20 May, 2007

Dancing with Data- Part 1

The graph above of Pat Maths results across the cluster provides a snapshot of what has happened with numeracy Mt. Alexander schools in 2005 and 2006. It is difficult to draw conclusions from the line graph.

But when we combine stanines into low(1+2+3), medium(4+5+6), and high (7+8+9), and plot a column graph clearer and interesting trends begin to emerge.

So, what can we say?
It appears there has been some improvement in numeracy across the cluster. Although, we have to be careful here. We’re comparing two different groups, and there are no isolated or control variables. On their own we can’t be too confident of these results meaning anything definate.
Harry and I have enrolled in the Graduate Certificate for Educational Research Methods and are understanding the fascinating complexities of educational research- a unique blend of scientific(quantitative) and humanistic(qualitative) approaches.
But, here is the strength of the humanistic approach: these graphs have ‘shone a torch’ on an area for further investigation.
By conducting interviews, compiling vignettes, recording teacher observation, parent comments, & tutor observations we might begin to draw a picture about what specifically in our program is happening with student learning. It’s often through qualitative approaches we find the unexpected, discover both subtleties and complexitites within education.
And from that, ascertain what contribution regular chess playing has on learning outcomes.
The moral to the story: its not always the graph that tells us entirely what’s happening, but understanding what’s happening in classrooms that gave us the graph in the first place.


Sam Grumont said...

I came across a blog entry from Bruce Schauble with an interesting story about his interest in chess.

"My mom taught me to play chess when I was maybe seven, and I played off an on in high school. In college I had two professors at Fairfield University, Tom Loughran and Bob Bolger, who were serious chess players, and I spent many hours in their offices over a chess board.

I began teaching sixth grade in Massachusetts in 1971, and there were a number of students in my class who liked to play chess. So we formed an informal little club. Then in 1972 the chess world became the focus of international interest when Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky competed for the world championship in Reyjkavik. It was a brilliant match, with two terrific and innovative players representing the two countries locked in an ideological struggle that was mirrored in the playing styles and in the methods of preparation represented by the two contestants. The series was televised in the Boston area on PBS television, in a style that was from today's perspective decidedly low-tech: Shelby Lyman, the commentator, stood in front of a large board on the wall behind him with stick-on pieces, and waited for the phone to ring with the latest move. When it rang, he'd make the move on the wall chart and then spend the next minutes, and sometimes hours, talking about the implications. The match made Shelby Lyman a national celebrity."

You can find the entry at:

Anonymous said...

My name is Greg Smith and I’m a chess tutor. Thanks Harry and Steve for asking me to join the team.

Unlike Harry I came late to Chess. I played a few games as a child and luckily remembered the moves when I first attended the Castlemaine Chess Club. There I enjoyed the company, wisdom, humour and coaching of the astute.

I became a father in 2002 (I now have a boy and a girl) and a teacher in 2003. I had taught SOSE, ICT and Art, previously to tackling Chess. The student’s enthusiasm and engagement with chess overwhelmed me. Truly amazing! Chess works.
I distinctly remember a point when 30 children all pondered studiously silent, each brain computing at the speed of light. This despite my preferred method of encouraging banter, conversation and discussion. I have derived happiness reaffirming that children enjoy thinking.

I have been privileged to attend 5 schools in Mt Alexander Shire and I enjoy the diverse challenges available. All teachers have been warm and supportive and speak of positive results. Large, small and mixed age classes all require different approaches. I am often asked about gender bias and I haven’t observed any. Students love to count up the pieces. Whether it is shown that chess improves maths or not I remain convinced that chess in schools, particularly at upper Primary level, is eminently beneficial.
Harry sums up chess so perfectly I will simply quote him here.
“Research, experience and observation have led me to believe that chess is an excellent pedagogical tool which improves concentration, impulse control and accountability, cultivates good sportspersonship and social interaction.”
With chess, a novice can play an experienced player, beautifully expressed by an Indian proverb, "Chess is a lake in which a gnat may sip and an elephant may bathe."