Listening span tasks
Listening span tests are analogous to reading span tests in that they typically require a respondent to listen to a series of sentences and then recall the last word spoken in each sentence. Listening span tests have the advantage of not taxing reading skills which may be suspect in some children with educational disabilities. There are many varieties of listening span test, including the cloze procedure and knowledge verification procedures described below.
Siegel and Ryan (1989) explored working memory differences in children with a reading, math, or attention disability using a cloze procedure (Savage, Lavers, &
Pillay, 2007). Children were verbally presented with a set of sentences in which the last word in each sentence was missing. After each sentence the children were required to say the missing word and subsequently verbally recall all the missing words in the set. Example sentences from Seigel and Ryan include: “In summer it
is very_“People go to see monkeys in a_”; “With dinner we sometimes eat
bread and_.” In this case, the child was then required to repeat the words that he
or she had chosen (i.e., hot, zoo, butter).
Under the knowledge verification procedure, a respondent is required to answer a question about sentences (e.g., by responding “true” or “false”; “yes” or “no”) before being asked to recall the last word of the sentence. For example, Gathercole and Pickering (2000a) asked students to listen to a pair of sentences and judge the veracity of each spoken sentence (e.g., Oranges live in water) before recall. Whereas the cloze procedure has been used to establish a linkage between working memory and a reading disability (e.g., Siegel & Ryan, 1989), studies that have used a knowledge verification procedure have generally not supported such a link (e.g., Gathercole & Pickering, 2000b; Stothard & Hulme, 1992).
Computation span test
Based on the Operation Word task used by Turner and Engle (1989), de Jong (1998) employed the computation span test to distinguish ditferences in memory processing and storage. Analogous to the reading span tests employed in the same study (de Jong, 1998), each computation span test item required the child to first read and solve aloud a simple mathematical computation (e.g., 3+1) immediately before listening to a single digit spoken by the test administrator. Each computation consisted of either the addition or subtraction of 1 from a number less than 10, and the correct answer was always less than 10. After the digit was presented, the child was required to immediately begin the next computation, so as to minimize the possibility of rehearsal. As the number of computations increased from two to seven, so the list of numbers that had to be stored also increased.
Counting span task
In the same study, de Jong (1998) used a counting span test based on Case, Kurland, and Goldberg’s (1982) design.The counting span test requires respondents to retain and reproduce a series of digits while counting. In de Jong’s design, a card was presented to each child, on which an irregular pattern of green and yellow dots was printed. Each child was required to count aloud the number of green dots on each card; these numbers were to be stored and subsequently recalled in the correct order.