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Background Noise Can Effect Students Test Scores

By James Mathews - 31 Oct 2011 16:51:0 GMT
Background Noise Can Effect Students Test Scores

Sound Waves via Shutterstock

It is always a subject of research to find what helps to increase the quality of a learning environment to help with the absorption of more information or better results and what can decrease these factors as well. The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has been carrying out its own research on the matter on third and fifth grade students and has found that students had a lower reading test score in classrooms that had a higher background noise. A similar result was seen in the correlation with language achievement test scores and background noise levels.

It is important to note here that the background noise discussed here is not loud traffic noises of beeping cars and revving motorcycles or students misbehaving in a loud fashion. The background noise responsible here was the steady humming produced from air conditioning and heating systems.

"Our research shows that many students are forced to learn and teachers are required to work in conditions that simply do not aid in the learning experience," said Lauren M. Ronsse who is now with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Centre in Champaign, Illinois.

The research experiments measured the background noise in 67 unoccupied third- and fifth-grade classrooms in a Nebraska public school district. They believe that the constant drone of systems responsible for heating or air conditioning mask sounds and interfere with understanding during instructions.

The research was carried out by simply placing a sound level metre in the middle of every classroom and then using teachers and school administrators to take baseline readings when the class was empty to be able to strictly measure the noise caused by the room heating and air cooling systems. This research was carried out over a 5 month period from January through to May 2010 and was usually between 3:30 and 6pm when school had finished and all students had left.

After the team of researchers had all their measurements they compared the levels of noise to the students test scores and observed significant correlations with the fifth-grade students, however this same negative effect was not seen when comparing the data of third-grade students.

A study previous to this had shown that the maximum background noise tolerable before effecting test scores was around the 41 decibel mark which is also the average noise level found in the typical office. However, researchers found that in order for students to get the very best test scores the background noise need to be as low as just 28 decibels which is extremely quiet; about as quiet as an adult whispering or even quieter than the noise generated by the average fridge.

Ronsse, from the research team, said, "The results from these studies indicate that elementary schools should be built with building mechanical systems that are certainly quieter than 40 decibels in the classrooms to optimize student learning in the reading comprehension and language subject areas."

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