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    Understanding the impact of classroom noise on children's learning and well-being, and its modulation by executive functions

    Massonnié, Jessica (2020) Understanding the impact of classroom noise on children's learning and well-being, and its modulation by executive functions. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Noise is a prevalent part of primary school. Yet, it is unclear why some pupils are more affected by it than others. Theoretical and empirical evidence suggest that noise impacts learning by deviating attention. This hypothesis has been tested on adult populations using working memory and attention tasks, but not on children. This thesis presents laboratory and school studies filling this gap. Chapter 2 investigates the impact of moderate verbal noise (single-talker noise) and multitalker classroom noise on reading comprehension, text recall and mathematics performance, among a sample of children in Years 4 to 6. Noise had a detrimental effect on text recall and mathematics, but only when the noisy session was presented before the silent session. There was no difference between the impact of the two types of noise. Inhibitory control was not identified as a protective factor. Better working memory was protective when doing mathematics in noise – but this was not found for reading comprehension and text recall. In Chapter 3, children in Years 1 to 6 were engaged in two idea generation tasks, with or without the presence of moderate multi-talker noise. Noise only had a detrimental impact on the original of ideas for children in Years 1 to 3, and this was evident in only one of the two tasks. Better inhibitory control was protective when generating new ideas in noise, especially for children in Years 1 to 3. Studies from Chapters 2 and 3 provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the impact of noise. They also reveal a challenge for researchers and educators; namely, that the objective impact of noise on performance does not align with children’s self-reported experience of being distracted. Chapter 4 explores different dimensions of children’s reactions to noise, in a sample of pupils in Years 5 and 6. Here, perceiving noise as interfering with an ongoing activity in the classroom was partly dissociable from feeling annoyed by it. Children who reported greater difficulties in switching from one task to another also reported greater noise interference and annoyance. Children who reported greater mind-wandering reported greater interference, but not annoyance. Chapter 5, based on the same sample, highlighted that behavioural tests of sustained attention and working memory were associated with noise interference, but not annoyance. Together, these results bridge the gap between self-report, and behavioural assessments of distractibility. Finally, Chapters 6 and 7 reported on two separate mindfulness and sound awareness interventions that were co-designed with teachers, and implemented among the same sample as in Chapters 4 and 5. The reduction in noise levels was more important in the sound awareness and in the control groups than in the mindfulness group. Only the sound awareness group was associated with reduced feelings of noise interference and annoyance. Improvements in reading comprehension were more important in the mindfulness group than in the sound awareness group. In conclusion, this thesis shows that the impact of noise on learning and well-being is partly underlined by attentional mechanisms, and suggests practical solutions to reduce children’s negative reactions to noise.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2020 14:24
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:18


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