Don’t panic if your kids refuse extracurricular activities: big research shows they don’t improve cognitive and academic skills

Elementary school students, ages six to eleven, compete in a chess tournament

Elementary school students, ages six to eleven, compete in a chess tournament

3Pascal Pochard Kasabianka / AFP

Despite the other advantages

Atlantico: Although extracurricular activities are generally credited with many virtues for the good development of children, studies confirm that regular practice of chess, a musical instrument, a foreign language or sport will not improve their cognitive and academic skills. How to explain it? What does this study tell us?

Aline Soto: Each learning situation is associated with its context. What is learned in one area cannot be applied in another. This is a major problem in a school system that divides discipline and does not allow the transfer of skills from one area to another. After a day in college, no student makes a meaningful connection between what they have heard in the 5 or 6 disciplines covered. Similarly, skills acquired in the game of chess will not be automatically re-assigned to mathematics, for example. If it is not shown, the transfer will not take place. Playing chess helps us memorize techniques without improving our general memory or anything else.

I can memorize the spelling of a word in Scrabble but misspell it in situations other than play. Because I don’t memorize a word. For that, I have to cut it into syllables and then spell each letter and in extension of this pronunciation, the word is written in my head. Then I invent one or two sentences with learned words. Eventually I imagine myself reusing it in my future. This is the “mental game” that must be practiced for spelling.

Only imagination can come out of this memory of our context. The school is being built based on the reproduction of the model, we forget that true intelligence is that which creates connections between different parts of knowledge, which creates knowledge and then action. It requires reflection and critical thinking.

According to an examination conducted in a college, the combination of learning French and mathematics has contributed to the improvement of the average level of students in these two disciplines. Knowledge therefore needs to be de-departmentalized so that the qualities imparted by one practice or another are beneficial to one another.

How do you explain that older studies tend to show the benefits of this practice?

These studies did not take into account this memory of the context and presented numerous cognitive biases. The new works on this subject are much more precise and raise concerns about a greater number of issues Older studies wanted to show that anyone can speak English in class without realizing that there are many benefits to learning English or another language, but not in the real situation, in the country in question.

Does this mean that children should stop practicing these activities? Or not just for utilitarian purposes?

It’s terrible to believe that someone is developing a skill if it isn’t. The baby does not need to sit for six hours a day to listen to anyone, especially on these days when attention is increasingly limited. For example, if I learn something new without repeating it in my own words, there is no achievement. To visualize where and when to use this knowledge, a child must be able to explain in his or her language what he or she understands.

To answer your question, it is important not to touch activities that make the child happy. Our brains are designed not only to think but also to imagine an action that will give us pleasure. So we are made to work, not to think, thought is only a stage when the action is over. What will feed this reward circuit.

The principle is for the child to discover that he can reproduce knowledge in the same way at the same time, but that he can create, imagine and transform something new in his mind from it.

Finally, these auditory and visual qualities must be associated with emotion and sensation. They are the building blocks of our brain. With this cocktail children can learn and understand above all. So we must make connections between what they live and what they feel.

If extracurricular activities do not have the desired effect, can we give them something else?

We learn by working, not by listening. This is the essence of our operation. So children need to be taught how to use their most important tool, their brain. If it is too complicated to concentrate because many parasites exist, the advantage of sports, music, and chess is that these disciplines develop concentration because it is associated with an action. Getting to know each other should be the first leisure activity …

Leave a Comment