The challenge of working memory. Imagine filling a balloon with water. Keeping the balloon open whilst pouring in the water is challenging. As capacity is reached, excess water spills over, even going in many directions. If the balloon is degraded by sunlight, or has sustained a small hole, the water seeps out. This is like our working memory. Too much input, competing sources of information and limited capacity affect its ability to manage and manipulate complex information.
Working memory is a key element of executive function. It is crucial to learning, reasoning and making sense of the world. CAST explain that working memory is limited for every learner, but can be further limited in learners with learning difficulties. So, what can we do to support learners?
Key Strategies to Support Memory
All of the following strategies are taken from Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. and Patrice M. Bain, Ed.S. from Powerful Teaching.
“Retrieval practice” is a learning strategy where we focus on getting information out. Through the act of retrieval, or calling information to mind, our memory for that information is strengthened and forgetting is less likely to occur. Retrieval practice is a powerful strategy for improving academic performance without more technology, money, or class time.
Spaced practice involves taking a given amount of time devoted to learning, and arranging that time into multiple sessions that are spread over time. In this way, the learning sessions are said to be “spaced” apart in time. Contrast this with cramming, where learning is conducted in a short, massed manner.
Interleaving supports learning by mixing related concepts, therefore encouraging students to discriminate between approaches or similaraties or differences, for example. Often used in maths, practice problems are interleaved if the maths problems are arranged so that consecutive problems cannot be solved by the same strategy.
FEEDBACK- DRIVEN METACOGNITION
Feddback-driven metacognition develops students’ cognition of what they know, and what they don’t. It can be valuable in guiding students’ decision-making when learning, applying and transferring skills or strategies.
Future posts will explore practical strategies related to each of these concepts. They will be linked to this post once released.
There is more about Universal Design for Learning on this website.