6558 Cognitive Skills and Psychosocial Factors as Predictors of Math Performance

Friday, February 17, 2012: 1:30 PM
Room 119-120 (VCC West Building)
Oliver W. Hill Jr. , Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA
Over the past several years, our team of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Virginia State University (VSU) has been investigating the efficacy of cognitive training interventions for improving the mathematics performance of minority secondary and higher education students.  These methods have shown promise for enhancing performance primarily by improving components of working memory. 

Working memory, as originally proposed and delineated by Baddeley and his associates almost forty years ago, not only involves the short-term store of information, but is composed of an executive function mechanism which controls attentional processes, and two secondary systems, the visuospatial scratchpad, which manipulates visual information, and the phonological loop, which stores and rehearses speech-based information.  In line with this model, an effective working memory intervention must address other aspects of the cognitive architecture, such as selective and sustained attention, auditory and visual memory, and processing speed.  One of the revolutionary aspects of the interventions we have been implementing in this program of research is the specific addressing of these multiple aspects of working memory function.  Through an f-MRI phase of the study we have also been able to identify neural changes that take place as a result of the intervention.

Direct training of cognitive skills such as attention, working memory, and processing speed, represents a unique method of developing the underlying cognitive architecture needed for success in STEM, and this program of research has demonstrated the efficacy of these interventions, and allowed for a more detailed mapping of the neural correlates of the training for mathematical performance. 

We have also looked at the role of psychosocial factors, such as family structure and dynamics and learning attitudes as predictors of academic performance, and as mediators of the effectiveness of interventions.

Results from these studies will be discussed, along with the implications of these interventions for enhancing STEM education.

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