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.


Sam Grumont said...

Good one Harry.

Eric Henderson said...


Thank you for putting in a good word for Fernando Moreno’s book, Teaching Life Skills through Chess: a Guide for Educators and Counselors.

I have had the pleasure of teaching chess with Fernando for several years at Broad Acres ES. More than anything, Fernando emphasizes results. I think this is one of the keys to his success here at BA and to the success of his book, which has found its way into executive board rooms as well as schools.

A little praise here, too, for the Aberdeen event, which clearly did its job and spread the word.


Eric Henderson
Media Specialist
Broad Acres ES
Silver Spring, MD, USA