School acoustic research overview says minimise sound levels whilst maximising speech intelligibility

Professor Emeritus Bridget Shield recently presented a comprehensive school acoustic research overview at the Transitions18 education research symposium in Copenhagen.

Bridget’s overview highlighted that the importance of acoustics in schools has been know about for a long time although the research has only really accelerated over the last 50+ years.

BS looked at the typical guidelines for the acoustic design of schools and what the typical requirements are. She reviewed the research done since the 1960s about; the effects of noise on pupils’ performance and the annoyance / disturbance to pupils. She gave  a deeper insight into research done by London South Bank University and The institute of Education about acoustics issues in primary schools, including open plan and secondary schools. The research explored issues around ease of hearing in classrooms and the effects of noise on performance.

How noise impacts students and their learning.


The speaking anf listening requirements for students.

Research shows that there are differing sound levels depending on the teaching and learning activities

Typical sound levels during different learning activities.

In addition to the occupied sound levels which students have to endure, it was clear that while increased background noise has an negative effect on all students it does however have much more impact on SEN (Special Educational Needs) students.

Much more significant negative impact for SEN students.

In open plan situations it is the students noise, locally or in adjacent areas which is creating the most annoyance.

The most disturbing activities in open learning spaces.

So the solutions must always focus on the need to minimise sound levels whilst maximising speech intelligibility.

Summary of the most important acoustic design considerations.

Bridget’s full presentation can be found here.

More information about the Transitions18 education research conference here

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