Installing sound-absorbing ceiling tiles in elementary-school classrooms could significantly improve children’s learning and comprehension, says a study in the March issue of Applied Acoustics.
Following the installation of acoustic tiles in a classroom in China, 86% of students said the teacher’s speech was clearer and 66% said it was easier to concentrate on the lessons.
Research has shown that background noise and sound reverberation, or echo, in classrooms can have a detrimental effect on communication between teachers and students, especially young children with immature hearing and cognitive systems, researchers said.
The study involved 44 students, ages 8 to 9 years old, in Grade 3. The sound quality was measured before and after acoustic tiles were installed. A loudspeaker simulating a teacher’s voice-directed sound from the teaching platform to microphones located at six locations in the students’ sitting area. Acoustic factors, such as sound clarity, were calculated at these positions.
Speech intelligibility factors significantly improved after the acoustic changes. Sound reverberation was reduced by 50% while sound clarity and definition increased by more than 70%. The speech transmission index, a measure of speech transmission quality, increased 35%.
Questionnaires assessed the effects on students. Half of them said they heard less noise after the acoustic changes. The greatest reduction was in noise from outside the school: 68% of students reported hearing less noise from the school playground and 50% said street noise was lower. Close to half, 48%, said there was less noise from a fan and other equipment inside the classroom and 40% said noise from classmates was reduced. More than half of the students, 57%, noticed a reduction in echoes.
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