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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Help Your Working-memory Capacity

I just read a fascinating book on increasing teacher awareness of the importance of working-memory capacity for teaching and learning strategies. Many youngsters have working memory limitations, and they usually do not grow out of them. This is a major and serious cause of low grades, poor learning skills, poor confidence, and life-long diminished motivation to learn.

Limited working-memory capacity impairs the ability to think and solve problems. I was told once by a middle-school teacher that her “special needs” students could do the same math as regular students, but they just can’t remember all the steps. This clearly reflects a limited working-memory capacity. If the demands made on working memory could be lessened, better thinking could result.

Certain strategies can help to reduce the load on working memory. Teachers should model and students should employ the following devices:

Provide help, cues, mnemonics, reminders.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)(example: use short, simple sentences, present much of the instruction as pictures/diagrams).

Don’t present so much information. Less can be more.

Facilitate rehearsal, using only relevant information and no distractors.

Get engaged, by taking notes, and creating diagrams and concept maps.

Attach meaning from what is already known. (The more you know, the more you can know).

Organize information in small categories.

Break down tasks into small chunks. Master each chunk sequentially, one at a time.

Doing these things not only helps the thinking process, but will also promote the formation of lasting memories. The process of converting working memory into permanent form is called consolidation, and I will explain that next time.


Gathercole, Susan E., and Alloway, Tracy P. 2008. Working memory and learning. Sage Publications,. 124 pages.


  1. Anonymous7:53 PM

    Excellent post! I have always been fascinated with memory techniques and tips. I think the KISS device is essential with getting things across in a simplified manner without overwhelming an individual. Please check out my post on my experiences and regrets of not working on memory improvement techniques earlier.

  2. I've been training my working memory capacity using a training technique developed by Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl of the Universities of Michigan and Bern.

    The research showed that the training is proven to increase fluid intelligence.

    I was so impressed by the research report that I developed a software program using the same method so that anyone can achieve these improvements at home.
    The IQ Training Program

    mind evolve, llc


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