At the Furulid School in Aneby, Sweden, math and science teacher Kristina Björklund undertook an initiative to train the school’s entire seventh-grade class with Cogmed Working Memory Training, an evidence-based, computerized program designed by leading neuroscientists to improve attention by effectively increasing working-memory capacity over a five-week training period. By training a tightly defined cognitive function with the Cogmed program, students create a cascading effect of improvements. They are better able to pay attention, resist distractions, self-manage and learn.
In early 2011, she began this ambitious initiative, knowing it was important to keep the training on schedule to maximize the results the students saw. In addition, by training the whole class, students didn’t feel singled out for special treatment. Björklund ensured that all of the teachers managing the training were trained coaches so that everyone involved understood the method and the effects the exercises could provide.
“It’s been surprisingly good to train the whole class, and we have learned a lot from our teachers and students,” she said.
Cogmed Working Memory Training was introduced to the students during a start-up session where they all gathered to learn about the program. Björklund saw that the students were properly oriented before starting the training and also that they all had their own headphones so they could fully participate. In addition, she reminded her coaches that students needed to do the training individually – that they shouldn’t interact with each other. Taking ownership in their own training, the students each selected three areas that they hoped it would help them improve and rated their difficulties in these areas before beginning the program. Björklund said she was amazed at how respectful the students were of each other throughout the training.
After about four weeks, Björklund said the very talkative class became calmer, and her colleagues noticed similar changes in the seventh-graders. Students also began to report that they were changing – that they were feeling more alert, reading faster and comprehending better, and that overall they felt calmer and were behaving better in class.
Five weeks later, the seventh-graders celebrated completing the training with a party.
Björklund said one of the greatest gains from training the entire class was that students who didn’t have a visible difficulty in school saw improvement – particularly girls who may have been struggling with schoolwork but were not exhibiting behavioral problems. Björklund’s initiative to train the entire seventh-grade class at the Furulid School was so successful that the staff was inspired to train more classes. This fall, she introduced Cogmed Working Memory Training to a new class of seventh-graders.
Tips for Using Cogmed Working Memory Training With An Entire Class:
- Make sure that the computers meet the system requirements
- Copy all user ID data to a common document so it is all in one convenient location
- Headphones, with sufficiently long wires, are a must
- Have an extra computer available in case one isn’t working properly
- Ask students to bring a book to read when they have finished with the training
- Keep a record of what you have talked about with whom, to ensure everyone receives the appropriate support and feedback
- Keep track of the students’ progress sessions on the Cogmed Training Web from the beginning so confusion or cheating is discovered in time
- Plan activities for students who cannot or will not participate in the training