Saturday, March 3, 2012

Working Memory - Part 1

Everything that we think, do and say is dependent on the efficiency of working memory.

Working memory is where most of the thought processes take place, on a moment by moment basis. It is part of a broader memory and thinking system. It has two main functions: executive function and short-term storage of information. For example, when a child is given an instruction she will need to use the executive function to direct attention to various aspects of the message and to decide what it means. At the same time she will have to temporarily store the information in short-term memory while these executive thinking processes are taking place.

However, there is a limit to how much can be stored at any one time. The average person can store approximately 5 separate items at any one time. This storage capacity can vary considerably from one individual to another. Obviously, the larger the capacity the more efficient the learning will be.

The first thing to consider is the complexity of the instructions. The more complex the instructions are - the  bigger the load will be on the storage of the information. If too much mental space is taken up with storage it will affect the capacity to process the stored information.

What can be done, especially for those that have a more limited working memory?

  1. Make sure there are no distractions.
  2. Simplify the instruction.
  3. Make eye contact. 
  4. Repeat the instruction.
  5. Ask the child to tell you what the instruction requires of him/her.
  6. Write the instruction.
  7. Demonstrate the instruction.
  8. Make a picture, sign, symbol, or diagram.
  9. Relate the instruction to something they already know or have done.
  10. Make a plan of action based on the instruction.

Relevance and simplicity are the main principles.

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