Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Working (or not) Memory

I mentioned in this post that I was immersing myself in many learning opportunities at once. While it sounded like fun at the time, working and reading multiple books and taking a course and going out of the country briefly and doing my other activities was not a recipe for 100% success in all areas. The piece that fell by the wayside (in addition to consistently blogging) was the one with the most flexible schedule - my participation in a MOOC-Ed. Now that I've finished my three books and book clubs, I'm attempting to catch up on my work in my Learning Differences course before it closes in mid-December, which also happens to be around the time I begin my next professional development opportunity.
The component I'm currently studying is about working memory, defined in this document as "the ability we have to hold in mind and mentally manipulate information over short periods of
time." Each section of the course includes lots of resources on a topic, so I have viewed many videos and read many posts to get a sense of different theorists' and educators' perspectives on the role of working memory in learning and education. This journal suggests that poor performance in school may be more a function of limited working memory than low intelligence.  This blog post attributes much of the complexity of reading to the memory demands of the process.
One element of this course component was a working memory test. I did not perform well on the test, even though I have not noticed problems with holding information in my head long enough to use it. The task of the assessment was to recall five random word after responding to a series of questions, some of which required mental math calculations. For me, working memory requires a context. If the information connects with a schema I already have in place, or I have a task to complete with the information, it feels easy to hold it in my head. If I have to remember for the sake of remembering without a purpose, that feels a lot tougher.  The test was a reminder to me that having a greater awareness of working memory does not mean that I will automatically be able to help every struggling learner by applying a strategy.
I've enjoyed scouring the working memory resources, and I'm looking forward to sharing them with colleagues as we work to collaboratively problem-solve for individual students.