Date of Award

1992

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Susan Brady

Abstract

Previous research suggests that verbal working memory deficits contribute to problems experienced in reading and in listening comprehension. The primary purpose of the present study was to explore the role of verbal working memory in listening comprehension for fifth-grade students. Additionally, the present research investigated the association between working memory and the two components of reading: decoding and comprehension. A third goal of the study was to investigate the power of listening comprehension, decoding ability-memory skills, and IQ to predict reading comprehension.

Data from 136 fifth-grade students with average to above average cognitive ability was analyzed for the study. Each student completed three verbal working memory tasks, two listening comprehension measures, one decoding test, and one reading comprehension test. Two listening comprehension measures were used to test the hypothesis that listening measures differing in memory requirements (recall vs. recognition) would produce divergent results. Students were divided into low, middle, and high memory groups based upon their scores on the working memory tasks.

Results of the two listening comprehension measures proposed that the memory demands affected comprehension accuracy. Significant memory group differences were observed on the measure necessitating the recall of specific factual information but not on the task requiring the recognition of ideas.

Significant memory group differences were observed on both the decoding and reading comprehension measures. Interestingly, listening comprehension scores coupled with working memory scores emerged as the dyad that accounted for the greatest proportion of variance in reading comprehension.

The results called attention to the need to expand educational accommodations used with students with memory problems. Instructional accommodations, as well as direct instruction in metacognitive strategies, were recommended as helpful curriculum modifications.

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