International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 57–72 | Cite as

Sounds of Education: Teacher Role and Use of Voice in Interactions with Young Children

  • Anette Boye Koch
Original Article


Voice is a basic tool in communication between adults. However, in early educational settings, adult professionals use their voices in different paralinguistic ways when they communicate with children. A teacher’s use of voice is important because it serves to communicate attitudes and emotions in ways that are often ignored in early childhood classroom research. When teachers take different roles in relation to children, they use their voice with different pitch, melody, and loudness. This research examined how various acoustic elements in teachers’ voices are associated with different teaching roles when explored from a child-sensitive perspective. The paper proposes an analytical framework in order to characterize paralinguistic elements in teacher’s voices with potential consequences for children’s affective responses. The paper analyzes auditory elements (pitch, melody, and loudness) that can be recognized in the voices of adult professionals. These are categorized with reference to four different teacher roles: a mentor role, a nurturer role, a controller role, and a playmate role. The findings reveal how auditory elements of teachers’ voices need consideration when planning and evaluating educational practice.


Early childhood education Teacher role Teacher vocal practices Paralinguistics Children’s perspectives Sensory ethnography 


La voix est un outil de base dans la communication entre adultes. Cependant, dans les milieux d’éducation des jeunes enfants, les professionnels adultes utilisent leurs voix de différentes façons paralinguistiques lorsqu’ils communiquent avec les enfants. L’utilisation de la voix par l’enseignant est importante parce qu’elle sert à communiquer des attitudes et des émotions de manières souvent ignorées dans la recherche sur la salle de classe préscolaire. Lorsque les enseignants prennent différents rôles en relation avec les enfants, ils utilisent leur voix avec un ton, une mélodie et une force différents. Cette recherche a examiné comment divers éléments acoustiques des voix des enseignants sont associés à différents rôles de l’enseignant lorsqu’ils sont examinés d’un point de vue sensible à l’enfant. L’article propose un cadre d’analyse afin de caractériser les éléments paralinguistiques des voix des enseignants avec des conséquences potentielles sur les réactions affectives des enfants. L’article analyse les éléments auditifs (ton, mélodie et force) qui peuvent être reconnus dans la voix des professionnels adultes. Ceux-ci sont classés en fonction de quatre différents rôles de l’enseignant: un rôle de mentor, un rôle de soignant, un rôle de contrôleur et un rôle de compagnon de jeu. Les résultats révèlent comment les éléments sonores des voix des enseignants doivent être pris en compte dans la planification et l’évaluation de la pratique éducative.


La voz es una herramienta básica en la comunicación entre adultos. Sin embargo, en ambientes de educación temprana, los profesionales adultos usan sus voces en diversas formas paralingüísticas cuando se comunican con los niños. El uso de la voz de un maestro es importante ya que sirve para comunicar actitudes y emociones de formas que son habitualmente ignoradas en los salones de clases. Cuando los profesores toman diferentes roles en relación a los niños, utilizan su voz con diferentes tonos, melodía y fuerza. Esta investigación examinó cómo una variedad de elementos acústicos de las voces de los maestros se asocian con diferentes roles de enseñanza al ser exploradas desde la perspectiva de la sensibilidad del niño. El paper propone un marco analítico para caracterizar elementos paralingüísticos en las voces de los maestros con consecuencias potenciales para la respuesta afectiva de los niños. El paper analiza elementos auditivos (tono, melodía y fuerza) que pueden ser reconocidos en las voces de profesionales adultos. Estos son categorizados con referencia a cuatro roles diferentes de los profesores: el rol de mentor, el de educador, el de controlador y el de compañero de juegos. Los resultados revelaron cómo los elementos audibles de las voces de los profesores necesitan consideración al momento de planificar y evaluar la práctica educacional.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author of this paper has no financial or personal relationship with other people or organizations that could inappropriately influence or bias the content of the paper.

Ethical Standards

The study was performed in compliance with ethical standards and data anonymization. Educators gave informed consent to the participant observations. As the studied children were all minors at the time the data were collected, informed consent was obtained from their parents. The paper has been submitted with full responsibility, following due ethical procedure, and there is no duplicate publication, fraud, or plagiarism.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VIA Centre for Applied Research and DevelopmentVIA University CollegeAarhus CDenmark

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