Your attention please 

September 7, 2011 

Editor’s note: Much has changed since this column was originally published in September 2011. We have updated this to include additional resources.  

Classroom noise affects student attention 

Classroom noise impacts students’ ability to pay attention in the classroom. I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms and observed a lot of good teachers. I’m always impressed by their determination to reach every student, in spite of the challenges which may include the learning space itself. 

Most classrooms are far from ideal listening and learning environments. In fact, although students spent 75% of their day listening, nearly all – 97% – fail to meet the acoustical standard for a good learning environment. Every room has its own set of noise issues that negatively impact learning.  

Noise in classrooms has many sources: 

  • In-room noise from projectors, computers, printers, fans, lighting ballasts, shuffling desks and chairs, aquarium / animal habitat, pencil sharpener, student movement & interaction, etc. 
  • Facility noise from heating and air conditioning systems, hallways, adjacent rooms, gyms, cafeterias, music rooms, etc. 
  • Exterior noise includes playgrounds, roadways, lawn mowers and blowers, even aircraft traffic patterns. 

Noise creates distraction, especially among younger children. These distractions often create barriers for students to hear and focus on the instruction.  

Counter audio distraction with clear, intelligible sound 

I’m reminded of Dug the ‘talking’ dog in the animated movie “Up.” How many squirrels did he see? All of them! Adults have developed techniques to counter audio distractions. We can refocus on the presenter, move closer to the front, watch for verbal clues or gestures and are able to fill in most of the blanks. Kids can be distracted by just about anything. 

Classrooms may never be ideal listening and learning environments, but teachers can address much of the distracting noise issue by using a Lightspeed classroom audio system to distribute the sound clearly throughout the room, helping keep kids focused and increasing on-task time. It’s simple, effective and mitigates a major classroom challenge. 

More resources:  

Learn more about how instructional audio can support learning.  

“We realized it was a great inequity. Some students were getting a better education simply because they could hear their teacher more clearly.” – Rebecca Cooksey, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Technology Services, Lancaster School District, Lancaster, California  

E-book: Improving student learning through clear, intelligible sound 

Research: The benefits of classroom audio technology 

Video: Signal-to-noise ratio 

Video: Audibility vs. intelligibility 

Case study: Two moms shine a light on hearing in the classroom, Lincoln, Nebraska 

Case study: Lancaster School District discovers positive correlations between student engagement and classroom audio System