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Modern School Acoustics on teaching styles,room acoustics, teachers’ health and pupilbehaviour
By Dr. Markus Oberdörster, Ecophon Germany and Dr. Gerhart Tiesler, Institut für Interdisziplinäre Schulforschungder Universität Bremen (Institute for interdisciplinary school research of the University of Bremen, Germany)
1. Noise in schools – currentstatus of school research
Schools have become much noisierin recent years, with the numberof complaints about this steadilyincreasing. In 1999, a study bythe ISF (Institute for InterdisciplinarySchool Research) of the Universityof Bremen, with about 1,200teachers participating, gave a veryclear picture of the stress factors thatarise in schools. When questioned,more than 80% of those taking partadmitted experiencing stress caused
"I am stressedby the noisethat pupilsmake."
do not agreeat alltend not toagreeagreeslightlytotally agreeAnswers (%)
by pupil noise. One year later, theBundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz undArbeitsmedizin (German FederalInstitute of Occupational Health)was commissioned to carry outthe most extensive research projectto date on "Noise in educationalestablishments". Observations frommore than 570 lessons showedan average classroom
SPL (soundpressure level) of approximately 65 dB(A).
Levels that are thishigh mean that communicationcan be extremely difficult or evenimpossible.Of course, the sound pressure levelmeasured in the classroom doesnot only consist of unwanted noise,since the teacher's voice and anecessary contribution of pupilvoices are also involved. Thus,overall classroom noise is generatedby the two-way teaching processas well as by other factors. Evenif this overall level were generatedexclusively by the teacher, thiswould mean - at the very least - thathe or she would have to speak ina raised voice throughout the entirelesson.The question of noise in schoolsis therefore extremely complex.How, for instance, does the generalnoise level in the classroom affectthe communication processesthat take place there? How it ispossible to differentiate between
on the one handand
(sound) on theother hand, when carrying out ascientific teaching analysis? Howdo SPL and poor understandingof communication affect pupilperformance and/or teachers' work stress? And, not least, what areteachers really talking about whenthey complain about noise in theclassroom – the measurable SPLor, rather, the way in which theirteaching is disturbed?All these issues resulted in themost recent ISF study in 2005on the
"Acoustic ergonomics of schools"
. Based on 175 lessons,the first stage involved researchingthe effects of different teachingmethods (direct teaching vs.student-centred teaching) on thebasic* and working** SPL inthe classroom. The second stageinvolved an investigation intohow
changing room acoustics
(reverberation time and speechintelligibility)
affects this level for each respective teaching method
.It was possible not only to analyseaverage values for lessons butalso to gain insight into actualteaching phases that showed clear,pedagogical characteristics.
ISF study, 1999: 80% of teachers complainabout the noise made by pupils
*The Basic SPL: the general basic noise level in a fully occupied class over a deﬁned time period.** The Working SPL: the noise level parameter describing a working situation.