What is working memory?
- A system responsible for temporarily storing and manipulating info
- A 'flexible workspace' in which information can be stored even during complex activities, also known as a 'mental jotting pad'.
- Real life example, mental arithmatic. However, the ability to carry out such calculations can be error prone when the storage demands of the activity exceed WMs capacity, this is true for all WM tasks.
- Capacity has shown individual variability. Although increases with age, a child with poor WM will not catch up to one with better WM, even with the increase. This can have real life implications e.g for classroom learning.
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Working memory in children
Gathercole et al (2004)
- Used 9 tasks that accessed different areas of WM in children e.g word and digit recall.
- Extracted statistical regularities to see which tests accessed which area.
- Found that adult WM levels were reached at 15yrs and demonstrated as young as 6yrs.
- The relationship between memory stores increased with age
- As early as 7yrs, WM test performance was correlated with attainment and academic success.
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Working memory and IQ
- There is contrasting evidence on the relationship between WM and IQ, some researchers suggest IQ is a key factor for learning; WM is the same as IQ, whilst others say WM shares unique links with learning after statistically accounting for IQ.
- Alloway& Alloway (2009) found that WM was a strong predictor of English and Maths skills 5 years later. Although they found that both WM and IQ are significant predictors, the IQ relationship was not as strong as that from WM and WM was still shown to correlate even after controlling for IQ.
- This evidence suggests that;
- WM is a seperate cognitive skill to IQ.
- WM is important for longitudinal learning outcomes
- WM accounted for the largest amount of statistical variation, important for classroom learning.
- Early screening for WM level could lead to effective management and learning of the childs academic success.
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Children with poor WM
- Characteristics include;
- Reserved in group activities
- Short attention spans and high distractability
- Forgetting instructions/messages
- Planning/organisational problems
- Poor utilisation of feedback, both implicit and explicit.
- Poor WM capacity is common in children with language impairments, dyslexia, ADHD, etc. and 70% of children with difficulties in reading obtain very low WM scores.
- What causes this? Currently not well understood.
- (There are NO STRONG ASSOCIATIONS with background, previous learning experience or home social/intellectual stimulation.)
- Genetics and frontal brain regions may play a role.
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