Subgroups of working memory deficits and reading comprehension.

Date
2011-05-19
Authors
Irons, Diane
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Abstract
Rationale : Investigating the relationship between working memory and reading comprehension will lead to an improved understanding of the nature of working memory and will reveal how working memory contributes to reading comprehension failure. A pattern of working memory deficits will determine if ‘signature’ working memory profiles exist which will assist in the diagnosis and treatment of children with reading comprehension difficulties. Aims : (1) To explore the relationship between working memory and reading comprehension to determine if there are ‘signature’ working memory profiles that distinguish subgroups of Grade 5 English language learners with different comprehension capabilities. (2) To determine if a domain-specific or general working memory system is implicated in reading comprehension. (3) To explore the particular role played by the episodic buffer zone in reading comprehension. Method : Eighty Grade 5 English learners were tested on the GORT-4, AWMA and CELF- 4 Recalling Sentences Subtest. Based on their accuracy/decoding and comprehension scores on the GORT-4, participants were assigned to one of four reading ability groups: Skilled Reader Group; Reading Disabled Group; Poor Comprehender Group; or Poor Fluency Group. Comparison of mean standard scores determined how the four reading ability groups fared on the five memory components. Correlation and regression methods investigated the relationships between the five working memory variables and reading comprehension across the four reading ability groups. Results : Working memory plays a role in reading comprehension. The Skilled Reader group displayed intact working memory profiles, whilst the Reading Disabled group performed in the low average range on four working memory variables and below average on the fifth viz. sentence recall. The Poor Comprehender group’s working memory performance resembled that of the Skilled Reader group on two working memory variables. The Poor Fluency group performed below average on visuo-spatial short-term memory. These findings gave evidence of the inter-play between domain-specific and domain-general components of working memory during the complex task of reading comprehension. In addition, the findings highlighted the predictive role of sentence recall, as well as that of verbal working memory in reading comprehension. The episodic buffer was shown to play an important binding function between fluid and crystallised knowledge. The results suggested that reading comprehension was affected by a learner’s working memory capacity, however, working memory alone did not account for variations in performance. Lower-order and higher-order cognitive processes, as well as the interaction between fluid and crystallised knowledge appear essential to authentic reading. This has ramifications for prevention and remediation of reading comprehension deficits and underscores the important role of the speech therapist in literacy promotion.
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Keywords
Working memory , Reading comprehension
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