This paper presents a review of research carried out in the past 40 years into various aspects of noise in open plan classrooms. The emergence of open plan classroom design in response to progressive educational reforms is discussed. A limited amount of evidence of the effects of noise in open plan classrooms is presented. Surveys of both background and intrusive noise levels in open plan classrooms are summarized and compared. Differences between noise levels in open plan and enclosed classrooms are also considered. Recommended noise limits and acoustic design criteria for open plan classrooms are discussed, together with some current international standards. The paper concludes with a discussion of appropriate noise control measures to reduce noise and maximize speech intelligibility and speech privacy in open plan classrooms.