07 May, 2008

Jonathan Rowson- an interesting thinker

I first came across the work of Guy Claxton reading Sam Grumonts blog and thinkings about slow-learning. Two of Claxton’s more interesting ideas are i)that the mind needs to be given time to create meaning hence the phrase slow learning, and ii) that the modern maths curriculum has lost its way.

Almost serendipidously, we met Jonathan Rowson in Aberdeen last year. Interesting fellow Rowson.

Born in Aberdeen, he’s Scotlands 3rd chess grandmaster, has completed first class degree from Oxford, and is presently studying a Doctoral thesis on wisdom with Guy Claxton as supervisor.

So when Rowson talks about education, and learning, and where chess fits into that landscape his ideas are well worth consideration.

Rowson’s presentation from Aberdeen argued we need to keep grappling with the question “What’s so special about chess”, and his answer at present is based on the premise that thinking is the skill that enables us to acquire meaning. He asserts that chess offers the opportunity for people to make meaning through the consequences of their decisions.

Rowson goes on to explore the concept of engagement within a chess context and poses the question ‘where is the educational value the greatest’ within this framework.

Rowsons presentation is certainly provocative and can be found here.

(photo above shows Jonathan Rowson (R) with the Lord Provost of Aberdeen(L) after announcing the Jonathan Rowson Award for all children of Aberdeen who pass a certain requirement.)


Jonathan Rowson said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for forwarding the link to your blog and for your kind comments- it was good to be reminded of the conference! Hope things are going well with you and the Castlemaine initiative.
I thought I should make contact from my secular email address because all being well I should be finished my Phd by the end of the year.

Best wishes,


Steve Carroll said...

Thanks Jonathan,

It was good to revisit your powerpoint after some time- it had a new clarity. And its a good mantra to keep chanting: 'why is chess important'.

Although I'm not a chess player, I'm interested in programs and activities that engage kids. I've developed successful solar vehicle, surfing and circus programs as ways of engaging and connecting kids to school. Something about chess is intriguing- I sense partly because the tutors we engage bring a sense of passion into the classroom- and teachers are constantly amazed how well the kids respond.

I'm doing some research exploring the different types of social capital within our program. And some of the parents have come out with some fascinating insights. I hope to put some excerpts on the blog shortly.

I'll add your email address to my distribution list......unless you dont want want me to.

Best wishes

Steve Carroll

jonathan rowson said...

Hi Steve,

I like the sound of your work. Chess does have special qualities, but it's not the only thing that has- I just think that in any case where you see kids absorbed, engaged, motivated you need to think creatively about what's going on, and how it can be connected up to wider social and educational aims. I think what I was trying to get across in my talk was that in the zeal to get evidence about educational initiatives we often fail to generate compelling theories about why they might work.

I'm giving another talk on chess and education in a month or so at the second 'This Learning Life' conference in Bristol. I've copied the abstract below for your interest.

Best wishes,


Sam Grumont said...

Hi Steve,

I enjoyed reading the post and it was good to go back to Jonathan's presentation.Repetition, revisiting - we don't do this enough with our students.

In my job as a coach of teachers when I see kids engaged and absorbed in learning I'm always asking what is going on.

Asking students about what makes a good teacher I've found there is a consistency in their replies. Good teachers are:

Passionate and knowledgeable about what is being learnt
Positive in their relationship with each student.
Genuinely interested in their students as learners and individuals.
Finally - they have fun.

So there you go.


Sam Grumont said...

Hey Steve,
Thought Harry might like this:

A chess genius is a human being who focuses vast, little-understood mental gifts and labors on an ultimately trivial human enterprise.
- George Steiner