Macquarie University
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An investigation into how the acoustics of open plan and enclosed classrooms affect speech perception for kindergarten children

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posted on 2022-03-28, 02:22 authored by Kiri Mealings
Open plan classrooms, where several class bases share the same space, have recently reemerged in Australian primary schools. This is due to a more child-centred teaching philosophy which focuses on group work, sharing resources, and the social development of the child. They also promote team-teaching and joint collaboration which is thought to facilitate a more cooperative and supportive teaching and learning atmosphere. However, because of the large number of children engaging in different activities and the lack of barriers between classes, these spaces are subject to high noise levels. Therefore, it is timely to conduct research in these classrooms to assess their appropriateness for 5-6-year-old Kindergarten children. This thesis by publication is comprised of five studies that aim to comprehensively compare the listening environments of four different types of classrooms: an enclosed classroom with 25 children, a double classroom with 44 children, an untreated linear fully open plan triple classroom with 91 children, and a purpose-built semi-open plan Kindergarten-to-Year-6 classroom with 205 children. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the studies. Chapter 2 describes the first objective study which calculated and compared the noise levels, signal-to-noise ratios, speech transmission index scores, and reverberation times across classrooms. Chapter 3 describes the development of a new classroom speech perception task that can be conducted live and efficiently in real classroom listening environments. This speech perception task was used in the third study (Chapter 4) to objectively assess how the acoustics of the classrooms measured in the first study affect children’s speech perception accuracy and speed. Chapters 5 and 6 describe the subjective studies of this thesis which examined the children’s and teachers’ perceptions of their classroom listening environment via a questionnaire. Finally,Chapter 7 discusses the impact of these findings for each classroom, draws conclusions, and suggests future research directions.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Investigating the acoustics of a sample of open plan and enclosed kindergarten classrooms in Australia -- Chapter 3. The development of the Mealings, Demuth, Dillon and Bu8chholz classroom speech perception test -- Chapter 4. The effect of open plan and enclosed classroom acoustic conditions on speech perception in kindergarten children -- Chapter 5. An assessment of open plan and enclosed classroom listening environments for young children : part 1 - children's questionnaire -- Chapter 6. An assessment of open plan and enclosed classroom listening environments for young children : part 2 - teachers' questionnaires -- Chapter 7. General discussion and conclusions.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Katherine Demuth

Additional Supervisor 1

Jörg Buchholz

Additional Supervisor 2

Harvey Dillon


Copyright Kiri Mealings 2015. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xvi, 262 pages) black & white illustrations

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