Page 6 - Special Issue
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 Laura C. Brill
Threshold Acoustics 141 West Jackson Boulevard Suite 2080 Chicago, Illinois 60604 USA
Kieren Smith1
Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction University of Nebraska-Lincoln 1110 South 67th Street Omaha, Nebraska 68182-0816 USA
Email: Lily M. Wang
Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction University of Nebraska-Lincoln 1110 South 67th Street Omaha, Nebraska 68182-0816 USA
1. Current Address: School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, College Avenue Commons, 660 S. College Ave. Tempe, Arizona 85281, USA
6 | Acoustics Today | Spring 2020, Special Issue
Building a Sound Future
for Students: Considering the Acoustics in Occupied Active Classrooms
Acoustics in occupied active classrooms should be carefully considered because they may relate more to student achievement than unoccupied conditions.
Children all over the world spend a majority of their time in built environments, spaces constructed for humans to occupy such as homes or classrooms at schools. Although there is certainly evidence that points to the impact of the home environment on development, there is less scientific research showing the effects of the classroom’s built environment on student learning outcomes. However, recent research both in the United States and abroad (including by our group) shows that the acoustic environment of classrooms has a profound effect on learning.
Surveying 220 K-12 classrooms over the course of two years of measurements has provided a unique opportunity for us to reflect on the acoustic standards that guide the design of these classrooms. The purpose of specifying acoustic conditions in classrooms is to ensure that the spaces are appropriate learning environments. Standards on classroom acoustics typically set recommendations for unoccupied spaces based on a goal of attaining clear communication through increased speech intelligibility. Such standards, however, are not commonly enforced in the United States. Furthermore, meeting current recommendations for unoccupied classrooms may not result in appropriate acoustic environments when those rooms are occupied and in active use, which is how students typically experience classrooms.
Researchers have taken a keen interest in characterizing the acoustic attributes of classrooms and their effects on both students and teachers. Studies have observed and measured the effects of room acoustics on both speech intelligibility and student academic achievement as well as on vocal health of teachers (Hunter and Titze, 2010; Bottalico et al., 2017; Puglisi et al., 2017). In this article, we focus on the impact of classroom acoustics on students.
Initial studies related to classroom acoustics centered on speech intelligibility or the degree to which speech is clear and recognizable. Speech intelligibility, often measured in the form of word, phrase, or sentence recognition, depends on the sound level of the talker, the level of the background noise, and the room acoustic characteristics (Bradley, 1986). When the ratio of the signal level from the talker to the noise level from background sources (signal-to-noise ratio) is low, the speech intelligibility scores of children and those with hearing impairments are consistently found to be worse than for adults or those with normal hearing (Crandell and Smaldino, 2000; Shield and Dockrell, 2003; Klatte et al., 2013).
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  14 | Acoustics Today | Fall 2018 | volume 14, issue 3 ©2018 Acoustical Society of America. All rights reserved.
Reprinted from volume 14, issue 3

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