By Dr. Renate Otterbach
Advisor and Contributor for Chess in Schools. Researcher and Data Scientist focusing on Cognition and Student Learning, Curriculum Theory, and Curriculum Design. Read Renate’s complete article on learning loss here.
Covid-19 brought many changes and challenges to society including the impact on education of online-only learning. This impact is especially severe in elementary school grades where students learn some of the key process skills such as reading, writing, and calculation. These skills are prerequisites for most subsequent learning. Research indicates that the highest level of plasticity occurs during the earlier years. Hence a reduced ability to learn is especially detrimental during those years.
Learning can be defined as the assimilation and accommodation of new information with schemas that we have already developed. Assimilation focuses on the taking in of new information, whereas accommodation is concerned with the integration of new information with prior knowledge.
Although it may be impossible to reverse the loss of learning, we may be able to compensate for it. This can be accomplished by intentionally focusing on maximizing the process of accommodation, with the goal of increasing the amount of assimilated information that is accommodated. This can be achieved by directly focusing on the development of the thinking skills responsible for the process of accommodation.
The presence of a problem-solving environment and immediate, unambiguous feedback are essential for the development of logical thinking. Chess is an alternative path to the core of critical thinking and is the ideal medium to teach abstract thought in an engaging manner.
As students develop their thinking abilities through chess, their ability to efficiently select and accurately encode new material will improve. This, in turn, will enable the student to retrieve stored information more effectively. Thus, when presented with new information students will be able to relate new information to prior knowledge, thereby increasing the efficiency of the accommodation process. Consequently, less information will be lost because of mislearning or faulty storage of information. Over time this will result in increased understanding and an improved ability to solve problems.
One way, then, to compensate for learning loss is by directly focusing on the development of the thinking skills responsible for the process of accommodation. A highly targeted environment that encourages problem solving and the development of rationale and logical thinking may even increase future learning. Chess and chess-related activities meet the criteria for providing a problem-solving environment that spurs the development of logical thinking and should be considered as part of any strategy to increase student success.