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Working memory networks

Working memory is our ability to make the information in our brain conscious, and it is very limited.

When we first learn a process, we often have to really concentrate to think through the different stages, dealing with a lot of new information to apply what we have just learnt. This places a burden on our working memory.

It has been suggested that our working memory can hold seven items or chunks of information (Miller, 1956), though this is often debated. A chunk is a unit of meaningful information, so what counts as a chunk will vary from person to person depending on their prior knowledge and understanding (Pickering, 2006).

For example, when a child is first learning to read, they need to make sense of individual letters in order to read each word, and this takes up a lot of working memory. But once they are more experienced readers, they can recognise whole words and phrases, and reading takes less effort.

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The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre