Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Metacognitive Strategy Training Adds to the Effects of Working Memory Training in Children with Special Educational Needs

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Metacognitive Strategy Training Adds to the Effects of Working Memory Training in Children with Special Educational Needs

Article excerpt


The effects of computer-based Working Memory (WM) training using two training procedures were examined among sixty-four primary-school children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Measures of general cognitive ability, auditory and visuospatial working memory, arithmetic ability, and reading and writing skills were gathered and analysed. The referred group of SEN children predominantly had lower performance in auditory WM, arithmetics and reading and writing skills. The SEN children within respective school were randomized into either an active WM training group or a control group and ten schools participating in the WM training study were randomized into one of two different training conditions. At five schools the SEN children received regular WM training and at the other five schools the children received WM training with the addition of metacognitive strategy training. Results showed a significant difference in WM performance during training in favor of the metacognitive intervention. Furthermore, transfer effects occurred on visuospatial WM measures at posttest and at 6-month follow-up. Post-hoc tests showed that the effects pertained only to the metacognitive intervention. No transfer to arithmetic or reading and writing skills occurred after training in the two training conditions. Results were discussed in terms of metacognitive factors being important in optimizing performance in WM training, and that such factors should be taken into consideration when designing interventions for children with SEN. It is also suggested that in referral of children with SEN to remediation with WM training the WM profiles should be taken into consideration to a greater degree.

Keywords: children with special educational needs, metacognitive strategy training, working memory training

1. Introduction

There are a number of situations in everyday life where Working Memory (WM) is hypothesized to play a crucial role, such as listening to instructions, solving a math problem, reading a text, carrying out a plan. All these situations require the ability to retain and execute information. Working memory refers to important cognitive processes involved in one's ability to retain information for a short period and use it after a delay (e.g., Baddeley, 1986, 2007). In the original Baddeley model of working memory three components are described: a visuospatial and a phonological component responsible for temporary storage of short-term information, and a central executive responsible for more elaborate processing of the information.

Subsequent research on WM has focused on the relation between simple temporary memory storage and more complex executive attention processes. For example, the attentional control model (Engle & Kane, 2004) argues that working memory capacity can be explained by differences in executive attention primarily. The embedded process model (Cowan, 2012) advocates that WM should be understood as embedded processes involving both long-term memory representations that are activated in tasks, and focus of attention that makes activated items salient. For a more detailed review of different WM models used in educational context see Fenesi, Sana, Kim and Shore (2014). In a review it was concluded that storage and more complex processing components in WM are strongly related to one another, with both shared and unique variance attributed to them (Unsworth, Redick, Heitz, Broadway, & Engle, 2009).

In school context WM has been addressed as a crucial cognitive function underlying learning difficulties for children with special educational needs (SEN) (Alloway, Gathercole, Adams, & Willis, 2005). Previous research on the relation between WM and school related abilities has shown that low WM performance has negative consequences for the progress of reading, mathematics as well as language and reading comprehension (Passolunghi & Siegel, 2001; Signeuric, Ehrlich, Oakhill, & Yuill, 2000; Swanson, 1994; Swanson, Howard, & Sáez, 2006). …

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