The study was conducted in a mid-sized city in the Southeastern United States. First grade students from 13 elementary schools participated in the study.
The authors present baseline statistics separately for the three study groups (Table 1). At baseline, children in all three groups were just over 7 years old. Approximately half of students were female (although this percentage was somewhat lower in the "no strategy instruction" group). In the Rehearsal group, 47% of students were female, 47% were African American, 32% were Caucasian, 10.5% were Hispanic, and 10.5% were other race. In the No strategy instruction group, 37% of students were female, 68% were African American, 10.5% were Caucasian, 16% were Hispanic, and 5% were other race. In both intervention conditions, 84% of students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch. In the Comparison group, 50% of students were female, 25% were African American, 50% were Caucasian, 15% were Hispanic, and 10% were other race. 70% of students in the comparison group were eligible for free or reduced price lunch.
The study focuses on a replicable intervention for students called WM training. WM training is a practice that aims to improve students’ working memory, or their ability to store information temporarily while engaging in cognitively demanding activities, by practicing WM tasks. Students in this intervention worked specifically on four verbal WM tasks. The study also examines whether using a rehearsal strategy further improves students’ working memory, beyond just regular WM training. Students in the two WM training groups (no rehearsal strategy and rehearsal strategy) participated in 10, one-on-one sessions. One session was administered per day for 10 consecutive school days. Each session lasted 35 minutes and was administered in a quiet location in the school. Twenty-two research assistants were trained to deliver the sessions.
Students in the comparison group did not receive any WM training. They remained in their normal first-grade classes.
Support for implementation
The first author conducted a 2-day workshop for all 22 RAs to teach them how to administer the WM training. All RAs were trained to work with students in both intervention groups (i.e., the groups with and without rehearsal strategy instruction). After this workshop, the first author met with each RA individually to role-play a training session. RAs were required to achieve at least 90% on a fidelity score before they could begin working with children. The first author also observed each RA during a training session and provided immediate feedback after the session. He also met with all of the RAs twice as a group during the 10-day implementation period to review training procedures and answer questions. All training sessions with students were audiotaped. The first author listened to one complete audio file per student to document fidelity. An RA listened to 20% of these files, and interrater agreement between the RA and first author was 82%. For the test administration, two project staff trained the 22 RAs in how to administer and score each outcome measure. Project staff began each session by explaining the purpose and design of the tests. The RAs then role-played as examiner and examinee and received feedback from staff. Following training, RAs were required to find partners and practice administering the tests for 5 hours. Two days after training, each RA role-played "testing" project staff on all measures. RAs were required to receive at least 90% accuracy in their administration and scoring of each test prior to working with students.