Could lighting in schools help students concentrate?
Most classrooms today are a long way from those of 30 or more years ago, with rows of traditional flip-top desks, large blackboards and flickering fluorescent strip lighting overhead.
Modern school design and new technology has seen interactive white board, tablets and laptops used daily, as well as more flexible spaces allowing for group work, quiet study or interactive learning.
Today’s education buildings are a lot more pupil-focused thanks to our understanding of how young people learn, interact and socialise. Even the way we use lighting is understood a lot more now than it was just a decade or so ago. Here we look at how lighting plays an important role when it comes to the classroom environment.
How does school lighting help students concentrate?
As explained by Lighting for People, there are numerous studies that show the different effects that light levels and colour temperatures have on students’ academic achievements and behaviour in the classroom. The overall conclusion is the higher the illuminations levels, the better their concentration and focus.
LED lighting, in particular, can help create good environments for children and young people to learn, compared to incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. This is because LED lights can be adjusted in colour and intensity throughout the day, changing as students move from task to task. For example, if school children need to be alert while taking a test, then brighter, cold white light can help could help them focus on their work.
First thing in the morning, a bright light with a blue tone can also help to stimulate the body clock and give students an energy boost. This could be particularly useful during the winter months when it tends to be darker first thing. But as well as helping to keep students feeling alert and reducing tiredness, we can use lighting to create different moods and environments.
How lighting can reduce stress and create calm in schools
During quieter times in the school day, using a warmer light can create a relaxing environment. This type of lighting could be used in libraries, chill out rooms, in break times or to settle children towards the end of the day. If any young people have behavioural problems, this type of light could help to calm them.
A year-long experiment, carried out by the government of Hamburg and The University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, found that when they installed a human-centric LED system in the school, hyperactive behaviour decreased by 76%.
Increasing visual comfort so students can carry out their work and study without disturbances is another important factor when designing effective lighting for schools. LED lighting can be controlled to reduce glare on screens, so pupils can work at computers or on tablets without straining their eyes.
Key considerations when designing a lighting scheme for schools
One of the most important features of an effective school lighting design is flexibility. As we’ve seen, brighter and colder types of light can help to make students feel more alert and focused, while warmer and softer lighting can relax and calm them. Classrooms and shared learning spaces are likely to be used for a number of different purposes throughout the day, so it’s important teachers can change the light settings easily.
Students and their individual needs all need to be considered too. Some young people may have a sensitivity to light, so they may benefit from having an individually controlled lamp which they can control to soften the lighting and create a more comfortable learning environment for their needs.
Sufficient lighting also helps students move around the school safely. There shouldn’t be any dark corridors or corners that aren’t lit properly. The whole school and each classroom should be a safe, usable space for students and teachers – so maximise the functionality of the school with adequate lighting everywhere.
Other factors for achieving visual comfort at school
Lighting is just one factor that impacts students’ visual comfort at school. When designing and building education spaces, we also need to consider daylight – how can we maximise it, while also controlling it. Enhancing views of the outdoors and nature, thinking about the colours that are used to decorate the interiors, and even making sure that indoor and outdoor areas are clean and clutter free can all help to enhance visual comfort.
Disclaimer: The sole responsibility for any views expressed lies with the author(s). Any opinions shared do not necessarily represent the views of Saint-Gobain.