Acoustics in the classroom

Recently I raised the issue of the acoustics hindering learning in a particular room. It has nothing on the wall to absorb sound due to its previous purpose and use. Sound was not an issue because of how it was being used. In its present iteration as a small & large group teaching room, acoustic difficulties have arisen.

As addressing this issue properly has considerable financial implications due to its large wall space, I was tasked with collecting some research on the matter and putting together a proposal.

My main discoveries of interest (based on academic research – authors to be attributed – refer below) were that:

  • Sound does have an impact on learning
  • The ability to distinguish and interpret sound continues developing until a child is about fifteen
  • Decibels are actually measuring the sound pressure in a room
  • The signal to noise ratio (SnR) and reverberation rates of the sound is almost more important than the actual decibel level in a classroom (namely because the volume of the speaker doesn’t matter if too much noise interferes with the speaker’s sound reaching me, or by the time the speaker’s sound reaches me it has mostly disappeared).
  • Just speaking louder makes it harder for people to hear because of overemphasising either the consonants or the vowels – no wonder they say shouting doesn’t work!

I discovered in the room where I work that:

  • There were particular hotspots that were hard to hear in
  • Although initial data suggested that one subject was worse for hearing during than others, action and later data showed that it was more about what other sounds were in the room (made by students – generally on task and engaged)
  • The children were fascinated with the notion that one could measure sound
  • The same volume occurred in two rooms, with less than half the number of students working in a quieter fashion in one compared to the other.
  • Although three different rooms measured the same in decibels, the one without any soft materials on the walls was substantially harder to hear in (when considering perceived noise levels).

I will attach a version of the slide show tomorrow (or whenever I finish getting the reference list together) for those who are interested in the details of the research.

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