Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


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L. M. Wang. (2014) “The Impact of Building Acoustics on Speech Comprehension and Student Achievement.” Melbourne, Australia; Nov. 16-19, 2014.


Invited Keynote Speaker at Internoise 2014.

Copyright (c) 2014 Lily M. Wang.


The movement for improved classroom acoustics has primarily been grounded on studies that show how building acoustics (i.e. background noise levels and room reverberation) affect speech intelligibility, as determined by speech recognition tests. What about actual student learning, though? If students do not understand each spoken word in the classroom perfectly, can they still manage to achieve high scholastic success? This presentation will review two recent studies conducted at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, linking classroom acoustic conditions to student learning outcomes and speech comprehension (rather than simply recognition). In the first, acoustic measurements in two public school districts in the Midwest were correlated to elementary student achievement scores. Results indicate that higher background noise levels, greater than 40 dBA, may lead to unacceptable scholastic performance in language and reading tests. The second study focuses on how room acoustic conditions impact English speech comprehension of native-English-speaking listeners in contrast to English-as-second-language (ESL) listeners, a group which includes 21% of children in the United States K-12 school system. Conclusions are that higher reverberation times and background noise levels do reduce speech comprehension in both groups of listeners, but adverse noise conditions are particularly more detrimental on ESL listeners.