New Learning is Noisy

From our Learning by Design project, here is a case of the new civics in action, in a classroom in which learners are more in control of their own learning:

‘When people come into my class, they think it is too noisy.’

Todd, a grade 3–4 teacher says that when people unfamiliar with his and his teaching-partner Sarah’s class enter the room this is what they often say.

‘Teachers new to the school always comment on the noise. It’s the first thing that gets mentioned … every relief teacher mentions it.’

‘They could easily mistake noise and movement for bad teaching if they didn’t know what they were looking for,’ says Louise, the deputy principal.

‘But before long most are saying “Gee this is good! I haven’t been in a class like this before”,’ Todd adds.

Theo, another teacher joins the conversation. ‘You want it to be noisy … it has to be … engagement is noisy. A noisy classroom may raise eyebrows, but a quiet classroom may be one where the kids are not challenged. I mean, just because the classroom is quiet does not mean the kids are learning. When noise is happening you can be sure engagement is happening.’

‘Of course, there comes a time when the noise has gone beyond a productive level … It becomes noise and not work,’ Theo continued.

‘But you almost never hear anyone raising their voice to quieten kids,’ Sarah added.

‘The reason why we have all the extra noise is the frequent use of group work. Here, we’re good at facilitating productive group work.

‘Group work is good. Paradoxically they have needed to work in a group in order to work individually. Group work is both a stimulus and a reassurance that the task can be achieved, giving the kids the confidence to go off and work on their own.’

‘Just as kids get good at group work the teachers get very good at monitoring it. You stop and watch … observe … you use all of your senses … and it’s about knowing your kids, building more noise … this is productive noise … more engagement.’


Burrows, Peter, Bill Cope, Mary Kalantzis, Les Morgan, Kieju Suominen and Nicola Yelland. 2006. ‘Data from the Australian Research Council Learning By Design Project.’ Unpublished Manuscript.


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