Children who under-achieve at school may just have poor working memory rather than low intelligence according to researchers who have produced the world's first tool to assess memory capacity in the classroom.
The researchers from Durham University, who surveyed over three thousand children, found that ten per cent of school children across all age ranges suffer from poor working memory seriously affecting their learning. Nationally, this equates to almost half a million children in primary education alone being affected.
However, the researchers identified that poor working memory is rarely identified by teachers, who often describe children with this problem as inattentive or as having lower levels of intelligence.
Working memory is the ability to hold information in your head and manipulate it mentally. You use this mental workspace when adding up two numbers spoken to you by someone else without being able to use pen and paper or a calculator. Children at school need this memory on a daily basis for a variety of tasks such as following teachers' instructions or remembering sentences they have been asked to write down.
Lead researcher Dr Tracy Alloway from Durham University's School of Education, who, with colleagues, has published widely on the subject, explains further: "Working memory is a bit like a mental jotting pad and how good this is in someone will either ease their path to learning or seriously prevent them from learning.
"From the various large-scale studies we have done, we believe the only way children with poor working memory can go onto achieving academic success is by teaching them how to learn despite their smaller capacity to store information mentally.
"Currently, children are not identified and assessed for working memory within a classroom setting. Early identification of these children will be a major step towards addressing under-achievement. It will mean teachers can adapt their methods to help the children's learning before they fall too far behind their peers."
Read more here Children's Under-achievement Could Be Down To Poor Working Memory