February 18, 2016

On Chess: After-school programs seem to be a crowning success

By Anna Nicotera

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has been running after-school scholastic chess programs in community centers and schools in the area since 2008. Last fall, 1,100 students participated in after-school programs at more than 50 schools across 14 school districts.

The scholastic chess programs create structured, yet fun, learning environments to foster innovation and encourage imaginative and creative thinking. Evidence from research on the impact of chess suggests that participating in chess programs can promote academic and cognitive development by supporting critical thinking, concentration, memory, forward-thinking, logic and analysis.

In the fall of 2015, the Chess Club collaborated with researchers to pilot surveys of students in the after-school scholastic chess programs. The surveys look at three broad types of outcomes.

  • First, the surveys determine if the after-school chess program experience is increasing students' confidence in their ability to play chess.
  • Second, the surveys measure if students are catching the chess \bug\ and will continue to make chess a part of their lives after the class concludes.
  • Finally, the surveys measure the impact of chess on certain non-cognitive and character skills, such as increased school engagement and enjoyment, higher feelings of self-efficacy, and increased self-control and determination.

Preliminary results from the pilot surveys indicate that one-third of students had never played chess before joining the after-school scholastic chess programs. The results and data were collected from the Your Move Chess program in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. This program is a cooperative effort between Ascension and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

By the end of the semester, 75 percent of students played chess outside of the after-school program with a member of their family and 80 percent of them said they plan to play chess when they are adults.

Participation in the after-school program increased students’ confidence in their ability to play chess. At the beginning of the program, 64 percent of students said they were good at chess. This percentage increased to 94 percent by the end of the semester.

Students’ engagement in the scholastic chess program may also carry over into the regular school day. Eighty-one percent of students indicated that they look forward to school more on days when they have chess club, and participating students indicated that chess club helped them gain confidence that they can learn difficult material, understand that they can complete difficult tasks when they work hard, and make them want to challenge themselves in the future.

Future research will explore whether student participation in the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis’ after-school chess programs are related to changes in learning strategies such as long-term planning, goal setting, study skills, decision making, problem solving and reasoning. Accordingly these studies will determine how chess lessons improve student academic perseverance, behavior, study skills and performance.

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