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Attention, Concentration and Working Memory

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Joanna Wagstaffe

on 23 January 2013

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Transcript of Attention, Concentration and Working Memory

Attention Concentration =
Sustained attention Factors Which Impact Speech and Language Working Memory Rarely identified Attention in the Classroom Impacts, Factors and Practical Approaches Building Resilience Dr Joanna Wagstaffe
Cambridgeshire Community Educational Psychology Service What is attention? "Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalisation, concentration of consciousness are of its essesence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrain state"
- William James (1890) Attention is a cognitive (i.e.information-processing) mechanism that enables us to process relevant inputs, thoughts or actions whilst ignoring irrelevant or distracting ones. Voluntary Reflexive Limited Capacity We can't process everything in our physical and mental environments at once: Selective attention is focus on relevant information we need through filtering out what we don't. The Cocktail Party Problem How do we follow one conversation when lots of
people are talking at once?
Physical characteristics of auditory message
*Voice intensity
*Speaker location Shadowing studies:
When we're listening to one message we're often
not aware of unattended information
(e.g. language, reversed speech)
UNLESS there are physical changes (e.g. tone,
pitch, intensity of voice). Augmenters and Reducers Results in:
*Filtering redundant information
*Overload (i.e. too much at once)
*Satiation (reaction to excess of
information - reduced arousal, boredom,
Attending to adult voice
Attending to the content of what's being said
Attending to instructions
Attending to rules
Ignoring extraneous information/stimulation
Attending to task demands
Attending to adult during task (i.e. to know when to stop/follow further instruction Attention in the Classroom Means Learn Know what to do Do it Know what to do next Know when
to stop Ignore distractions Selectivity for visual and auditory detail as well as sustained attention are basic requirements for learning. But this is always dependent on other internal and external factors Stages of Attentional Development Time Extreme distractability: Attention generally attracted by whatever the dominant stimulus is. Attending for a short amount of time on a task of their choice. Tends to be rigid and inflexible (difficult to distract away from task). Attention remains single-channelled (i.e. only one thing at once: task or talk) but more flexible. Can shift from a task to directions and back to task (as long as this is supported by an adult). Child begins to control their own attentional focus. Remains single channel but can manage switch from task to direction without adult support. School readiness: Child can assimilate verbal instructions without having to interrupt their task or look at the adult. This is 2-channelled but only for a short period before one becomes more dominant than the other "Mature" attention. Integration of channels are established and sustained (i.e. can attend to more than one input over a longer period). *Nature of the task
*Nature of the previous task
*Child's level of interest and experience
*Time of day
*Child's mood
*Peer mood
*Teacher mood
*Etc......... Children with severe attention and concentration difficulties are at increased risk for: School failure
Poor social judgement
Emotional and behavioural difficulties
Drug abuse
School refusal/withdrawal Huge variation in developmental trajectory.

Boys tend to take slightly longer to progress through stages than girls up to around 10 years old. Emotional well-being Physical, Medical, Sensory Environmental factors Self-Efficacy WORKING MEMORY Attention &
Concentration ADHD DSM - IV
Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
Often does not seem to listen to what is being said
Often doesn't follow through on instructions
Often has difficulty with organising
Often avoids or strongly dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
Is easily distracted
Often forgetful in daily activities Four identified threats to concentration:
Physical factors
Rentention Support children in developing awareness and monitoring of their own concentration System for temporarily storing and manipulating information. Sort of a mental 'jotting-pad' which stores information for everyday activities

Capacity-limited and once information is lost, cannot be retrieved without accessing it again. Information held here is easily lost through overload/distraction.

Experiential Learning Activity 2 Around 10% of children in schools are thought to have difficulties with WM. Roughly even gender balance Difficulties following instructions
Only completing the first part of tasks
Errors in tasks when only a small amount of information needs remembering
Skipping/repeating steps in a task
Easily distracted Normal social relationships with peers
Reserved in group activities
Poor academic progress in reading and maths
Problems with learning activities that require storage and processing AND She doesn't listen to a
word I say It goes in one ear and
out of the other Children with these difficulties are rarely described as having memory difficulties because it looks like a difficulty with attention. Children struggle to meet memory demands Memory gets overloaded and information is lost Guess (leading to errors) or Abandon task Develop Self-Efficacy

Develop Relationships

Reframe the Narrative Key principles for support
Identify WM difficulties
Monitor child
Evaluate WM loads
Reduce amount of information to be remembered
Repeat important information
Encourage use of memory skills
Develop child's own strategies Environment Skills Experiential Learning Activity 1
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