Improving Working Memory
This Education Endowment Foundation project was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with 127 schools participating. It tested two interventions: the Improving Working Memory intervention (WM) and an adapted version, named the Working Memory Plus intervention (WM+). Both aimed to improve the numeracy skills of Year 3 pupils (aged 7-8) who were behind the class average in numeracy by improving their working memory: the ability to remember and manipulate information over short time-frames. Exercises included asking pupils to repeat the things they needed to remember and assigning them to one of their fingers. The WM+ intervention also included some arithmetic content alongside the working memory elements. Both interventions were delivered by teaching assistants, who received one day of training and a handbook with detailed delivery instructions, in ten one-hour sessions over one term.
NIESR conducted the independent evaluation of the project in collaboration with the Behavioural Insights Team. The evaluation provides evidence that both the WM and WM+ interventions had positive impacts on maths outcomes, with children in the intervention schools making the equivalent of 3 additional months’ progress in maths. The intervention was found to be time intensive, predominantly due to the need for TAs to leave class to deliver sessions, which increased pressure on teachers during lessons and in some cases required schools to source TA cover.