In the first (of many?, and last?) of Ryan’s Obviously Unverified Speculations (ROUSs: yes they do exist), I put forth a long-held Speculation of mine which I call:
I thought some day I might actually test this hypothesis in some kind of study, but today I jettison that thought and simply outline it here: it will remained Obviously Unverified!
I speculate that by playing music at the start of class, specifically non-verbal smooth/background music that people (including me) will relax as they enter the room. I only play things I care about personally: Zoe Keating, Bill Laswell, Miles Davis, Royksopp, Klaus Shulze are some examples). As the number of students in the classroom increases they are prompted and encouraged to chat by the relaxing sounds- this is an Unverified Speculation, but I have observed this.
My strategy is to then slightly push the volume of the music up, as the student number in the classroom before start of class grows, the volume of their chatter grows, and I turn up the volume, and eventually…if things go well…there is a roar in the classroom.
This same phenomenon can be observed in pubs.
Music that would seem to be blaring absurdly if a single person is in the room cannot even be heard at 12:45 am when the place is jammed. I call this, then, a “pub roar.” I never get volumes that you would get in a pub, but the idea applies.
So, I like to build a good roar right before I start lecturing. I Speculate (Figure 1) that content acquisition at the beginning of the class time, in such a classroom, will be much higher than a silent one. I (wildly) Speculate > 70% attention to begin class vs. maybe 50% in a silent one, though that is Obviously Unverified.(Figure 1)
What this means is that, if you solve for the area under the curve over the first 30 minutes, for instance, in Figure 1, that there is the potential for a massively increased volume of knowledge content transfer.
Even so, attention begins to crash (in both populations: Figure 1) after about 30 minutes. The positive effects of a pub roar “wear off” around 40 minutes in to the lecture. That is why I nearly always take a 3-5 minute break at that point- then I begin playing music again.
This break has two benefits: (a) if people (including me) need to pee they can, cause nobody who has to pee can concentrate well. (b) I can usually get a little bit of a roar going again during the break.
Normally it is quite a bit lower than the pre-class one, but if I put music back on, and walk out of the room myself, and then come back and crank the volume a little bit…I can generate a mini-roar over the course of ~ 3 minutes that, I Speculate, will drive up attention north of 50% when the lecture re-starts (Figure 1).
Then there is little enough time left in the class so that attention will remain reasonable through the end (though declining). The break, though it costs 3-5 minutes of lecture time, I Speculate greatly increases total content transfer, especially over the last ~30 minutes of class (Figure 1).