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Examining the Structure of English and Spanish Working Memory in English Language Learners


Since working memory (WM) has important implications in academics, this study investigates the construct of Baddeley’s model of WM in English language learners (ELLs). This secondary analysis of data was taken from two Institute of Educational Science Grants (#R324A090092 & #R324A090002), which included samples of cognitive and academic performance of ELL and non-ELL students in central and southern California schools. Specifically, this study asked: (1) Does the theoretical framework of Baddeleys’ multicomponent model of working memory (WM) in English and Spanish fit the data for children who are English language learners (ELLs)?, (2) Are there differences in English working memory structures between ELL and non-ELL groups?, and (3) Does the structure of WM for ELL children remain stable over time in English and Spanish measures? To examine whether the construct of WM memory varies between ELL and non-ELL children and between English and Spanish measure of WM over time, various structural equation models were conducted. This study yielded three important findings: (1) the theoretical framework for WM in English and Spanish fit the data for children who are ELLs, (2) working memory structures measured in English are comparable in ELL and non-ELL groups, and (3) the structure of WM for ELL children does not remain stable over time in English and Spanish measures. Taken together, this research finds that Baddeley’s model of WM is an adequate conceptualization for ELLs and that the construct of WM can be measured within both English and Spanish language systems. In addition, there was evidence for the measurement invariance across ELL and non-ELL groups. These finding suggest that the construct of WM is being measured consistently across the two language systems and that results from subsequent studies can be generalized to ELLs whose primary language is Spanish.

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