Working memory: consider the limits
Working memory is very limited but highly flexible. A good approaching using it is to identify a small number of key elements to “work” with. For example, we need to know the subject, object, and verb for a sentence (three things), or the cause and the effect for an explanation (two things). Success depends on defining small numbers of central elements in any experience, rather than extensive and complex explanations. Brevity and clarity are the virtues.
In school, this suggests that we should arrange students’ experiences in direct and simple ways. This may be the most difficult part for the educator, since that individual must put himself or herself in the place of the learner. With complex situations, the first step would be to identify a small number of very basic elements. That might even be enough for a whole class period (If we even had classes). Taking working memory as our gauge, we might have shorter classes, or they might be a variable length rather than a set time. Deciding when to end a class would not be a matter of watching the clock, but on watching the ideas. The point would be not to have a lot of ideas, but exactly the opposite. I might judge success not by how much information was “covered,” but by the significance and utility of the ideas, and by how much impact the ideas had on students.
We might have an “idea clock” rather than the time clock.
Zull, J.E. (2011). From brain to mind: using neuroscience to guide change in education.