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Does It Pay to Practice?: A Quasi-Experimental Study on Working Memory Training and Its Effects on Reading and Basic Number Skills
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Special Education.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is based on results from an intervention study targeting working memory training. A group of 46 boys and 11 girls (aged 10.7) that were attending special units in 16 regular schools participated in the study. The treatment group (n = 42) trained at school every day for 30-40 minutes with an interactive computer program (Cogmed training) for five weeks. The performances of the treatment group on reading related measures and basic number skills are compared to those of a group of students (n =15) that were attending similar special units and received only ordinary special educational instruction. Working memory measures and non-verbal problem solving were compared to students (n = 25) in a control group from a previous study.

In Study I, it was found that reading comprehension and working memory measures correlated and improved at post-tests (T2, T3) for the treatment group to a larger extent than for the comparison group.

In Study II, it was found that working memory measures and basic number skills were highly related. The performance of the boys in the treatment group improved more than that of the boys in the comparison group on basic number test at both post-tests.

In Study III, basic skills assessed three years later (T4) are reported. The treatment group achieved higher scores in reading comprehension compared to pre-tests and compared to the control group.

The treatment group seems to have gained from the cognitive training of working memory with the computer assisted program directly after training, after seven months and at the three year follow-up. The gains were observed on visuo-spatial working memory measure (T2, T3), reading comprehension and on basic number skills in boys (T2, T3, T4).

The possible mechanisms that may be involved in and may explain the observed improvements of performances are discussed: executive function, attention, memory, motivation, emotions. The study has some methodological limitations and more research is needed to substantiate the efficacy of the program.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Special Education, Stockholm University , 2013. , 119 p.
Keyword [en]
Working memory training, attention deficits, special educational needs, reading, basic mathematics, computer assisted instruction
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87611ISBN: 978-91-7447-613-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-87611DiVA: diva2:604993
Public defence
2013-03-22, Stora hörsalen, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Frescativägen 40, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 10061,091415
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted.

Available from: 2013-02-28 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2013-04-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs
2011 (English)In: Reading and writing, ISSN 0922-4777, E-ISSN 1573-0905, Vol. 24, no 4, 479-491 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examines the relationship between working memory and reading achievement in 57 Swedish primary-school children with special needs. First, it was examined whether children’s working memory could be enhanced by a cognitive training program, and how the training outcomes would relate to their reading development. Next, it was explored how differential aspects of working memory are related to children’s reading outcomes. The working memory training yielded effects, and these effects appeared beneficial to children’s reading comprehension development. Working memory measures were found to be related with children’s word reading and reading comprehension. The results show that working memory can be seen as a crucial factor in the reading development of literacy among children with special needs, and that interventions to improve working memory may help children becoming more proficient in reading comprehension.

Keyword
Working memory, Working memory training, Word decoding, Reading comprehension, Small groups, Special education, Special needs
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-50964 (URN)10.1007/s11145-010-9238-y (DOI)000288454000007 ()
Projects
Tillsammans med Karolinska Institutet, Torkel Klingberg och Specialpedagogiska institutionen, Mats Myrberg
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 091215
Note

authorCount :1

Available from: 2011-01-04 Created: 2011-01-04 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
2. Working Memory Training and the Effect on Mathematical Achievement in Children with Attention Deficits and Special Needs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Working Memory Training and the Effect on Mathematical Achievement in Children with Attention Deficits and Special Needs
2013 (English)In: Journal of Education and Learning, ISSN 1927-5250, Vol. 2, no 1, 118-133 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Working Memory (WM) has a central role in learning. It is suggested to be malleable and is considerednecessary for several aspects of mathematical functioning. This study investigated whether work with aninteractive computerised working memory training programme at school could affect the mathematicalperformance of young children. Fifty-seven children with attention deficits participated in an interventionprogramme. The treatment group trained daily, for 30-40 min. at school for five weeks, while the control groupdid not get any extra training. Looking at the group as a whole, mathematical performance improved in thetreatment group compared with the control group directly following the five weeks of training (Time 2), but theresults of the second post-test (Time 3, approximately seven months later) were no longer significant. Since therewas only a small number of girls, the results were analysed for boys only. The boys had improved theirmathematical results in both post-tests. WM-measures improved at Time 2 and 3 relative to Time 1 (pre-test) forthe whole group, and for boys. Differences in training scores were related to differences in the non-verbalWM-measure Span board back.

The results indicate that boys aged 9 to 12 with special needs may benefit, over time, from WM training, asshown in the enhanced results in mathematics following WM training. However, as the intervention and controlgroups were not randomised, the results cannot be generalised; the results must be considered with caution.

Keyword
working memory training (WM training), attention, mathematics, special needs
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87599 (URN)10.5539/jel.v2n1p118 (DOI)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 10061
Available from: 2013-02-12 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2013-05-24Bibliographically approved
3. A Three Year Follow-up Study: Students´ Performances in Reading and Mathematics Three Years after Five-week Computerized Working Memory Training
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Three Year Follow-up Study: Students´ Performances in Reading and Mathematics Three Years after Five-week Computerized Working Memory Training
2013 (English)In: European Journal of Special Needs Education, ISSN 0885-6257, E-ISSN 1469-591XArticle in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Working memory (WM) can be conceptualised as a system that stores and processes information continuously for a few seconds, is suggested to be malleable and to affect learning. To find out how WM training affects learning in a long-term perspective, twenty-seven children (mean age = 14.1) with attention deficits participated in this study. The treatment group (n = 18; 3 female) had trained earlier with an interactive computerised working-memory training programme at school for five weeks, while the control group (n = 9; 3 female) had not received any extra training. Three years after the training, the children completed further tests in reading and mathematics. The treatment group had enhanced their reading comprehension results more than the control group had, compared to baseline results. This study suggests that working memory training in children with attention deficits does not appear to be conducive to persistent improvement in all measures, but rather in one: reading comprehension. One limitation is the design of the study; the groups were not randomised and the control group was inactive. Further, many conditions could not be controlled for, such as the different teaching approaches over the time period, SES, as well as the school and home environments which include the efforts and knowledge of teachers and parents.  The gains in reading comprehension after three years were observed for all the students in the treatment group. The previous advantage, that the students had gained after the five-weeks WM training, was thus maintained at the three-year follow-up. However, the results cannot be generalised due to the limitation in design and small sample size. It is hoped that future studies will target WM-training and basic skills.

Keyword
working memory training, reading comprehension, mathematics, longitudinal, attention deficits
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87609 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 10438
Available from: 2013-02-13 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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