There is news from England about some research that indicates that many children who were thought to have low intelligence actually have a problem with working memory, the ability to hold information in your head and manipulate it mentally. It is largely genetic and if it fails to function normally it can affect long-term academic success into adulthood and prevent children from achieving their potential.
The researchers from Durham University surveyed over three thousand children in 35 schools across the UK using the first tool to enabled them to assess memory capacity in the classroom. They found that ten per cent of school children across all age ranges suffer from poor working memory seriously affecting their learning. Poor working memory is rarely identified by teachers, who often describe children with this problem as inattentive or as having lower levels of intelligence.
The new tool is a combination of a checklist and computer program created after many years of research into poor working memory in children, and it should enable psychologists and teachers to identify and assess children's memory capacity as early as four years old.
The hope is that early assessment of children will enable teachers to adopt new approaches to teaching.
The checklist, called the Working Memory Rating Scale (WMRS), will enable teachers to identify children who they think may have a problem with working memory without immediately subjecting them to a test. A high score on this checklist shows that a child is likely to have working memory problems that will affect his or her academic progress.
Children can be evaluated using the computerized Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA). The tools also suggest ways for teachers to manage the children's working memory loads that will minimize the chances of children failing to complete tasks. Recommendations include repetition of instructions, talking in simple short sentences and breaking down tasks into smaller chunks of information.
Pearson Assessment publishes the tools.
This is interesting work, but we still need more research to answer another question: disturbances in working memory have been identified in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). So the question is whether many of the children found to have defects in working memory may actually have had ADHD.