MODEL

Literacy 4-6

Systems Change
Literacy 4-6 > Factors > Working Memory

Working Memory

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Working Memory. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

Working Memory, a component of executive functioning, is what allows us to temporarily hold and manipulate information in mind to apply in other processes. With our Working Memory, we recall and apply the knowledge stored in our Short- and Long-term Memories to understand what we are reading and to plan and structure our writing. Because Working Memory is limited in its capacity, if Working Memory becomes overtaxed, a student may seem to be distracted because they are having difficulty recalling and using information when they read and write.

Main Ideas

Working Memory can also be called updating as it involves working with and updating information in memory. One influential model of Working Memory lays out four components, each considered to have a limited capacity. These separate components are responsible for maintaining verbal Working Memory, visual and spatial Working Memory, and for integrating information from these components that serves as a link between Long-term Memory and Working Memory. In addition, there is an executive control system which directs activities within these systems, including shifting and focusing attention between them.

Cognitive Load is another important element of Working Memory and refers to the amount of mental effort being expended by Working Memory during different tasks. Cognitive Load Theory proposes that instruction can be designed in a way to reduce Cognitive Load. It also differentiates between different types of Cognitive Load:

  • Intrinsic: The cognitive load that results from characteristics of the content being learned by the student;
  • Extraneous: The cognitive load that results from how the content is presented to the student; and
  • Germane: The cognitive load required to create permanent schemas in long-term memory. Schema refers to underlying concepts or knowledge. Once schema are made, it is easier to hold information that fit within those schema in Working Memory.

Learn More

  • Cognition & Memory: Topic that includes cognitive science theories about how the brain processes information on Digital Promise's Research Map
  • Combating Cognitive Overload: Module by Sanford Inspire
  • Working Memory: Subtopic that describes the function of the brain's working memory on Digital Promise's Research Map

View Measures and References