best chess exercise involving collaborative problem solving. In the end, the judging panel could not decide between two very different entries, and awarded a shared first prize.

As is unavoidably the case with an event at such scale, there were organisational challenges, but we hope that they remained hidden behind the scenes. At the end of the day, it is not our work as organisers that made the Conference what it was, but the expertise of over a hundred unbelievably clever and dedicated delegates along with your love of chess, passion for education, and selfless enthusiasm for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Our job was gathering all of you together in one building; if we could do that, the event was guaranteed to be a success. We hope that everyone left London feeling as inspired as we certainly did.

From all of the organisers to all the attendees, thank you for making the 4th London Chess Conference so unforgettable.

Draft conference programme

We are pleased to publish the first draft of the Conference programme. A more detailed version and a list of speakers will be available soon.

Day 1: Saturday 10 December

9.30-10.30 Registration and Refreshments

10.30-10.45 Conference Opening

10.45-12.30 Plenary presentations

12.30-2.00 Lunch

2.00-3.30 Parallel sessions

  • (workshop) Chess Didactics I: Classroom skills
  • (tutorial) Chess for children with special needs
  • (workshop) Window on Mexico
  • (workshop) Chess and primary school mathematics

3.30-4.00 Break

4.00-5.00 Parallel sessions

  • (workshop) Chess Didactics II: Scholastic chess in the classroom
  • (tutorial) The gamification of education
  • (workshop) Achieving variety in chess lessons
  • (workshop) Telling stories to enrich chess instruction

5.00-6.00 Parallel sessions

  • (table debates) World Café
  • (workshop) IT resources for school chess: ECU views
  • (tutorial) Teaching chess with the STEPS Method

 

Day 2: Sunday 11 December

9.00-9.30 Welcome and refreshments

9.30-10.45 Parallel sessions

  • (workshop) Chess Didactics III: Mini-games
  • (workshop) Teaching chess through media
  • (workshop) Cognitive insights into chess improvement
  • (workshop) Launching large scale chess education projects

10.45-11.00 Break

11.00-12.30 Parallel sessions

  • (workshop) Chess Didactics IV: Differentiation
  • (workshop) How to improve motivation in chess
  • (workshop) Personal tutoring
  • (workshop) From school chess to junior chess
  • (tutorial) Teaching Programmes

12.30-1.45 Lunch

1.45-2.00 Plenary: ECU Prize Award

2.00-3.45 Parallel sessions

  • (panel) Is there any proof that chess has educational benefits?
  • (workshop) Chess organisational development?
  • (tutorial) Chess as a part of the curriculum
  • (presentations) Online learning systems

3.45-4.00 Break

4.00-5.30 Parallel sessions

  • (workshop) Chess teacher training: best practice
  • (workshop) How to run a private chess teaching business
  • (workshop) Teaching chess with other strategy games
  • (workshop) Sources of funding for chess in schools

 

Day 3: Monday 12 December

9.00-9.30 Welcome and refreshments

9.30-12.30 Parallel sessions

  • (panel) The professionalisation of chess teaching
  • (panel) New research into the effectiveness of chess (by invitation)
  • (meeting) European Chess Union Education Commission (by invitation)

12.30-2.00 Lunch

2.00-3.30 Parallel sessions: optional extension meetings

3.30-4.00 Plenary: Summaries and conclusions

Speaker profile: Dr Barry Hymer

Do we want to nurture chessplayers who are intrinsically motivated, challenge-loving learners, or who cower in the steely grip of performance anxiety? Research into motivation provides us with compelling evidence that the dominant educational orthodoxy of praise-based self-esteem brings with it great risks, whereas a counter-intuitive emphasis on praise-lite, process-heavy feedback brings far richer rewards. Barry’s sessions will sketch out both the theory and the significant practical implications for chess coaches.

Barry Hymer

Dr Barry Hymer is Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster.

Barry has been interpreting and researching learning theory as it relates to classroom practice since he became a professional educator in 1983. Over this period he has acquired extensive experience in schools, initially as a primary and secondary school teacher, subsequently as an educational psychologist and since 2004 as an independent consultant, academic and researcher. Having invested his “10 000 hours of purposeful practice”, he has an international reputation as an engaging and highly effective communicator

Barry has particular interests and expertise in the related areas of motivation, mindset, talent development and independent learning. Barry has toured with Prof Carol Dweck, originator of mindset theory, during the summers of 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016, speaking at packed conferences in England and abroad.  Barry has created and leads the Osiris Mindset Programme – a one-year intervention aimed at introducing and embedding growth mindset practices in schools. His most recent books are the bestsellingGrowth Mindset Pocketbook (Hymer & Gershon, 2014), and Learning Teaching: Becoming an inspirational teacher (with Pete Boyd & Karen Lockney, 2015) – described by Prof John Hattie of Melbourne University as “The perfect book for those who want to make the most of their opportunity to enhance students’ brain power.”

A fixed mindset killed Barry’s own engagement in chess. Barry was a keen chessplayer in his youth (winning South African junior and senior provincial colours) and is again in his more enlightened late middle-age. In the intervening 30 years he avoided the game, having come to believe that he’d reached a mediocre peak at 22 years of age and was unlikely to improve further. He is belatedly putting the fruits of his professional learning to the test in his own re-engagement in the game.

 

Chess exercise design competition

For the third year in a row, we will be running a competition during the Conference. In 2014, the subject was designing a game played on a chessboard. The competition was won by Tatyana Ogneva with her game called “Football chess”; Tatyana took home the £500 prize. Last year, we held a Social Entrepreneur Bootcamp together with a competition for the best social chess project, judged by experienced executives. Luis Blasco, who uses chess to work with children suffering from ADHD, earned £500 for his enterprise “Ajedrez y TDAH”.

We are delighted that this year’s Conference will also feature a competition, and thanks to sponsorship from the European Chess Union the prize fund has been increased to 1,000. The task this year is to come up with the best original classroom chess exercise. There is only one rule: the exercise must involve collaborative problem solving.

Check out the competition page for details — and start creating, just don’t miss the deadline!