Sunday, 6 May 2007

Chess-squared is a brilliant project

Steve Tobias is a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University in Queensland. He has taught at all levels of schooling. For the past two decades he worked in pre-service teacher education in the field of mathematics education. His recent research is in self regulation and building resilience and persistence in open ended and problem solving situations. He recently flew down to Castlemaine to meet the Chess-squared group.

I conducted an email interview with Steve about the chess initiative, CHESS-SQUARED, that began in a cluster of schools in Mount Alexander Shire, Central Victoria in 2006. The project is coordinated by Steve Carroll, Harry Poulton and Sam Grumont.

The chess -squared group have been invited to be keynote speakers at the Chess in the Schools and Communities International Conference At Aberdeen University. The main aims of the conference will be to explore the particular contribution of chess play within the school and home environment to the development of thinking skills, health and well being and the creative imagination of children and young people.

Sam What is your involvement in the project?

Steve I guess my main role is to support Steve, Harry and Sam with collecting research information about the students', teachers' and community's responses to the Chess program. It is a unique program and we would like to collect broad evidence that it has some positive effect on teaching and learning, particularly in mathematics. I am interested in students’ ability to self-regulate their learning, their ability to persist when the going is tough and their resilience when they lose a game. In a similar way I would like students to see that in learning mathematics - failure is actually okay and a starting place for developing a richer understanding of the task.

Sam What are your thoughts about how it's gone so far?

Steve This is a brilliant project. There are some facets that should be acknowledged. The main organisers are very passionate and committed to the project. It seems to more about bringing the community together through the schools. Playing games is important for developing logic, reasoning and strategizing skills. However, it also encourages 'play' with others including friends, mates, people you didn't know, parents, siblings, grand parents. I think the importance of the project is in the how the students build confidence through play and how this effects the relationship (learning opportunity) between students and teachers.

Steve It is being held in Aberdeen. The organisers of this conference invited the Castlemaine project as guest keynote speakers for their international conference. This is an honour and a tribute to the schools and organisers and huge indication that what is happening in the Castlemaine area is unique and very important for not only building skills but also community.

Sam Do you think the teaching and learning that is happening with Chess-squared is worthwhile?

Steve Absolutely. Without question their is a direct link between playing chess and teaching and learning. In this case students and teachers whether they be a chess tutor or fellow student - the teaching and learning will be intertwined. We would like to collect evidence about the richness of this interaction and the effects on student motivation. Hopefully the process will 'enable' students to learn for enjoyment and teach them something about persistence, resilience and the power of thinking through different strategies.

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