Memory, not intelligence, key to doing well in school

February 29th, 2008 - 12:00 am ICT by admin  


London, Feb 28 (IANS) A poor “working memory”, rather than low intelligence, is the reason for under-performance in school, say researchers who claim to have developed a tool to assess memory capacity. Durham University researchers, who surveyed over 3,000 school children in Britain, found that a tenth of them across all ages suffer from poor working memory - something that affected their learning abilities.

A “working memory” is the ability to hold information in your head and manipulate it mentally. You use this mental workspace when adding up two numbers without being able to use pen and paper or a calculator.

It is working memory that allows you to remember a new phone or PIN number, a web address or vehicle registration number. It also helps in following spoken directions and remembering measurements of ingredients in a recipe without having to constantly refer to the book.

Children at school need this memory on a daily basis for a variety of tasks such as following teachers’ instructions or remembering sentences they have been asked to write down.

Researchers said the problem was seldom identified as such by the teachers. In fact, most teachers tended to describe such children as inattentive or as having low intelligence.

The new tool, a combination of a checklist and a computer programme, will enable teachers to identify and assess children’s memory capacity in the classroom.

The researchers believe this early assessment of children will help teachers adopt new approaches to teaching, thus helping to address the problem of under-achievement in schools.

Researcher Tracy Alloway from Durham University’s School of Education and her colleagues have published these findings.

The researchers believe this early assessment of children will enable teachers to adopt new approaches to teaching, thus helping to address the problem of under-achievement in schools.

Without appropriate intervention, poor working memory in children, thought to be genetic, can affect long-term academic success and prevent them from achieving their potential, say the academics.

The new tool has been tested successfully in 35 schools in Britain and have now been translated into 10 foreign languages.

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