Many of our resources have focused on working memory and processing speed under the umbrella of Executive Function. Within those two topics, the role of anxiety and the fundamentals of Cognitive Load Theory have also been introduced.
• Executive Function: Dr. Thomas E. Brown’s article explores the 6 clusters of executive function (activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory, and action). He goes on to compare EF to a music conductor in that if the conductor is not effective, the symphony will not play good music.
• Working Memory: Referred to as the brain’s sticky note, working memory is responsible for the brain’s ability to make sense of information (encoding), translate new information to long-term memory (storage), and then do something with that information (retrieval). It is important to note that the average person with working memory deficits can hold and manipulate only 1-3 units of information.
• Processing Speed: Put simply, processing speed is the amount of time it takes for a student to complete a task, whether that be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic.
• Anxiety: Stress plays an influential role in executive function abilities. Anxiety can become so pervasive that it interferes with a student’s ability to activate appropriate memory and processing speeds. Conversely, slow processing speed and working memory deficits can increase a student’s anxiety when compared with peers.
• Cognitive Load Theory: Developed by John Sweller, this theory supports the idea that students can only learn as much as their brain will allow. Once their cognitive capacity has been reached, an overload occurs and the students often shut down.
Based on the information provided above and in other resources, working memory and processing speed should have an impact on lesson planning. Teachers should take executive function abilities, as well as research on anxiety and the Cognitive Load Theory, into account when determining what material to cover, what accommodations to provide, and how long to devote to each task. Sample lesson plan strategies are provided as attachments.
While the Six Landmark Teaching Principles™ connect to each of the publications this year, lesson planning comes back to the idea that information should be presented in small, manageable chunks that allow the students to interact with and sufficiently learn the material. Therefore, this issue will explore the connection to Landmark’s third teaching principle: Micro-Unit and Structure Tasks. For the full text of the Landmark Teaching Principles™, including “Micro-Unit and Structure Tasks” click here.
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