In modern learning environments, instructional audio is not optional
By Ray Young
The secret is out: One of the best ways to improve student success is to make sure your students can hear their teacher and classmates clearly.
decades of to research demonstrated the crucial link between instructional audio and student success. In addition to reducing teachers’ vocal tension, instructional audio has been proven to increase the participation and engagement of all students, not just those with hearing loss.
Although the educational value of good acoustics is well documented, it is not always considered in classroom design. According to a report of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), the acoustic properties of classrooms are often the “forgotten variables” in ensuring student academic success, and many American classrooms do not meet preferred acoustic standards.
To design truly “modern” learning environments, K-12 leaders must recognize the critical link between speech intelligibility and learning. Educational audio has gone from something that should to be made of something to have to be finished.
Modernizing classroom design
Today’s classrooms are active spaces where learning happens throughout the classroom and beyond. There may be a small group working in the hallway on a project, students progressing individually and another group receiving direct instruction.
Without an instructional audio system in place, the following barriers can greatly impede teaching and learning:
- Hearing loss: Mild hearing loss is pervasive. About 2 to 3 out of 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.
- Vocal constraint: teaching is considered a high risk job for voice disorders. Nearly 600,000 teachers miss at least one day of work a year due to voice problems.
- Distance: Students sitting at the back of the room have less access to their teacher’s voice. Speak inverse square lawdistance decreases “signal strength” and sound intensity.
- Noise: To achieve LEED certification, the background noise level of a classroom must not exceed 45 dBA, which can be difficult to achieve. Using even the most conservative research studies, classroom background noise aggregation is typically around 60 dB.
Today’s learning environments look, sound and feel very different. Distance, hybrid and other modalities are far more common, as teaching has long since evolved from “sit and get”.
Given that almost all of the nation’s 20 largest districts will offer remote learning options for the 2022-23 school year, school and district leaders need to determine how to make amplification systems work for all students, regardless of the place of learning.
Preparing for the future
As instructional strategies, goals, and priorities evolve, K-12 leaders need to carefully consider how they can improve classroom design to support educators and students.
Instruction should focus on each student’s unique needs and strengths, likely in open community classrooms where many students have Individual Education Plans. This could mean fewer teachers per student, students more likely to collaborate with peers who are not physically present, and increased demand for audio and video solutions.
Active learning environments benefit students in many ways, but when a teacher needs to communicate with the whole class, all too often, the only solution is to make their voice heard. This is inefficient. Not only does this drain teachers’ energy and cause vocal strain, but speaking above a conversational tone can increase some students’ stress levels.
Modern learning environments must also be built to meet rising priorities, such as social-emotional learning (SEL). To support SEL, teachers must be able to communicate clearly (and capture students’ attention) without raising their voices. With a educational audio system in place, teachers can ensure that every student hears every word, regardless of where they are seated or their unique learning needs.
Educational audio provides a simple solution
Implementing instructional audio in classrooms and other learning environments can help K-12 leaders solve many of the challenges they face today, and also help prepare for the changes that will inevitably occur tomorrow.
Educational audio is easy to implement, simple for teachers to use, and proven to have a positive impact on students. Whether they’re looking to modernize their campuses, prioritize inclusivity, or improve classroom design, K-12 leaders can find instructional audio a simple and impactful solution.
Ray Young is the Director of Educational Design and Development at Light Speed Technologies.