An assessment of open plan and enclosed classroom listening environments for young children: Part 1 - Children's questionnaires

Kiri T. Mealings, Harvey Dillon, Jörg M. Buchholz, Katherine Demuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Open plan classrooms, where several classes share
the same area, have recently re-emerged in primary schools.
This study investigated Kindergarteners’ perceptions of noise
and how it affects speech perception in four classrooms:
an enclosed classroom (25 children), double classroom (44
children), fully open plan triple classroom (91 children), and a
semi-open plan K-6 classroom (205 children).
Method: Ninety-five Kindergarteners (Mage = 5;6) split over
the four schools completed a questionnaire with the researcher
assessing whether they could hear/were annoyed by sound
sources (using yes/no) and how well they could hear their
teacher/classmates in different listening scenarios (using simple
ordinal ratings). Children’s responses were also compared to
the classroom’s acoustic conditions.
Results: Most children were annoyed by noise from other
children/teachers, and it significantly affected how well they
could hear their teacher, especially in the open plan classrooms
with only a small distance between class bases. Children in all
classrooms had difficulty hearing their teacher when their own
class was noisy. The children’s responses of how well they could
hear their teacher correlated with the noise levels, signal-tonoise ratios, and speech transmission index scores measured
in the classrooms.
Conclusions: Noise was problematic, particularly in the open
plan classrooms, and it negatively impacted the children. These
results show the importance of meeting the recommended
acoustic limits for classrooms with 5- to 6-year-old children to
ensure they can hear their teacher “well”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of educational, pediatric and (re)habilitative audiology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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