Acoustics

Pottery workshop in the Foyle Art for All Learning Studio at Watts Gallery Artists’ Village
Pottery workshop in the Foyle Art for All Learning Studio at Watts Gallery Artists’ Village

The ability to hear instructions and information is important in learning sessions, especially in unfamiliar environments, as it contributes to a sense of control and security.

Research has also shown that it is particularly important for primary age children to be able to hear clearly[1]. Vocabularies are not fully developed until children are 15: when adults hear only a proportion of spoken words they can use their knowledge to fill in the missing words, but children are unable to do this as they simply do not know enough words.

Research tells us that high levels of noise affect cognitive function and impact on performance of tasks[2].

The Department for Education’s guidance for schools sets the upper limit for ambient noise levels of between 35 and 45 decibels. Measures to prevent echoes are also desirable to ensure acoustic comfort in rooms.

An acoustic plan might include an acoustic surface layer on walls or ceiling and even on the underneath of tables. In hard-surface rooms the acoustics can be a major problem unless pre-planning averts noise issues. Remember that the type of flooring used will affect noise levels.

References

[1] Carol Flexer, in an article for Hearing Journal (August 2002) stated,
“People can fill in the blanks of missed information only if they have that information already stored in their brain’s ‘data bank’ from where they can retrieve it. Because they do not have those data banks, children need a sharper auditory signal than adults do. Thus, while a classroom might sound fine to an adult, it may be woefully inadequate for typical children who are neurologically undeveloped have not had decades of language and life experience.
All this means that children require a quieter environment and a louder signal than adults do in order to learn.”

Newman, Rochelle S. (2004). “Perceptual restoration in children versus adults”. Applied Psycholinguistics 25 (4): 481–93

Marianne Fallon, Sandra E. Trehub, and Bruce A. Schneider. Children’s use of semantic cues in degraded listening environments2002 

[2]Pamela Woolner The Design Of Learning Spaces. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group; 2010. Page 18