27 July, 2008

OVER THE BOARD WITH HARRY: The work of Fernando Moreno

VELs Thinking Domain says “Our world and the world of the future demand that all students are supported to become effective and skilful thinkers.” http://vels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/essential/interdisciplinary/thinking/index.html )

The Chess Squared Program encapsulated the directives and spirit of the new VELS strands of Physical, Personal and Social Learning and Interdisciplinary Learning (Victorian Essential Learning Standards) when it attempted to help students develop self efficacy and become self regulated learners. We did this by encouraging student’s through the spirit of competition, and the fun of game playing, to take control of finding patterns and connections.

Tutors encouraged students to learn to plan, examine and evaluate the process of pattern finding they are engaged in. Students, in order to improve in chess and thinking skills, were encouraged to develop flexibility in their thinking and make decisions about what to do next. They were encouraged to take control of a problem solving situation. Steve and I are beginning to investigate the impact of this ‘thinking about thinking strategy’ used in the program and its importance to enhancing learning outcomes.

When at the CISCCON Conference in Aberdeen last year, the Chess-Squared organisors found the work of Fernando Moreno particularly interesting. Moreno, a trained counsellor, uses the game of chess in a therapeutic manner to scaffold student thinking about situations they are faced with in real life.

Fernando Moreno says, “While the skills learned in chess benefit everyone, chess has been known to be especially effective for students whose environments provide little or no resources for success in school or society (p.2, 2002)” Moreno (p.3, 2002) highlights the positive outcomes in the American ghettos where chess programs have been applied. Moreno (p.3, 2002) says that the pedagogical efficacy of chess as a tool for deepening students understanding of decision-making processes and strategies has been extensively documented. Moreno (p.3, 2002) goes onto say, “Perhaps not as documented is the change in perception teachers have when they find out their “problem students” are chess players”.

The Chess Squared program has already provided an abundance of evidence confirming Moreno’s statement through it rigorous tournament structure involving hundred of students. The results have seen large numbers of students, dominantly boys, who perform poorly in other areas of school life excelling at chess and finding motivation and success at school.

Moreno (p.5, 2002) cites Dr. Robert Ferguson who evaluated the outcomes of twenty years of chess research at the “Chess In Education: A Wise Move” conference in 1995 who has concluded chess is an effective tool for developing critical thinking skills and leads to improvements in mathematics and language skills.

It is widely claimed chess is a game that engenders and encourages positive cognitive and attitudinal traits, also known as the affective domain, in those who embrace it. The attitudinal traits it encourages are; impulse control, improved concentration, resilience, managing feelings and deferment of gratification.

The skills in the cognitive domain it develops, amongst others, are; self talk, problem solving, forward thinking, anticipating consequences, meta-cognition and reflectivity which are all essential VELS skills.

It has been suggested students aren’t encouraged to think ahead at school. When students play chess they are encouraged to set clearly defined goals for themselves and choose strategic methods to achieve the desired outcomes. They then evaluate and compare results with their objectives, and evaluate the outcomes in terms of the strategies they adopted.
Chess is a game of prediction, calculation and pattern recognition. Predicting consequences and pattern recognition are key elements of mathematics and chess. In chess games players have to visualise and predict consequences. This is an area schools seldom teach students how to improve in.

The prediction of consequences is an essential component of science, mathematics and visualization. It is the faculty to make a mental model imaging a likely sequence of events. The key question is ‘what if’. In chess and mathematics you need to compare the existing context with past situations and weigh up potential outcomes. In practical terms this might mean estimating jumping a fence or in chess when confronted by a problem recalling past geometric situations, and analysing and visualising outcomes. Modern mathematics pedagogy has shifted from algorithms to pattern recognition.
The chess squared program is proud to be associated with Fernando Moreno and shares his vision of chess as a well being, life skill building tool that has something very special to offer all students. Let us unite in this worldwide task to put chess on the global curriculum.


Harry (Chess Tutor)

Fernando Moreno & Dr. Steve Tobias: CISCCON Aberdeen Scotland 2007.

16 July, 2008

OVER THE BOARD WITH HARRY-Albert Bandura and self-efficacy

How can we explain the phenomena of boy’s enthusiasm and success in the Chess Squared Program (CSP)? They do poorly at math/science these days compared with girls and fall way behind girls on every index particularly EQ areas yet they do so well at chess.

The key issues raised here centre upon self efficacy, resilience and achievement. The CSP has engendered high success amongst many low achieving boys. Low performing boys, and boys generally, bring high levels of interest, self belief, goal striving and enthusiasm to the chess program, qualities lacking, for many of them, in their other school pursuits.

Why do boys continue to play chess unhampered after a series of defeats when in other intellectual and physical pursuits they often surface as quitters with clear symptoms of low frustration tolerance?

One key issue is chess, while being stigmatised as nerdy, nevertheless carries the aurora of battles and medieval warfare which makes it almost forgivable given its intellectual nature.

The Canadian Socio-cognitive Theorist Albert Bandura, sort to embed the theory of self-efficacy into a broader socio-cognitive theory. He has focused on studying how efficacy beliefs impact on human functioning and intellectual development in youth.

To explain self efficacy Bandura argued we needed a comprehensive theory placed within the context of a unified conceptual framework which explained the origin of beliefs and the structures through which they operate, and the outcome of those beliefs. Bandura points out, “The value of a theory is ultimately judged by the power of the methods it yields to produce desired changes (1995, p.2).”

Bandura says, “Peoples level of motivation, affective states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively the case (1995, p2).” Bandura states unequivocally that research consistently shows that personal efficacy is a significant determinant in achievement and human motivation (1995, p3). Central to the work of Albert Bandura is the intellectual conviction that it is young people’s belief in their own personal efficacy that will help them meet the challenges of an increasingly complex, changing world (Bandura 1995). The question for Bandura is how we can develop young people’s personal efficacy to deal with modern psychological pressures and manage their lives successfully.

Bandura says, “The Capability to produce valued outcomes and to prevent undesired ones, therefore, provides powerful incentives for the development and exercise of personal control (1995, p2)”. Bandura goes onto say, “A resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort (1995, p.3)” This is something CPS students regularly experience in the heat of competition experienced during in-house and regional tournament chess.

Bandura, clarifying self-efficacy, says, “Perceived self efficacy refers to the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage perspective situations (1995, p.2)”

What are the sources of efficacy belief for Bandura? Bandura says, “The most effective way of creating a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences. They provide the most authentic evidence of whether one can master whatever it takes to succeed (1995, p.3)”.

Many boys feel empowered in the chess program because of their innate playing strength. Bandura says, “Success builds a robust belief in one’s personal efficacy. Failures undermine it, especially if failures occur before a sense of efficacy is firmly established (1995, p.3).” Bandura states that developing a sense of self-efficacy through mastery experiences involves ‘acquiring the cognitive, behavioural, and self regulatory tool’ and planning skills to achieve fruitful outcomes in a complex and changing world (1995, p.3).

We have accumulated immense data showing boys achievement levels compared with girls and their endeavours elsewhere. From a research perspective how can we explain it? Bandura argues, (referring to youth) that having a sense one can succeed makes them more likely to bounce back from setbacks (1995, p.3).

Surely we can argue ‘low frustration tolerance’ is rooted in thought saturated with fear of failure and a life with few mastery experiences. Many boys these days see themselves as academically inferior to girls and from an early age begin to define their masculinity in sporting terms. One boy said to me, “Girls are smarter than boys. Boys are stupid. We are good at sport.”

Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies, ed Albert Bandura, Cambridge University Press, 1995