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Domain Transfer


Generally, in research two forms of transfer are discussed: near and far transfer. In their presentation at the London Chess Conference, Sala and Gobet (2016) defined near and far transfer as follows:

  • Near transfer: transfer to similar domains: algebra to calculus.
  • Far transfer to non-similar domain: Latin to mathematics or chess to intelligence.

For advocates of Chess in Education, evidence for the far transfer of chess training to academic domains is of critical importance. While the affective (social-emotional) benefits of chess are real, a key argument for bringing chess into the classroom rests on the belief that there is far transfer of at least some types of chess training to academic domains.

A recent 24-study metastudy collaboration, Sala and Gobet concluded that there was a moderate overall effect (about 1/3 of a standard deviation). There was a tendency for the effect to be greater with mathematics than with reading skills. Critics argue that such results are not unique to chess – that the research has not shown that the far transfer effects of chess training (at least the type of chess training delivered in the studies) were clearly superior to other interventions.

Some CIE advocates (including Chess in Schools and other attendees at the 2018 London Chess in Schools Conference) have pushed back on this skepticism about far transfer, arguing that today’s CIE best practice methods (such as SMART) of CIE are qualitatively superior to the teaching approaches and methods used in the meta studies. Others have chosen to place greater emphasis on effective benefits: improved social skills, strengthening relationships with teachers and parents, and making new friends.

Further Reading:
Gobet, F. (2019). The Psychology of Chess.
Otterbach, R. (2018). Chess and the Concept of Learning Transfer
Sala, G.and Gobet, F. (2016) Do the Benefits of Chess Instruction Transfer to academic and cognitive skills? A meta-analysis. Education Research Review, 46-57
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