Memory and Education (Lancaster University)

This course has been approved by the BPS Learning Centre for the purposes of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The course is offered by the Lancaster University.

Course information has been provided by Lancaster University.

The workshop will explore the role of memory and cognition in typically and atypically developing children’s learning and development.

The presentations will cover the following topics:

  • Prof. Sue Gathercole: Working memory, learning and classroom behaviour
  • Prof. Paola Palladino: The memory profiles of children with learning difficulties: where they are poor and where they are not
  • Dr. Helen St.Clair-Thompson: Working memory and attainment in primary school, secondary school, and higher education
  • Dr. Kate Cain: Why good working memory helps children to be successful reading comprehenders

From an applied perspective, it is important to know how to measure these different components of thought and behaviour, and which components of memory are related to different aspects of language, reading, and mathematical development.

Such knowledge is essential to:

  • understand why some classroom activities may challenge young learners, whatever their ability level;
  • appreciate the specific needs of children with diagnosed reading and/or learning difficulties;
  • support the learning of both typically and atypically developing children in the classroom.

The workshop will include formal oral presentations from the invited speakers, all of whom have extensive experience in communicating to both academic and non-academic audiences. Each talk will include an overview of the topic of focus, an explanation of how memory is measured and related to the particular attainment target, and include be followed by a question period. There will also be poster presentations to allow more junior academics and therapists to present work-in-progress. A key component will be small group discussions, facilitated by members of the Lancaster Psychology department, which will give teachers, clinicians, and policy makers the opportunity to discuss issues about the influence of memory on a range of classroom activities and attainment targets and share advice on the education of children with memory problems. We will foster a reciprocal learning environment in which everyone will be encouraged to share their experiences about teaching and facilitating learning. This format worked well in an ESRC seminar series, Reading comprehension: From theory to practice, oragnised by Cain and colleagues at other universities.


Learning outcomes and objectives

On successful completion of this CPD course, participants should be able to:

  1. understand the role played by working memory in different aspects of learning and educational attainment during the school years,
  2. be aware of the different types of memory problems experienced by children with difficulties in for example reading and maths,
  3. be knowledgeable about the methods used to assess different aspects of memory in children,
  4. know about different educational interventions designed to support children with memory problems and overcome their associated difficulties,
  5. understand the potential and the limits of working memory training.

Psychological theory underpinning the event

Working memory refers to a dynamic mental workspace that is involved in controlling, regulating, and actively maintaining relevant information to accomplish complex cognitive tasks (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974). It allows us to both store information for short periods of time and to manipulate or process that information. As such it is critical for successful learning and many areas of educational attainment.

Working memory abilities are related to educational attainment in general (Gathercole, Brown, & Pickering, 2003; Hitch, Towse, & Hutton, 2003) and both reading and maths development, in particular. The ability to accurately store verbal information is related to word reading development (de Jong, 2006); in contrast, the ability to both store and process verbal information is related to reading comprehension (Cain, Oakhill, & Bryant, 2004). Mathematical skills are supported by the ability to store both verbal and visuo-spatial information and they are also related the ability to maintain and process that information (Bull & Espy, 2006). Further, working memory difficulties are associated with specific problems in reading and maths (Cain et al., 2004; de Jong, 2006), and the difficulties of children with ADHD (Palladino, 2006).

In recent years, there has been growing interest in educational interventions to support children with memory problems and also training to improve working memory (St-Clair Thompson et al., 2010).

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working Memory. In G. Bower (Ed.), The Psychology Of Learning & Motivation: Advances in Research & Theory. (Vol. 8). New York: Academic Press.
Bull, R., & Espy, K. A. (2006). Working memory, executive functioning, and children's mathematics. In S. J. Pickering (Ed.), Working memory and education (pp. 94-123). Burlington, MA: Academic Press.
Cain, K., Oakhill, J. V., & Bryant, P. E. (2004). Children's reading comprehension ability: Concurrent prediction by working memory, verbal ability, and component skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 671-681.
de Jong, P. F. (2006). Understanding normal and impaired reading development: a working memory perspective. In S. J. Pickering (Ed.), Working memory and education (pp. 34-60). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.
Gathercole, S. E., Brown, L., & Pickering, S. J. (2003). Working memory assessments at school entry as longitudinal predictors of National Curriculum attainment levels. Educational and Child Psychology, 20, 109-122.
Hitch, G. J., Towse, J. N., & Hutton, U. (2001). What limits children’s working memory span? Theoretical accounts and applications for scholastic development. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 130, 184-198.
Palladino, P. (2006). The role of interference control in working memory: A study of children at risk of ADHD. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 2047-2055.
St-Clair Thompson, Stevens, R., Hunt, A., & Boldera, E. Improving children's working memory and classroom performance. Experimental Psychology, 30, 203-219.

Dr. Kate Cain

Elected board member Society for Scientific Study of Reading; Associate Editor, Journal of Research in Reading (journal of United Kingdom Literacy Association); Associate Editor, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders (journal of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists); Editorial board, Applied Psycholinguistics; Editorial board, Scientific Studies of Reading; ESRC Peer Review College member

Dr Kate Cain obtained her DPhil. (Sussex) in 1995 and is currently a Reader in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University. Her work concerns the different cognitive and language-related skills that underpin the development of written and spoken language comprehension, both in atypical and typical development.

Dissemination activities include: a short course on the foundations of literacy (Lancaster University Pre-school, 2008); CPD accredited workshops on reading comprehension and support strategies (International Dyslexia Association, Annual conference, 2009); presentations on reading comprehension and memory to non-academic users of research (Italian Association for Research and Intervention in Learning Psychopathology, 2007; and ESRC seminar series - Reading comprehension: From theory to practice, Lancaster 2009). She also has extensive experience of dissemination to teachers involved in her research. In 2008, she was awarded the UKLA/ Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education Award and in 2010 published Reading development and difficulties in the BPS Blackwell Textbook series.

Dr John Towse

Advisory Board, European Society for Cognitive Psychology; EWOMS steering committee, European Society for Cognitive Psychology; Editorial Board, Psychologia; ESRC Peer Review College member

Dr John Towse obtained his PhD (Manchester) in 1993 and is currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University. His research work focuses on models of working memory among children and adults and the application of these models to understanding real world behaviour, including number skills and reading. He also has research interests in the areas of mathematical cognition and in behavioural control.

Relevant activities include being the lead applicant on a 2-year ESRC seminar series programme on working memory (organised with Alan Baddeley & Klaus Oberauer), key involvement in multiple ESRC research grants into working memory and mathematical cognition, and co-editor of an acclaimed text on working memory (Variation in Working Memory, Oxford University Press, 2007). He is also the founder and manager of a web portal and mailing list for research in working memory.

Who should attend?

Teachers, Speech and Language Therapists, SENCOs and Literacy Coordinators, Carers, Interventionists, Academics, Parents, Educational Psychologists.

Booking Information

Fee: £35

Further event information


Lancaster House

Green Lane


Tue, 21/06/2011 (All day)
BPS Learning Centre Approved