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aural learning environments


It is probably ironic that I've started writing this beachside in Holdfast Bay, Glenelg, South Australia. It is a windy day, the surf is crashing onto the foreshore - the white noise of this background is significant and lovely...

...which brings us directly to the question: what does background noise contribute to learning, if anything. Can noise help, or hinder learning. And how can we control it in learning spaces that are already built, when it is too late to model the aural environment at a design stage?


As with so much in learning, it is complex, but no part is particularly hard to understand. Research is considerble in areas like industrial aural environments - where concentration = safety, or where "too loud" long term might = hearing impairment.

Similalrly, there is (but why did it take so long?) now good research about driving concentration and muisc levels. Compared to these safety focussed research areas, education is woefully under researched. But we can glean a lot from studies elsewhere. Here is what we know from research in other areas:

Certainly in the tests I've been involved with over the years three simple tenets emerge consistently:

But of course schools are all different - whole classes jumping up to sing in Maori schools I visited, huge noise from Heathrow Airport planes overhead in others; so, as ever, there is no "one size fits all" (is there ever?) and you will need to try things yourself.


For a look at students researching their own aural environments - see this page on learner led research elsewhere on the server.

One thing is reasonably certain: sound plays a significant part in making learning better.
Your students are best placed, and best motivated, to explore this.

page last updated by Stephen Heppell - Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:19 AM