Being an evidence-based organisation demands that the latest research and practical experience is taken on board; the launch of gameAhead provided the perfect opportunity to review and update our existing game-based workshops. “Kings and Queens”, our chess-based thinking skills course, was first available in May of 2017: what had been learned over the following year?
First it is worth recapping that in any game-based workshop, the game is secondary to the learning. Although participants do learn how to play and discuss how to play better, we take a lead from current education research (Trinchero and Sala, 2015) that for best overall results the game should be used as a (powerful!) medium for teaching skills. In other words, “Kings and Queens” aims to produce better thinkers, not chess champions.
At the same time, what distinguishes “Kings and Queens” from our other workshops is that it uses a ‘real world’ game as its medium, rather than custom games specifically designed to explore cognitive approaches and biases. Although learning chess is not the only point of the workshop, it is something that has a life outside and beyond the workshop. Attendees who are inspired to take the game further should not find they have to “un-learn” anything.
Here, then, are the 2018 updates to the workshop as it comes under the gameAhead umbrella:
Always start with the simple rules
For those attending the initial “chess from scratch” module we originally offered the choice of full FIDE rules or a simplified rule set. Now we always begin with the simplified rules, which have been adjusted so that full rules can be added on later without having to unlearn any skills already learned. The simple rules allow the game to be taught as one of interacting geometric patterns, which speeds up the learning process.
Initial puzzle focus
99% of the existing stock of published chess problems remain valid under the simple rules. Thus we can begin by presenting simple problems as ‘brain teasers’ to the attendees. This allows both solo and group (collaborative) work to take place, and provides an outlet for those uncomfortable with competitive games.
Choice of pieces
Taking advantage of the geometrical focus of the simplified rules, we now offer the choice of traditional pieces (now a more attractive set from a new supplier) or our exclusive ‘lines of action’ design where each piece’s appearance communicates a reminder of its powers. As well as helping new learners, the new design reduces barriers in organisations where the traditional design has unwanted cultural baggage.
Get playing, keep playing
In order to maximise the benefit of the workshop, we want to encourage ongoing competitive play: thus we initially introduce our ChessCards as a self-adjusting handicapping system between players. This allows different skill levels to play together and still have fun. We also include advice and tools for the organisation to use post-workshop.
To find out more about gameAhead Kings and Queens download our factsheet.