Classroom Materials from the Acoustical Society of America

W.K. Adams, A. Clark and K. Schneider, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO

Supplemental material


Sound and Music quiz development and validation studies

To assess the effectiveness of the Sound and Music Introductory lesson, we are developing a short multiple-choice assessment that has questions that address the same learning goals that were used to create the introductory lesson.  Initially informal interviews and one focus group were conducted with a range of middle school students and adults using open ended questions created around the learning goals.  A large portion of the current distracters were created based on answers from these interviews and focus group.  However, there were some topics where there did not seem to be common incorrect ideas, either a person basically knew the correct answer or they could not verbalize any sort of a guess.  For example, when asked how sound is created, either the answer was vibrations or I have no idea after extensive hemming and hawing.  For those cases, the authors, with the assistance of colleagues, created distracters. 


 After being reviewed by several local high school teachers and university faculty, we tested both the lesson and the pre/post assessment with a small private middle school class.  The results were very promising.  The class had 11 5th and 6th grade students.  The lesson was given by Adams and Clark and the assessment was given immediately before and after the lesson.  The average normalized learning gain, <g>, for the 11 students was 0.74.


With these encouraging results we have continued to move forward with the lesson and assessment.  After being reviewed by 50 high school/middle school PTRAs, we are on version 3 of the assessment which currently has 13 questions on physics and music concepts plus 9 on the function of the ear which were taken directly from a Dangerous Decibels’ assessment. 


The introductory lesson has been further tested with an additional middle/high school group and four undergraduate classes.  The ASA Committee for Women in Acoustics in conjunction with the Education Committee conducts outreach with local Girl Scouts at many ASA domestic national meetings.  At a recent meeting the Sound and Music hands-on lesson was conducted before the girls engaged with the demo stations.  The lesson was conducted by Adams and several volunteers. Approximately 70 girl scouts participated in the lesson.  Many girl scouts were as much as 20 minutes late and the lesson was cut off 10 minutes early. The pre assessment was given as girls came in and the post was given after the demo show between 9 – 9:30 p.m. as their parents tried to rush them out the door.  In the end 40 pre/post tests were matched. 


Surprisingly, the average gain was 0.33 in this less than ideal learning environment.  This was a pleasant surprise for this informal setting.  The lesson was conducted in a large hotel ballroom with ten-top rounds so ~1/3 of the students had to turn away from their materials to view the instructor.  Volunteers were briefed for 5 minutes on how the lesson would run, leaving them unsure about their responsibilities and timing throughout the lesson.  Only three tables out of seven received reasonable interaction from an assistant.  The data supports the idea that only some girls received the full benefit of the lesson as demonstrated by the standard deviation (standard error shown in the table) on the post test remaining nearly as high as it was on the pre test.  With all other classes, the standard deviation is smaller on the post test.


 Additionally, demo station volunteers who had participated in previous years, which did not lead off with any sort of tutorial or lesson,  reported that the girls seemed more engaged and better prepared to understand the demos than girls in the past. Further data was gathered by an open ended attitude type survey that had been given in the previous year and again at this outreach session. The enthusiasm and quality of understanding demonstrated in the answers was much higher with the group who’d experienced the Sound and Music lesson.  In future outreach sessions, we plan to continue to have the introductory lesson.


In two undergraduate courses the Sound and Music lesson was utilized as the first lesson in a series of acoustics lessons. The Pre/post quiz was given before the lesson and then again 2-4 weeks later serving as a measure of retention rather than immediate learning.  These courses were a capstone course for pre-service elementary teachers called Principles of Scientific Inquiry and second semester of introductory algebra based physics (2012 and 2013). 


The college level physics course was a relatively large class, 49 in 2012 and 66 in 2013. It was conducted with the help of a very adept student assistant who passed out materials promptly in 2012 and materials were passed out in advance in 2013. The classroom was set up as a typical lecture classroom. During the pre-service teachers class (23 students) the instructor distributed all materials and ran the lesson; however, students were in existing groups and the room was ideally arranged so the lesson went very smoothly.




Pre (SE)

Post (SE)


Middle School class



90% (2.3)


Girl Scouts 5th – 12th grade



69% (2.6)


Pre-service elem. teachers



86% (2.1)


Intro. alg.-based phys



87% (1.1)


Intro. alg.-based phys





Pre-service Secondary Science teachers





Matched data for the Sound and Music pre/post assessment


Upon reflection, it appears that the Sound and Music quiz could benefit from some more difficult questions. However, results are adequate to demonstrate that the introductory activity is a successful interactive engagement lesson demonstrating both immediate learning as measured after the lesson and retention of the material 2-4 weeks later.