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Working Memory: The What, the Why, and the How

  • Tracy Packiam Alloway (a1) and Evan Copello (a1)

Working memory, our ability to work with information, plays an important role in learning from kindergarten to the college years. In this article, we review the what, the why, and the how of working memory. First, we explore the relationship between working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. We also investigate research on the link between whether environmental factors, such as financial background and mother's educational level, affect working memory. In the next section — the why of working memory — we compare the predictive nature of working memory and IQ in learning outcomes. While IQ typically measures the knowledge acquired by the student, working memory measures what they do with that knowledge. Working memory skills are linked to key learning outcomes, including reading and math. In the final section, we present classroom strategies to support working memory. We also review current research on the efficacy of working memory training.

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Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Tracy Packiam Alloway, Department of Psychology, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA. Email:
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