First Funding Phase

AGENT 8-1-0

Development and evaluation of a training program to overcome working memory deficits in children with reading and spelling disorders

Development, implementation and evaluation of a training to overcome working memory deficits in children with reading and spelling disorders


The aim of this research project was to develop and evaluate a working memory training program for children with reading and spelling disorders. This training should help to succeed in overcoming the working memory deficits, which are being regarded as crucial for problems in reading and writing.


An adaptive training program was developed to increase the capacity and functioning of working memory. The training program was evaluated using a pretest-posttest control group design. Twenty-seven typically developing third-graders and 43 third-graders with reading and spelling disorders took part in the training, and 28 typically developing third-graders were recruited as control group. Phonological loop, visual-spatial sketchpad and central executive as conceptualized in the working memory model of Baddeley (1986) were trained in 18 sessions during six weeks. At all three measurement points several working memory measures were collected, and at pretest and follow-up we also collected measures of school achievement (reading, writing, mathematics) and intelligence.


The results within the pretest-posttest-follow-up control group design reveal a short-term increase in the visual-spatial and central executive tasks within the typically developing children, while in the group of children with disabilities only central executive tasks improved. Children who showed a reduced working memory capacity in the beginning showed greater gains. Neither a long-term effect on working memory abilities nor any transfer on school achievement in reading and spelling were found. The result that phonological working memory could not be enhanced via training, was most disappointing. Taken together the results of this study still lead to question the general possibility of effectively training working memory.


  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Mähler (Project management, Stiftung Universität Hildesheim …)
  • Staff

    M.Sc. Psych. Christina Jörns
    M.Sc. Psych. Ellen Radtke