“Echoes in Education:” Re-classifying classroom acoustics in traditional and modern learning environments in New Zealand
Thesis DisciplineSpeech and Language Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Audiology
AIMS This project focused on the acoustic characteristics in a mixture of Modern Learning Environments and Traditional NZ classrooms currently in use for educating primary school children. The aim was to evaluate these two styles of classroom against three different scales of acoustic recommendations including the NZ Ministry of Education, the Australian, Department of Education (NSW), and an International scale based on research by Dr Kiri Mealing (2016). The implications of these findings will be discussed in relation to the impact they have on children’s access to sound, ability to hear well, and thus learn effectively. A key focus of the research will be the potential implications of acoustics for inclusive education regarding children with additional learning needs especially hearing impairment.
METHODOLOGY Eleven Modern Learning Environments and eleven traditional cellular classrooms will be evaluated for their acoustic properties while they are both occupied, and unoccupied by students. Four acoustic parameters will be measured using an App which has been recently designed by the National Acoustic Laboratory in Australia especially for assessing classroom acoustics.
RESULTS Evaluating the classroom acoustic performance over four parameters rather than just two yields a more accurate profile of the true functional acoustic environment each space presents. In the final analysis, only 5 of the 11 (45%) MLE, and 7 of the 11 (64%) TRAD classrooms met all 4 of the recommended acoustic parameters including ANL, RT, BNL and STI to a level which was deemed acceptable. Just, 12 of the total 22 (55%) classrooms surveyed in this study met all 4 of the overall INTERNATIONAL recommendations. A significant co-relation was found between BNL and the number of children in a teaching space.
CONCLUSIONS The mixed results present in this study suggest that there is plenty of scope to improve classroom acoustics especially for the most vulnerable young learners. The unsatisfactory acoustics present in this investigation are of concern not only to researchers, and academics, but also cohorts within the community. Many sector groups have long called for improvements. It is to be hoped that school boards, teachers, parents and audiologists will soon be equipped with the recently developed “SoundOut” Classroom Acoustics App.
The scientists at NAL in Australia, specifically designed the App to measure both occupied and unoccupied acoustics with a view to enabling and empowering these sector groups to gather their own data towards mitigating poor acoustics in educational settings. It is anticipated that these findings may contribute to an argument for a nationwide review of the acoustic properties in some existing classrooms. That is if the spaces in which all New Zealand children learn, are to be brought up to the specifications within the MoE guidelines. This research supports international recommendations for “optimal” rather than merely “acceptable” acoustics as the benefits for both students and teachers are substantial.