Working Memory Intervention: a Reading Comprehension Approach


For any complex mental task, people rely on working memory. Working memory capacity (WMC) is one predictor of success in learning. Historically, attempts to improve verbal WM through training have not been effective. This study provided elementary students with WM consolidation efficiency training to answer the question, Can reading comprehension be improved by strategic updating of WMC and utilization of episodic memory during reading? We report preliminary data from 10 5 grade students who took three pretests to measure each student’s 1) ability to comprehend sentences of varying lengths, 2) ability to decode English-like words (Snowling, 1986), 3) working memory capacity (Weschler, D, 2008). 5 students were chosen to receive a working memory training that consists of 2 sessions a week for 4 weeks. In the training sessions, the students were presented with a series of progressively longer sentences and were asked to choose a picture to demonstrate comprehension. All 10 students took 2 post-tests, alternate versions of the working memory capacity and sentence comprehension pre-tests. The working memory and sentence comprehension data were analyzed using a one-tailed t-test. A priori power analysis indicated that I need 35 subjects in each of the 2 groups to have 95% power for detecting a large sized effect when employing the traditional .05 criterion of statistical significance. I expect that this training will change the strategies elementary readers use to update their WMC while reading to understand progressively more complex sentences. If successful, this training will dramatically affect reader’s interest and confidence, and can serve as a model for elementary reading programs.


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