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Researching Achievement - Study Detail

 

Summary of 2006 Australian Study:
The Impact of Sound Field Amplification in Mainstream Cross-Cultural Classrooms

Part 1 Educational Outcomes by Robyn Massie and Harvey Dillon
As published in the Australian Journal of Education, 50(1):62-77

Abstract
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of sound-field amplification intervention on the acquisition of specific educational goals for children in mainstream cross-cultural classrooms. Twelve classes of Grade 2 children participated in the project. For classes 1-8, the listening environments were alternated between amplified and unamplified conditions, each condition being for two terms (one semester) of the school year. Beneficial effects of amplification were obtained in all three skill areas of reading, writing and numeracy. The beneficial effects occurred irrespective of whether the children had English as a native language or had English as a second language. Classes 9-12 were alternated between single-channel and dual-channel transmission options, each condition being for one semester of the school year. The results indicated using different numbers of microphones did not affect the rate of acquisition of educational outcomes
.

This study differs from previous studies into the educational advantages of sound-field systems in that the majority of participants were ESL students. 43% of the children came from an ethnic background which was Vietnamese, Samoan, Spanish, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. A further 18% were from varying ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, Greek and Fijian.

Beneficial effects of amplification were obtained in literacy and numeracy skills for Grade-2 children in cross-cultural mainstream classroom.

For classes 1-8 (where the listening environments were alternated between amplified and unamplified), the system effect per skill area per semester was one third of the total number of skills acquired in each semester. Beneficial effects of amplification were obtained in all three skill areas. Averaged across the three areas, the number of skills acquired per semester increased from 4.1 without amplification to 5.8 with amplification. Although the absolute increase of 1.7 skills acquired was similar in each area, the effect of amplification relative to the number of skills acquired without amplification was particularly large for reading and writing. As skills are acquired with each passing semester, these results indicated that sound-field amplification intervention had a similar effect to increasing the length of each semester by an extra one third.

In the following table the first four rows show the skill increases observed, averaged across the four classrooms that experienced each of the conditions shown. The final two rows show the inferred effect of amplification in each semester.

Amplification
Semester
Reading
Writing
Number
Average
OFF
1
3.25
3.19
7.44
4.63
ON
1
5.53
4.49
9.02
6.35
OFF
2
1.63
1.53
7.78
3.65
ON
2
3.4
3.51
8.94
5.29
EFFECT
1
2.28
1.29
1.58
1.72
EFFECT
2
1.77
1.98
1.16
1.64
Language spoken did not interact significantly with either skill area or the effect of amplification.

For classes 9-12 that used sound-field amplification throughout the school year, there was no significant effect of number of microphones or interaction of number of microphones with order. Classes 9-12 used single-channel or dual-channel amplification systems throughout the two semesters, the aim being to identify the patterns of use and range of additional benefits provided by the dual-transmission option. A major finding was the number of microphones did not affect the rate of acquisition of educational outcomes. This was a surprising result given that passing around a second microphone would facilitate peer exchanges which, according to the literature, would enhance “classroom talk” (Eriks Brophy & Crago, 1994) and hence provide a more culturally appropriate learning environment (Howard, 1991; West, 1994).

Examination of the teacher questionnaire data which formed part of the same study revealed that teachers used the second microphone for a relatively small amount of time during the course of the school day; therefore, it is not surprising that educational outcomes were not affected.

Although not directly studied, teacher in-service training programs probably play a vital role in the effectiveness of sound-field amplification. A limitation of this study was that teachers received the same in-service training, but, due to constraints on their time, on an individual basis rather than as a group. The latter approach would have provided opportunity for discussion and expression of ideas. Regular group meetings may have proved beneficial as teachers became comfortable with using the equipment. Additionally, a greater emphasis on the demonstration of microphone techniques and strategies may have affected outcomes. Most importantly, teachers must be provided with ongoing support in order to feel confident in their knowledge of strategies for effective use of the equipment.