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On-line version ISSN 1668-7027


CANET-JURIC, Lorena et al. Relationship between performance in working memory and behavioral indicators observed in class. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2017, vol.34, n.2, pp.369-387. ISSN 1668-7027.

Working memory (WM) is a strong predictor of academic performance, due to its impact in reading comprehension, arithmetic's competence and the regulated behaviors required for school learning. Thus, knowing about WM operation in school-aged children and teachers' perception on their students WM is of great value and interest. This is why in the present work we assess whether teachers' reports about their students' WM (indirect measure) is associated with their performance in WM tasks (direct measure), and also to assess whether the difficulties perceived by the teachers correspond to the presence of students' general behavioral issues. For that, we administered computerized verbal WM tasks to school-aged children, in which they had to recall a number of digits (control condition) while saying out loud the color of the items (interference condition), and computerized visual-spatial WM tasks, in which they had to recall the locations of a series of stimuli (control condition) while indicating the color of the stimuli in a color palette (interference condition). We also administered two scales to their teachers: one of them asks about WM specifically (Working Memory Rating Scale) and is composed of 20 short descriptions of behavior problems that allow discriminating between children with poor and average WM skills. The teacher rates how typical a behavior is in each child, in a scale that goes from Not typical at all (0) to Very typical (3). The other asks about diverse behavioral problems (Guide of Behavioral Observation) and is composed of the following subscales: Physical and Verbal Aggression, Negativism, Transgression, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit and Acceptance. The teacher must choose the option that best describes the behavior in the child in terms of frequency (Never, Sometimesor Often). Our results show significant associations between children performance in the verbal WM task (direct measure) and WM failures' indicators (indirect measures), which can be explained by the fact that the verbal component is more clearly reflected in the behaviors explored in the Working Memory Rating Scale (e.g., loses his place in complicated activities, requires regular repetition of instructions, depends on neighbor to remind them of the current task). We also wanted to look out if there were associations between the WM skills reported by the teachers and the general behavior problems also reported by them, and we found associations between the reported WM difficulties and attention disorders, hyperactivity and self-aggression. This is consistent with the claim that WM and attention deficit in non clinical population are closely related. With respect to hyperactivity, its relation with WM is not as clear and has not been so frequently reported. With respect to self-aggression, its relation with WM difficulties can be attributed to these children's in ability to exercise control over the environment, which leads to frustration and low levels of motivation and self-esteem. Lastly, we found associations between children's performance in the computerized WM tasks and the presence of behavioral problems informed by the teachers. Specifically, proper performance in verbal WM tasks associates with less attention difficulties, where as proper performance in visual-spatial WM tasks associates with being accepted by the group. This last association could be attributed to the fact that many group games require several abilities that involve visual-spatial WM, such as the ability to orientate in space and recall different locations. To conclude, we consider that this work constitutes a contribution because, in the first place, there are no WM observation scales for teachers' use available in our environment, and, in the second place, it addresses the need for teachers to acknowledge WM difficulties and consequently be trained for the implementation of effective strategies to im prove WM skills in the classroom.

Keywords : Working memory; Behavioral indicators; Teacher's perception; Attention; Hyperactivity.

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