Hearing the Teaching Voice: Improving Instructional Communication

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Post-secondary instruction is absorbing a variety of technological aids to learning, but it still depends to a large degree on lectures, which are in turn dependent on essential patterns of communication: a speaker conveys information by voice, and listeners receive and interpret what is said. While considerable attention is given to the design of university classrooms in terms of physical space and visual accessibility, far less is given to acoustics and to the realities of classroom soundscapes. Instructors in large classrooms routinely compete with the roar of ventilation systems and projectors, as well as the buzz of lights and flurries of clicking from student laptops. For those without skill in vocal projection, lecturing can lead to vocal fatigue; for students it can lead to frustration as important information is missed because ambient mechanical roars obscure the lecturer's voice. While audibility can be enhanced with mechanical amplification, it adds a sense of distance between speaker and listeners that may diminish student engagement. Thus, further attention to the impact of spoken communication in the classroom is warranted.