Three key acoustic issues to consider when designing for primary classrooms

There are many different factors which affect the acoustic design of a classroom. Current research undertaken by Macquarie University and National Acoustic Laboratories Australia1 indicates that:

  • Students spend approximately 45-60 % of their time listening and comprehending their teachers’ instructions. High levels of noise which mask and distort the teacher’s voice dramatically reduce speech intelligibility. As such, open-plan spaces should be flexible so that they can be physically isolated when required for discussion and quiet learning.
  • Teachers who must elevate their voice to be heard in large noisy classrooms can experience vocal strain and report decreased vocal comfort and increased vocal fatigue. As such, teachers in poorly designed acoustic spaces are more prone to voice and throat problems and are likely to take more sick days.
  • An acoustically designed classroom incorporating suitable amounts of sound absorbing and reflective surfaces will provide better speech clarity for students and improved vocal support for the teacher. Proper advice should be sought from an experienced acoustic consultant to ensure that this is done correctly.

1.“An investigation into the acoustics of an open plan compared to enclosed kindergarten classroom” by Kiri T. Mealings, Katherine Demuth, Jorg M. Buchholz & Harvey Dillon (all have PHD) Macquarie University and National Acoustic Laboratories Australia.