How to Improve Classroom Acoustics

Author: Gina Cunsolo

improving acoustics in the classroom yamaha
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How to Improve Classroom Acoustics

The role classroom acoustics plays in education can’t be underestimated. As schools face increasing pressure to cut costs and recruiting teachers becomes more and more difficult, classroom sizes have grown. Holding the attention of 30 or more students who are already facing a variety of distractions is enough of a challenge on its own, and if students have trouble hearing the instructor the task becomes nearly impossible.

Along with the noise generated by the students themselves, when it comes to being heard instructors may be competing with the sound of HVAC systems, an instructor in the room next door playing a movie, noisy students in the hall, and even the sound of traffic or construction noise from outside.

Good acoustics play a critical role in facilitating communication and is essential to effective teaching and engagement. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a nationwide organization of speech, language, and hearing scientists and others in similar fields, poor classroom acoustics contribute to student difficulty in understanding material as well as problems with reading and spelling, classroom behavior, and attention span.

The benefits of good acoustics in the classroom

hybrid classroom acoustics yamahaStudents benefit from improving classroom acoustics. While it’s clear that poor classroom acoustics results in negative effects, raising classroom acoustics standards offers the opposite effect. Along with improving overall learning, good acoustics are particularly beneficial for those students with hearing issues, learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders, and attention problems.

Teachers also do better if there are good classroom acoustics. Along with the obvious reduction in voice strain from trying to make themselves heard, a more orderly classroom can reduce stress in already overburdened instructors

And while it may be easy to incorporate classroom acoustic design when building a new school, most school systems are required to make the best of the space they already have. 

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to improve classroom acoustics without tearing the building down and starting from scratch.

Different Ways to Improve Acoustics in the Classroom

Sound-absorbent panels 

Most schools tend to be constructed out of concrete blocks or similar material. Although such construction makes for a durable building, the smooth, painted concrete walls of a classroom combined with large glass windows and smooth linoleum floors can create a host of acoustic issues, primarily reverberation. When an instructor speaks in a room with those reflective surfaces, the sound bounces off the walls and creates an echo effect.

Mounting sound-absorbent panels on the walls can be an inexpensive way to reduce reverberation and improve overall room acoustics.

“Quiet” furniture 

Smooth desktops can contribute to reverberation, while the scraping of chairs on the floor can be an additional distraction. Sound absorbing materials mounted on the underside of Tables with sound-absorbing panels cut down on disruptive noise from tapping pens and clacking keyboards, while castors on chair legs can help eliminate that aggravating scraping sound.

Carpeting on the floor can contribute to noise reduction efforts as well.

Wireless microphones and other technology

One of the easiest ways to ensure instructors can be heard is by employing voice amplification technology. According to The Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (The MARRS Project), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the benefits of incorporating voice amplification into the classroom include:

  • Improved attention: a classroom audio system can help enhance a speaker’s pronunciation, tone, and inflection, which enables the students to better comprehend.

  • Increased classroom participation: if a student cannot hear or understand correctly, there is often a lack of confidence to participate in any discussion or ask for further explanation. Improved classroom audio and a better ability for students to hear what’s being discussed bring with it increased student contributions.

  • Better classroom management: Microphone amplification allows teachers to speak in their natural voice, and students no longer feel as though they are being yelled at.

  • Improved Academic Success: Sound field studies show that amplifying a teacher’s voice results in improved reading and language test scores for students at all elementary levels. Improvements were evident after only one year of use and the improved academic scores were maintained for years. 

classroom sound panels yamahaWhen choosing a voice amplification system there are several features you’ll want to be sure it includes. At the top of the list is acoustic echo cancellation. Acoustic echo occurs when the sound coming out of the speakers is picked up by the microphone, creating feedback or an echo effect. Acoustic echo cancellation recognizes and eliminates the echo via a digital signal processing, or DSP, engine that removes the duplicate audio.

Another critical feature required in any classroom voice amplification system is dereverberation, a sound-processing technology by which the effects of reverberation are removed from sound to improve clarity.

The ADECIA communication solution from Yamaha Unified Communications includes both echo cancellation and dereverberation technology that improves the audio quality of amplified speech, providing a cleaner listening experience. The Dante-enabled ADECIA solution automatically detects components, configures devices, and optimizes audio performance for the room environment - adjusting for reverberation characteristics, echo behavior, speaker/mic position, and more.

Beyond the classroom

Along with classroom lectures, instruction today is being delivered online in both live and asynchronous settings. Whether students are listening to lectures in the classroom, online during a designated meeting time, or listening to a recording, audio quality is paramount.

Education technology has been an area of focus for Yamaha UC for decades. Visit this site to learn more about education technology and to download our free Education E-book. Contact us to speak with one of our experts.