Friday, May 18, 2012

Working Memory Part 7 - Encoding

Encoding is the thinking process that operates during a learning activity. For example, while reading it will involve arranging new information and linking to existing background knowledge stored in long-term memory. It also entails the encoding and storing this new information in long-term memory. This will require the learner to clarify the information being processed by comparing and contrasting the new information with the old information stored in long term memory. This operation takes place at the conceptual level of thinking whereby the reader classifies and makes new or novel connections. The reader does this by linking the information at the local or sentence level together with the ongoing global or thematic representation of the story.

In terms of reading comprehension the reader forms a situation model of the story being read. In other words the reader constructs an overall mental impression of the story as it unfolds. Often efficient readers will make mental pictures as part of this situation model. This may include mental 'snapshots' of various events and impressions throughout the story or alternatively the impressions may be represented as moving images as in a film. This is why people sometimes say that the story "comes alive" or that it was "better than the movie".

Not all children do this as they read. There are a number of reasons as to why they may be unable to do this. One explanation is that the child may be overloading working memory by processing too much information as he/she reads. For example, the child may be attempting to process word text information inefficiently by trying to decode letter by letter. Working memory has a limited capacity and this activity may place a heavy demand on the limited memory resources that are available at any one time. When this happens the reader will not have sufficient resources to image or make a situation model of the story.

What can be done?

  1. Follow my 10 Principles for Assisting Reading
  2. Follow my series on Fluency
  3. Follow my next series on Using Imagination while Reading

All of the above strategies operate at this During reading phase at the conceptual level.

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