The contribution of different components of working memory to knowledge transformation during writing

Galbraith, David, Ford, Sheila, Walker, Gillian and Ford, Jessica (2005) The contribution of different components of working memory to knowledge transformation during writing L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, 5, (2), pp. 113-145. (doi:10.1007/s10674-005-0119-2).


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Outlining probably represents the most common strategy recommended to help novice writers improve their writing. However, although good evidence exists that it has beneficial effects, much less is known about how it achieves these effects. In this paper, we examine how ideas are developed during outlining and how this is related to the quality of the text that is subsequently produced. We focus particularly on how the different processes are coordinated in working memory and on the differences between more and less experienced writers, and consider the implications for educational practice. Two groups of writers, differing in educational level, were asked to write argumentative essays about a discussion topic. In order to investigate the contribution of different components of working memory to outlining, secondary tasks designed to load on the central executive and visual-spatial sketchpad components of working memory were imposed during outlining. Effects of educational level and secondary tasks on the ways novice writers generated and organized their ideas during outlining, and on the resulting quality of the text, were measured. The results suggest that the beneficial effects of planning on text content depend on the extent to which new ideas are introduced during the organizational phase of planning and on the extent to which rhetorical goals are incorporated in planning. However, less experienced writers showed much less evidence of this kind of knowledge-transforming activity during outlining, and we suggest that this aspect of outlining should be the target of educational interventions. Secondary-task effects suggested that the central executive and the spatial component of the visuo-spatial sketchpad play significant, but different roles in the transformation of knowledge, with the spatial component having a specific effect on the generation of new ideas during the organizational phase of planning. We suggest that teaching interventions with novice writers should therefore include attention to the spatial properties of outlines. Finally, some evidence indicates that, although outlining has a beneficial effect on content for all writers, it may reduce the quality of verbal expression for less experienced writers. We suggest that this aspect of their writing needs to be closely monitored. Furthermore, more research into the detailed nature of the processes involved in turning plans into text needs to be conducted.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1007/s10674-005-0119-2
ISSNs: 1567-6617 (print)
Keywords: knowledge transforming, text planning, working memory, writing, writing expertise
Organisations: Southampton Education School
ePrint ID: 337493
Date :
Date Event
May 2005Published
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2012 10:56
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 17:15
Further Information:Google Scholar

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