So what’s the big deal? Working Memory

So what’s the big deal? posts are intended to provide information regarding aspects of our body that affect daily life. The medical and educational world might label some of these things as disabilities. I prefer to think of them differently: it’s about understanding the way we are wired.

I want to provide a simple example of 1) recognizing a struggle and 2) compensating for it. Now, I’m not talking about struggles that result from societal barriers, which is another post altogether, but rather a struggle that you experience because of how you are wired. Ideally, compensating for these types of struggles will result in greater efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s mine:

My desk is littered with piles of random papers and sticky squares of neon paper with handwritten notes. I keep lists on my phone, in Word documents on my computer, and on a pad of paper next to my bed. I know that if I want to remember something, I must write it down. The information will not otherwise stay in my head long enough for me to do something with it. Even when I do write it down, I have to be intentional about looking at what I wrote. It’s just the way that I’m wired.

My struggle may be familiar to you.  It has to do with my working memory, which directly correlates with IQ and attention 1Working memory is the cognitive function responsible for keeping information in your mind long enough to manipulate and use it. It is how you juggle things you encounter and move them to the parts of your brain that can take action. You use your working memory constantly in daily life and most certainly in academics and social settings 2.

If you know you have below average working memory, the strategies below may help. Even if you have good working memory but are overwhelmed by the amount of information you are responsible for each day, you may still find these strategies useful:

  • Break up or chunk information. Focus on one or two pieces of information before moving on to the next.
  • Use checklists for tasks with multiple steps. Complete one step before moving on to the next.
  • Develop rituals and routines, like putting your cell phone in the same place each day to be sure not to misplace it.
  • Experiment with multiple ways of remembering information. Some students may remember things more easily if they make up a rhyme, song, or acronym. Others may use visualization to remember multiple pieces of information. Still others may study while walking around their dorm room or throwing a ball against a wall.
  • Use technology: keep lists in your phone, use your phone calendar to keep track of events and create reminders, even try working memory apps.

If we were talking in person, at this point I’d ask you to share your thoughts:

  • What sounds helpful?
  • What doesn’t sound helpful?
  • What has worked well for you in the past?
  • What is one thing you might try in the next day or two?

 

 

 

 

 

Course Syllabus Statement

The ASC encourages faculty to include a statement on their class syllabi about the procedures for obtaining disability-related accommodations. Some example statements that you can tailor to meet your needs appear below:

Hope College strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers due to a disability (including mental health and chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you first register with Disability Services within the Academic Success Center and then arrange with me to discuss approved accommodations so that we can implement them as soon as possible. You can schedule an appointment with Disability Services in VanZoeren 261 or by calling x7830.

Hope College values diversity, inclusion, mutual respect, and full participation, and our goal is to create welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environments. If aspects of the instruction or design of this course create barriers to your inclusion, accurate assessment, or achievement, please notify me as soon as possible. You may also contact Disability Services within the Academic Success Center in VanZoeren 261 to discuss a range of options for removing barriers, including accommodations.

Questions or feedback can be directed to disabilityservices@hope.edu.

Academic Success Center

 

Orange Hope anchor with the word HOPE written in blue below.

Meet the staff of the Academic Success Center (ASC), in alphabetical order. We are located in VanZoeren 261 and all services offered are free to current students.

Carrie Dattels is the Coordinator of Disability Services. After thirteen years in various vocational rehabilitation roles she returned to Hope in 2016, having been a student and RA during her undergrad years.  Carrie spends the majority of her time interacting with students to determine and implement accommodations across campus. She also collaborates with faculty and staff to ensure students’ access to academics, programs, and services; supports and educates faculty and staff on disability and the legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act; supports students’ self-advocacy; identifies necessary resources for their overall success; and assists with proctoring exams for students with disabilities.

Lisa Eding has been the Office Manager for the Academic Success Center and the Sociology and Social Work Department for seventeen years.  Her responsibilities include hiring and training front-desk staff, setting up and processing student-staff payroll, and assisting with the various needs of two very busy departments.

David James is the Coordinator of Academic Coaching and Study Skills Tutoring and has worked 30 of his 32 years at Hope College in the ASC.  He coordinates the peer academic coaching program, which involves hiring, training and pairing experienced, successful students with students seeking help on setting goals and mastering skills to improve their academic lives. He coaches, too, but also meets one-on-one with any Hope student seeking help on a specific academic skill, such as time management or test taking.  He is also an academic advisor, both through his role as a professor in the First Year Seminar program every fall and as an advisor in the fall FOCUS and spring SOAR programs for students on or nearing academic probation. All this occupies around half of his time, while in the other half he is an adjunct associate professor of English, mainly teaching composition but also world literature.

Jeanne Lindell serves as Head of Disability Services and Assistant Director of the Academic Success Center.  She has been employed at Hope for 26 years, first working sixteen years in Counseling and Psychological Services and then ten years as the ASC’s Coordinator of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities. She promotes equal access and inclusion for students with disabilities in all aspects of college life.  Jeanne is also a First Year Seminar instructor and an academic adviser.

Janet Pinkham is the Director of the ASC, now in her 28th year with Hope, having previously served as the ASC’s Tutoring Coordinator and Hope’s Alumni Director. In her current role, Janet oversees the ASC, directs the Peer Partnership Learning (PPL) program, teaches First Year Seminar, is an academic advisor, and serves on multiple campus committees.

Suzette Staal has been the Coordinator of Tutoring Services and ASC help sessions for three years. Her responsibilities predominantly include hiring and training peer tutors and help-session leaders. She makes all tutoring matches for most 100- and 200-level courses, for which applications can be printed from the website but must be delivered in person.  Suzette also oversees the daily operations of the ASC-sponsored help sessions for courses with highly requested tutoring, such as the Sunday-through-Thursday-evening Math Lab available for most Math courses. Suzette also is a First Year Seminar instructor and an academic adviser.