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Ariës R., Ghysels J., Groot, W. and Maassen van den Brink: Is working memory capacity and metacognitive training effective in enhancing school based reasoning achievements? A synthesis of the research


Secondary school-pupils frequently underachieve in tests which require problem-solving skills. Training of working memory (WM) may improve problem solving skills. We review primary and secondary school-based interventions to evaluate the capability WM-training to enhance problem solving skills. Two aspects of WM appear to affect reasoning skills. WM capacity plays a role in short term storing and in manipulating information. Meta-cognitive WM concerns the storage of acquired knowledge of problem solving skills in long term memory. We conclude that both aspects could improve reasoning skills. Metacognition causes students to achieve significantly better compared with non-trained groups regardless of training type and intensity. Few studies are found that focus on school-based interventions. Furthermore, in line with earlier reviews, many studies lack a critical analysis of the mechanisms by which WM causes reasoning achievements in classroom environments. The question whether transfer-effects to domain-specific reasoning is expected remains a topic for further research.
Key words: problem solving skills, secondary education, reasoning, working memory

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