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Version 1.1 – Updated August 2021

Working memory strength

Overview

  • Influence: Working memory strength
  • Domain: Student
  • Sub-Domain: Prior knowledge and background
  • Potential to Accelerate Student Achievement: Potential to considerably accelerate
  • Influence Definition: Working memory is the cognitive site in which a person holds and manipulates information for a brief period of time, typically because this information is relevant to a current task. While cognitive scientists have endorsed multiple theories about precisely how working memory functions, educational theorists have concluded that a strong working memory is linked to the ability to switch from one rule-based task to another. Children with weaker working memories tend to perseverate, or repeat behaviors or protocols that are no longer relevant. Finally, students with weaker working memory tend to perform worse academically.

Evidence

  • Number of meta-analyses: 5
  • Number of studies: 458
  • Number of students: 56,110
  • Number of effects: 4,128
  • Effect size: 0.68

Meta-Analyses

Meta-Analyses
Journal Title Author First Author's Country Article Name Year Published Variable Number of Studies Number of Students Number of Effects Effect Size
Journal of Educational Psychology Peng, Namkung, Barnes, & Sun USA A meta-analysis of mathematics and working memory: Moderating effects of working memory domain, type of mathematics skill, and sample characteristics. 2016 Working memory on math achievement 110 0 829 0.61
Psychological Bulletin Peng, Barnes, Wang, Li, Swanson, Dardick, & Tao USA A meta-analysis on the relation between reading and working memory 2017 Working memory on reading 197 29,629 2,026 0.61
Educational Research Review Friso-van den Bos, van der Ven, Kroesbergen, & van Luit Netherlands Working memory and mathematics in primary school children: A meta-analysis 2013 Working memory on achievement 111 16,921 1,233 0.70
Learning and Individual Differences Carretti, Borella, Cornoldi & de Beni Italy Role of working memory in explaining the performance of individuals with specific reading comprehension difficulties: A meta-analysis 2009 Working memory on reading achievement 19 1,613 19 0.71
Frontiers in Psychology Pascual, Munoz, & Robres Spain The relationship between executive functions and academic performance in primary education: Review and meta-analysis 2019 Executive functioning (working memory) 21 7,947 21 0.78
TOTAL/AVERAGE 458 56,110 4,128 0.68

Confidence

The Confidence is the average of these four measures, each divided into five approximately equal groups and assigned a value from 1 to 5 based on the following criteria:

  • Number of Meta-analyses
    • 1 = 1
    • 2 = 2–3
    • 3 = 4–6
    • 4 = 7–9
    • 5 = 10+
  • Number of Studies
    • 1 = 1–10
    • 2 = 11–50
    • 3 = 51–200
    • 4 = 201–400
    • 5 = 400+
  • Number of Students
    • 1 = 1–2,500
    • 2 = 2,501–10,000
    • 3 = 10,000–20,000
    • 4 = 20,000–100,000
    • 5 = 100,001+
  • Number of Effects
    • 1 = 1–100
    • 2 = 101–300
    • 3 = 301–600
    • 4 = 601–1,200
    • 5 = 1,200+
Confidences
Number of Meta-Analyses Number of Studies Number of Students Number of Effects Overall Confidence
Confidence Factor 3 5 4 5 4
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