Announcement of Ed.D. Proposal Defense David Antunes: “Don’t Forget About Working Memory: New Jersey School Professionals’ Consideration of Working Memory and Basic Reading Skills Interventions for Students with Learning Disabilities”

3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Working memory has been noted to be a critical factor in many areas of learning. Having a well-developed working memory, or the ability to attend to and hold verbal and auditory information and manipulate it for a few seconds, has been associated with increased achievement inclusive of basic reading. Conversely, a less developed working memory system has been linked with various difficulties associated with learning to read words as well as other areas of learning. Working memory and achievement data can help provide insights as to why a student may be struggling to read and can help in devising targeted interventions for students who have a weak working memory system. However, the ways in which school psychologists, educational diagnosticians and teachers consider, view and design these interventions is not well understood. Therefore, a professional’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs may impact their capacity to design and implement interventions that facilitate learning success where working memory limitations are in play. The goal of this study is to better understand the relationship between working memory and basic reading skills, as well as how professionals consider and design working memory interventions around basic reading in New Jersey schools. It is the hope of this investigator that this information will help inform better ways to support students with weak working memory systems who are struggling to read.

The purpose of this mixed method study is to examine the relationship between basic reading skills and working memory in students ages 7 to 11 with learning disabilities, as well as to gauge professionals’ knowledge, attitude and beliefs around working memory interventions in New Jersey. This study seeks to answer the following questions: What cognitive processes in working memory help to predict basic reading skills in students ages 7 to 11 with learning disabilities in local school districts in New Jersey?; In what ways and to what extent are New Jersey school professionals knowledgeable about working memory and related interventions to support basic reading in students with learning disabilities, ages 7-11?; In what ways and to what extent (and if so why?) do New Jersey school professionals believe the use of working memory- related interventions are valid and feasible to support students with learning disabilities, ages 7 to 11, in basic reading instruction? For the first research question, working memory and basic reading scores from local public schools in New Jersey will be analyzed to better understand their relationship. For the second and third research questions, New Jersey school psychologists, learning disabilities teacher consultants and teachers will be surveyed and interviewed regarding their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs around working memory interventions in basic reading for students with learning disabilities. Lastly, interviewees will provide evidence of working memory interventions which will be reviewed using an analytic rubric.

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