May 2, 2016

Using your ‘teacher voice’ may not be enough to make your students comprehend what you’re saying.

By Carolyn Hollowell


Teachers from around the world tell me that as long as they talk loudly, using their “teacher voice,” every student in their classroom will be able to hear and understand them.

There is a certain amount of logic in this kind of thinking because, as adults, we often turn up the volume of the TV or ask other adults to speak louder when we are in the back of the room. As people with decades of experiences behind us, we have a library of knowledge and words that allow us to fill in the intelligibility gaps between what we hear and what makes sense. Unfortunately, children don’t have that luxury. They are still acquiring words and meanings, building their database of knowledge. They are unable to fill in the gaps.

Accidental Discovery

Since a majority of students’ time in the classroom is learning by listening to the teacher and peers, the real challenge is not merely for everyone to hear each other, but for everyone to understand each other. One of our customers, Bartlesville Public Schools in Oklahoma, realized accidentally that this was a problem. They purchased a Redcat system to improve the learning environment for a student with mild hearing loss who did not want to be identified as having special needs. Once they had the Redcat system in the classroom, they realized that hearing clearly benefited all students and the teacher.

Battling the Environment

As if challenges of the intelligibility gap and students with special needs were not enough, now add in the environmental challenges that all classrooms experience at some point during the day. Just the other day I was visiting my son’s school for High School Careers day. It was a typical spring day here in Oregon. The district’s grounds crew was mowing the fields outside his classroom, the heater kicked on since it was 58 degrees outside, and the next-door classroom was engaged in some lively collaborative learning activity. So, when the teacher introduced me to the class, I noticed some puzzled faces near the window. His volume did not translate into understanding. I was sporting my Flexmike to talk to the class about my career in sales and marketing for a technology company, and as soon as I started talking, I noticed those kids by the window relax and smile. They were engaged now. 

Here is a short video to explain in more detail this gap:


I enjoyed spending time in the classroom sharing my career path with the marketing class. It was even better to be understood by them as well!


You might also be interested in:

Video: Audibility verses Intelligibility, Dan Ostergren


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