Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment

Department of English Literature, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.12). 05/2010; 106(1):20-29. DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.11.003


There is growing evidence for the relationship between working memory and academic attainment. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether working memory is simply a proxy for IQ or whether there is a unique contribution to learning outcomes. The findings indicate that children’s working memory skills at 5 years of age were the best predictor of literacy and numeracy 6 years later. IQ, in contrast, accounted for a smaller portion of unique variance to these learning outcomes. The results demonstrate that working memory is not a proxy for IQ but rather represents a dissociable cognitive skill with unique links to academic attainment. Critically, we find that working memory at the start of formal education is a more powerful predictor of subsequent academic success than IQ. This result has important implications for education, particularly with respect to intervention.

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Available from: Tracy Packiam Alloway, Nov 09, 2014
    • "The WM and recollection results were not surprising individually, but our study is the first to examine them simultaneously; they each contribute unique variance. These results are consistent with past research separately examining contributions of WM (Alloway & Alloway, 2010;Swanson, 1994) and recollection (Mirandola et al., 2011) to academic achievement. Not surprisingly, WM contributed to all four measures of academic achievement. "
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    ABSTRACT: The contributions of working memory and recollection to academic achievement are typically examined separately and most often with children who have learning difficulties. This study is the first to observe both types of memory in the same study and in typically developing children. Academic achievement focused on standardized assessments of math fluency, calculation, reading fluency, and passage comprehension. As noted in previous studies, working memory was associated with each assessed measure of academic achievement. Recollection, however, specifically contributed to math fluency and passage comprehension. Thus, recollection should be considered alongside working memory in studies of academic achievement.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Learning and Individual Differences
    • "At the same time, none of the working-memory components correlated with accuracy in word recognition and reading rate in the fifth grade. This is in contrast to previous studies, which reported relations between the phonological complex memory and reading skills in the course of elementary school (Alloway & Alloway, 2010;Chrysochoou et al., 2011;Leather & Henry, 1994;Swanson & Howell, 2001; "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the relations of early working-memory abilities (phonological and visual-spatial short-term memory [STM] and complex memory and episodic buffer memory) and later developing reading skills. Sixty Hebrew-speaking children were followed from kindergarten through Grade 5. Working memory was tested in kindergarten and reading in Grades 1, 2, and 5. All memory measures, but phonological STM, correlated with reading up to Grade 5. Regression analyses (with intelligence quotient controlled) demonstrated that phonological complex memory predicted all reading skills in Grade 1, and accuracy in Grade 2. The rather understudied visual-spatial memory predicted comprehension in Grades 2 (STM) and 5 (complex memory). The results point to an important role of the phonological complex memory in early assessment, and suggest a long-lasting role of early visual-spatial memory in predicting variance in reading. Whether this role of the visual-spatial memory is unique to the Hebrew orthography because of its visual features requires, however, further investigation.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Mind Brain and Education
    • "Regarding family characteristics, socioeconomic status and parental education were found to be important predictors of children's school success (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1994 ). In particular , Espy and colleagues (2004) found that maternal education was related to early mathematical competency as well as to EF. Concerning general cognitive functioning, some researchers have suggested that the key factor underlying the relationship between EF, in particular WM, and learning is IQ (Nation, Adams, Bowyer-Crane, & Snowling, 1999), whereas others have found a modest overlap between WM and IQ and found that WM showed unique links to academic attainment compared with IQ (Alloway & Alloway, 2010). Given these findings, we took into account such factors. "
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    ABSTRACT: This longitudinal study analyzes whether selected components of executive function (EF) measured during the preschool period predict several indices of math achievement in primary school. Six EF measures were assessed in a sample of 5-year-old children (N=175). The math achievement of the same children was then tested in Grades 1 and 3 using both a composite math score and three single indices of written calculation, arithmetical facts, and problem solving. Using previous results obtained from the same sample of children, a confirmatory factor analysis examining the latent EF structure in kindergarten indicated that a two-factor model provided the best fit for the data. In this model, inhibition and working memory (WM)-flexibility were separate dimensions. A full structural equation model was then used to test the hypothesis that math achievement (the composite math score and single math scores) in Grades 1 and 3 could be explained by the two EF components comprising the kindergarten model. The results indicate that the WM-flexibility component measured during the preschool period substantially predicts mathematical achievement, especially in Grade 3. The math composite scores were predicted by the WM-flexibility factor at both grade levels. In Grade 3, both problem solving and arithmetical facts were predicted by the WM-flexibility component. The results empirically support interventions that target EF as an important component of early childhood mathematics education. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
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