A school is a place for learning and understanding, but how can a student learn properly if they can’t even hear you clearly? Today, we are going to talk about the importance of classroom acoustics and how you can reduce noise in a classroom. Let’s talk ‒ clearly.
Humans have five senses, and hearing is probably the second most important sense. Hearing forms a big part of how we perceive the world, how we learn about events, and above all, how we communicate. In a classroom, good auditory conditions lead to a better understanding of the teacher’s words, faster recognition, and wiser students. A noisy classroom is just the opposite.
The term “acoustics” means how sound travels through a given space, though it is too much of a simplification. Better acoustics, in general, makes sounds clearer and easier to understand and differentiate from each other. Bad acoustics will make sounds feel jumbled, hard to separate, and in general more confusing than pleasant. It also means how ‘nice’ a sound may feel in your ear, and how much noise is present there.
But what is noise in a classroom? At first thought, a teacher may think that noise in the classroom just means students talking. While that’s not wrong per se, it is so smaller than the real picture. For example, the teacher’s own words bouncing off the walls and ceiling can also create noise.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of noises in a classroom ‒ background noise and reverberation.
This is a term that means any sound that causes distraction and confusion with the sound you intend to hear clearly. There can be many sources of background noise in a classroom, such as:
This term describes how a sound wave behaves when it is generated. Sound has a very reflective nature like light. It bounces off walls and ceilings and floors. That isn’t a problem with light since light is very fast ‒ but sound is quite slow and a reflected sound comes to your ears AFTER the original sound. This causes confusion in our brain’s auditory processing center. If there are many different sounds reverberating at once, then these sound waves will compliment each other and add up to large magnitudes. Meaning, this will get very loud and almost drown out the original.
The two kinds of noises as stated above are not mutually exclusive ‒ they can team up and make a classroom very disturbing indeed. Large schools beside busy roads with lots of students often face this problem, and sooner or later they have to take some action. Why?
A classroom with poor acoustics causes a lot of problems, not limited to just understanding the teacher’s communication. In fact, that alone causes quite a few issues by itself, but there are others as well.
A student’s learning and behavior depend heavily on how well the teacher’s words go into his or her brain. If that pathway is disturbed, the student will definitely have issues, such as:
Keeping the classroom quiet and echo-free solves good portions of these problems and you get a more focused, more attentive, and better-performing audience in your class.
The issue gets worse when a student has problems of his or her own that affect the understanding and perception of the student. For example, a quiet and calm classroom is mandatory is for students who have any of the following problems:
A classroom environment with a good acoustic arrangement where the teacher’s words get conveyed to each student clearly and softly is the best learning environment, audibly speaking. This offers the following benefits:
All that above, and we can’t discount the fact that a quiet and soft-sounding workplace is good for the mental health of the teachers as well.
It should come as a no-brainer that when you start building a school classroom you should already be thinking about the acoustics. How a room is built and furnished goes right into its acoustics. But if you are trying to improve the acoustics of an existing classroom, here are some stuff you can try out.
Poor listening conditions create a negative learning environment for students, that’s beyond doubt. Simple tasks like understanding instructions, reading unfamiliar material or trying to understand basic concepts can become unnecessarily hard just due to incessant background noise and speech reverberation. All of that can be mostly negated with some simple measures as stated above. A quiet classroom with clear speech carrying through is a blessing that will cure many problems at once, and increase students’ performance to boot.
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