Skip to main content

A Pilot Classroom-Based Study of Attention and Working Memory Strategies for Primary-Aged Students

  • Susan Colmar (a1), Nash Davis (a1) (a2) and Linda Sheldon (a2)

An exploratory applied study, using a set of attention and working memory strategies specifically developed for students and named Memory Mates, was completed with normally developing students attending a primary school. Students in one classroom received the intervention, while the other classroom functioned as a control group. The study was experimental, with quantitative measures. Additional qualitative data was collected to facilitate the ongoing development of Memory Mates. A working memory instrument was used to rank students initially, and as a post-intervention measure for children with low working memory, with some gains in working memory observed in the experimental classroom students. Data were collected on academic achievement in reading, spelling, and maths. Post-intervention data analysis of the impact of the Memory Mates intervention showed no differences between the experimental and control groups for standardised academic measures. Several reasons are postulated for the lack of significant quantifiable change, chiefly the short period of intervention.

Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Susan Colmar, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney, Room 805, Building A35, Manning Road, Camperdown 2006 NSW, Australia. Email:
Hide All
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). (2008). Progressive Achievement Tests in Reading Comprehension (PAT-Reading) (4th ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Author.
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). (2013). Progressive Achievement Tests in Mathematics (4th ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Author.
Alloway T.P. (2011). Improving working memory. Supporting students' learning. London, England: Sage Publications.
Alloway T. (2012). Can interactive working memory training improving learning? Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 23(3), 197–207.
Alloway R.G., & Alloway T.P. (2013). The working memory advantage. Train your brain to function stronger, smarter, faster. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Alloway T.P., Gathercole S.E., & Kirkwood H. (2008). Working Memory Rating Scale (WMRS). London, England: Pearson Education.
Alloway T.P., Gathercole S.E., Kirkwood H., & Elliott J. (2009). The working memory rating scale: A classroom-based behavioral assessment of working memory. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 242245.
Aronen E.T., Vuontela V., Steenari M-R., Salmi J., & Carlson S. (2005). Working memory, psychiatric symptoms, and academic performance at school. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 83, 3342.
Baddeley A. (2003). Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 4, 829839.
Dalwood Assessment Centre. (2008). Dalwood Spelling Test. Seaforth, Australia: Author.
Davis N., Sheldon L., & Colmar S. (2014). Memory mates: A classroom-based intervention to improve attention and working memory. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 24, 111120.
Dehn M.J. (2008). Working memory and academic learning: Assessment and intervention. Hoboken, NJ.: John Wiley & Sons.
Elliott J.G., Gathercole S.E., Alloway T.P., Holmes J., & Kirkwood H. (2010). An evaluation of a classroom-based intervention to help overcome working memory difficulties and improve long-term academic achievement. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 9, 227250.
Gathercole S.E. (2008). Working memory in the classroom. The Psychologist, 21, 382385.
Gathercole S.E. (2015). Understanding and overcoming working memory problems in the classroom. Paper presented at the Pearson Academy Workshop, Sydney, Australia.
Gathercole S.E., & Alloway T.P. (2007). Understanding working memory: A classroom guide. London, England: Harcourt Assessment.
Gathercole S.E., & Alloway T.P. (2008). Working memory & learning. A practical guide for teachers. London, England: Sage Publications.
Gathercole S.E., Alloway T.P., Kirkwood H.J., Elliott J.G., Holmes J., & Hilton K.A. (2008). Attentional and executive function behaviours in children with poor working memory. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 214223. doi:
Gathercole S.E., Lamont E., & Alloway T.P. (2006). Working memory in the classroom. In Pickering S.J. (Ed.), Working memory and education (pp. 219240). London, England: Elsevier Press.
Gathercole S.E, Pickering S.J, Knight C., & Stegmann Z. (2004). Working memory skills and educational attainment: Evidence from national curriculum assessments at 7 and 14 years of age. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 116.
Holmes J., Gathercole S.E., & Dunning D.L. (2010). Poor working memory: Impact and interventions. In Holmes J. (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (vol. 39, pp. 143). Burlington, VT: Academic Press.
Klingberg T. (2010). Training and plasticity of working memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 317324.
Klingberg T., Fernell E., Olesen P.J., Johnson M., Gustafsson P., Dahlstrom K., … Westerberg H. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD — A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 177186.
Roberts G., Quach J., Mensah F., Gathercole S. E., Gold L., Anderson P., … Wake M. (2015). Schooling duration rather than chronological age predicts working memory between 6 and 7 years: Memory Maestros study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 36, 6874. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000121.
Sheldon L., Davis N., & Colmar S. (2016). Memory Mates: A classroom-based intervention to improve attention and working memory in primary-aged students (e-book). Sydney, Australia: Author.
Tidwell J.W., Dougherty M.R., Chrabaszcz J.R., Thomas R.P., & Mendoza J. L. (2014). What counts as evidence for working memory training? Problems with correlated gains and dichotomization. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 620628.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools
  • ISSN: 2055-6365
  • EISSN: 2055-6373
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-psychologists-and-counsellors-in-schools
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 18
Total number of PDF views: 73 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 552 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.