Working memory: a fundamental role in the learning process

Working memory: a fundamental role in the learning process

We use working memory in daily activities. It is therefore essential to develop it from the earliest years of learning.

Working memory: a fundamental role in the learning process. We all use working memory in our daily activities.

It is essential to develop working memory from the early years of learning, especially for students with SLD, through the use of specific tools to support the so-called working memory, for example, maps.

What is memory?

Memory is defined as the “ability to keep a more or less complete and lasting trace of the external stimuli experienced and their responses”. However, it is important to highlight that memory is a broader concept, as there are different declinations of memory including short-term memory and long-term memory.

As explained by Professor Stella, “in the past, short-term memory has been compared to the shore: when you leave a trace on the sand, it remains for a few moments. Then comes a wave that erases the trace ".

Short-term memory therefore allows you to repeat a number, sequence, phrase or concept. Therefore, in order to be reused, these stimuli must be stored in short-term memory. So the short-term verbal memory allows you to copy and hold information temporarily and use it immediately.

The working memory

In the context of short-term memory, a system called working memory operates, a theme often linked to learning disorders such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. "Working memory allows you to go beyond simply copying information," Professor Stella explains. "There is in fact an elaboration of the stimulus and a transformation of information that requires a greater commitment".

Do the calculations in mind while shopping or taking notes while talking to someone or listening to the teacher: we use working memory in different situations, throughout the day, not just at school. Working memory intervenes in more demanding activities, which first require the memorization of the stimulus and subsequently its processing. It can also store only a few stimuli at a time and, for this reason, the information stored is constantly "updated".

Working memory in students with SLD

Working memory can be engaged in different ways and with different levels of difficulty. In particular, working memory often recurs in the school context, just think of activities such as reading comprehension, mind calculation and problem solving. They require not only the storage of information, but also an interaction between existing information and acquired information, and subsequent processing. For this reason, working memory plays a fundamental role in learning and has important consequences on the academic performance of students with SLD, as it also has an important impact on the study method, which is essential for organizing study activities.

It is therefore important to propose already from the first years of school activities that stimulate and develop the working memory, providing the right tools especially for people with SLD. Using tools to support memory, such as mind maps, offers benefits to the definition of a study method and the learning process.

Find out more on the subject of working memory from the words of Prof. Giacomo Stella.

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