Speaker Spotlight: Peter Doolittle and Working Memory


According to Professor Doolittle, people with high “working memory” capacity tend to perform well on standardized tests, as storytellers and writers, and have a high reasoning capacity.

What is working memory? Our mind’s ability to use information and experiences to achieve a goal, such as answering items on a test, is working memory in motion. It’s the culmination of our brain’s ability to recognize and store information as it happens, to reach back into our long-term memory and access useful information, placing it in context for use in our current situation.

Watch Professor Doolittle’s Ted Talk

From a candidate perspective, effectively leveraging working memory can mean performing well and scoring well on high stakes exams and earning a valued license, certification or accreditation.

From a test sponsor perspective, how can we better understand a candidate’s working memory to author items that fairly and effectively assess a person’s knowledge, skill, experience and ability to perform at a sufficiently high level to earn their designation and perform their specialized profession?

How can we continually improve the format of exams? What advantages are inherent in computer-based format versus paper-based examination?

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Peter Doolittle is a professor of educational psychology in the School of Education at Virginia Tech, where he is also the executive director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research. He teaches classes such as Cognition and Instruction, Constructivism and Education, Multimedia Cognition and College Teaching, but his research mainly focuses on learning in multimedia environments and the role of “working memory.” (Source: Ted.com)