Working memory: the seat of learning and comprehension

Nelson Cowan

in Neuroscience in Education

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600496
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739187 | DOI:
Working memory: the seat of learning and comprehension

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This chapter examines the limitations of working memory and means to overcome them, with emphasis on the developmental changes from the early elementary school years through adulthood. It proposes educational principles to make the most of working memory for optimal learning throughout development. The first two sections of the chapter provide a definition of working memory and a description of how it is used in information processing. This is followed by a discussion of several types of working memory limitations (item limits, goal maintenance limits, and time limits) and the strategies used to overcome the limits. Within this framework, the childhood development of working memory is examined. To gain a complete picture of development we must separately consider the growth of storage capacity, goal maintenance processes, memory persistence, and strategy use. Finally, lessons for maximizing education are presented, focusing on the use of materials and instructions that are challenging and stimulating but not beyond the working memory capabilities of the child.

Keywords: working memory limitations; learning; child development; developmental changes; information processing; education

Chapter.  10817 words. 

Subjects: Neuroscience

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