Can poor acoustics affect creativity in schools?

Following on from our previous blog on whether poor acoustics can affect attainment in schools, we thought it would also be useful to dig into the topic of creativity in schools and whether there is a similar detrimental impact to children’s learning in schools from poor acoustic environments.

As humans, we all have different preferences for working environments, and this is no different for children at school, where focus and concentration is possibly even more important due to the critical things they need to learn in school that will set them up for the rest of their lives.

Read on to find out more about whether poor acoustics affect creativity in schools.

Evidence shows poor acoustics can affect productivity and creativity

The scientific research into noise and creativity have some very interesting results. One experiment showed that moderate level (70decibels) sound vs. low level (50db) ambient noise actually boosted the performance in creative tasks and problem-solving.

However, as expected, high levels (85db) of noise-damaged the ability to be creative. This is predictable as anybody knows its hard to concentrate when there are so many things going on in the background, especially high levels of noise, which are hard to block out.

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The reasons suggested for why moderate level noise actually generated higher creativity levels than low level noise was that the background acoustic levels encouraged a state where abstract thinking could occur. The mid-level noise was just enough ambient sound to stop people concentrating so intensely that they began overprocessing and rationalising but not too loud to be an overwhelming distraction.

Nevertheless, these researchers made clear that these results were only achieved through a specific acoustic environment, not one of abstract white noise or other people’s conversations. So, in summary, under the right circumstances, a steady flow of familiar sounds at a volume of around 70db can lead to an improvement in creativity.

But does this apply to schools and children in everyday classrooms?

One study focussing on the impact environmental factors have in classroom settings found that there were absolutely no conditions where classroom noise improved children’s creativity.

This is so significant because children are so much more sensitive to external stimulus than adults, making a case that teacher’s themselves might not even realise how detrimental the classroom environment is for their pupils, as they are not personally affected.

The study asked children aged between 5 and 11 to participate in idea generation tasks in silence and then in varying levels of classroom noise. The researchers then assessed their selective attention skills and working memory and concluded that noise did not promote creativity, and in the younger aged children (5 and 8 years) they had a negative effect to the acoustic environment.

This was explained in the clear circumstance that younger children have lower selective attention skills and are therefore at higher risk of being unable to block out distractions.

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School acoustics are vital for children’s creativity

Whether a new build or refurbishment project, decision makers in control of the spaces in schools must take into account the current and future needs of its children and staff.

Acoustic solutions for schools greatly enhance the environment in classrooms, reducing any distracting background noise or reverberations. They should be used both inside the classroom and along hallway walls, facilitating children’s creativity, concentration, and learning.

In addition, it ensures classes that are engaged in a large discussion to not disturb neighbouring classrooms. Furthermore, as students and teachers walk through the hallways and engage in conversation, they cannot disturb other classes that may be in session.

All of these issues can be solved with simple acoustic changes such as sound absorption panels and soundproofing in between rooms.

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What you might not have known is that these solutions are actually specified in the Department for Education’s Building Bulletin 93. This document provides the standard for school noise levels and what can be done through acoustic design solutions.

The BB93 states that the main objectives for classroom acoustics is that all speech, either between or among teacher and pupil, should be heard clearly. This is measured by the speech transmission index (STI) and has to meet certain standards in order to be approved.

The benefits of making sure your classroom acoustics meet – or better this level – contains the opportunity for your pupils to reach their potential and improve their educational outcomes.

Conclusion: acoustic panels for schools

The positive effect of the introduction of acoustic solutions has been proven in multiple scientific studies as highlighted in this blog series. Architecture and school design that incorporate the importance of noise control could potentially transform the learning and wellbeing of millions of children in school.

Acoustic solutions cut noise levels in classrooms, sports halls, and dining rooms so that students can hear, concentrate, learn, relax and play.

Our team is available to discuss your school acoustics needs to ensure you select the right product from our line. We have a range of products that include moss wallscork panelsinsulation foamacoustic foam, and wall panel pro. All of these acoustic panel options can be completely customised to your colour, size, fabric, and other product requests.

Whether you need maximum noise reduction or slight adjustments to your classroom acoustics, we can help. We have helped countless schools and organisations improve their school acoustics over the years. Please do not hesitate to contact us today to go over our unique acoustic panels for schools that can help your students achieve better focus and attainment.

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If you’d like to talk to one of our experts, either give us a call on 020 3984 2000, email us info@sound-zero.com or fill out the form and we'll get back to you ASAP.