by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition
Over forty years ago I conducted a study that demonstrated that children in classrooms located near elevated subway tracks in Upper Manhattan, who were exposed to train noise from passing trains every four and a half minutes, did more poorly on reading tests than students in the classrooms on the quiet side of the building. When the Transit Authority installed rubber resilient pads on the tracks and the Board of Education installed sound absorbing ceilings in the classrooms, these noise abatement techniques led to an improvement in reading scores. Research following these two studies, as noted in the Acoustic Bulletin article, have indeed found that noisy classrooms are not conducive to learning.
The article lets readers know that new teaching techniques adopted as a result of employing new educational approaches, classroom design, and advanced technological tools, may result in a noisier classroom environment. Although the article acknowledges that national and international guidelines and standards have been applied to newly built and refurbished classrooms, “an entire rethink of how classrooms are deigned may be necessary in order to really accommodate new teaching styles and optimize the sound environment they create.”
The article concludes that most schools globally have not yet designed their spaces to accommodate the changes in teaching styles. Designers of classrooms should know that acoustics are key to a good learning environment as are air quality, lighting and temperature. They need to recognize that speech transmission and cognition of what is heard is essential to learning in classrooms employing new teaching styles and technology as they are in traditional classrooms.
The Acoustic Bulletin article headline is dead on: “Noisier teaching methods pose serious challenges to classroom design.”