Good Lighting Design in Schools May Improve Student Performance and Grades

School lighting design is government-mandated but also very important

Recently, Wired UK published the results of an interesting report on how the design of a classroom influences student performance.

The results, published in Building and the Environment, revealed that the architecture and design of classrooms has a significant role to play in influencing academic performance. Six of the environmental factors — colour, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility and light — were clearly correlated with grade scores.

The study came at an interesting time; the U.K. government released some standardised templates for the design of schools at the tail-end of 2012, a move which was met with some derision from the architectural community.

Of course, the lighting conditions are standardised in this document, but first we’ll briefly cover some interesting research findings on lighting and learning.

Light Improves Concentration and Memory 

In a study of Dutch schoolchildren, a flexible and dynamic lighting system was found to have a positive effect on the subjects’ concentration – particularly the younger students. The word “dynamic” here means that the researchers had an element of control over the intensity and colour temperature.

And interestingly, in another study over in Germany, bright lighting was found to have an effect on working memory for night shift workers. While this effect hasn’t been studied in schoolchildren yet, it’s still an interesting observation.

The new findings are in line with what we already know about light’s positive effects on learning. It’s clear that schools need adequate light (preferably using as much daylight as possible to save energy, of course) and a flexible lighting system.

Designing Within Government Architectural Guidelines

The government’s baseline designs mandate sustainable lighting systems that are “future-proof” – they need to be reasonably flexible for use. At the same time, a “daylight design” principle is in place – the lights need to provide “balanced, glare-free luminance.”

At Sparks Direct we stock a range of fluorescent lamps that are suitable for the purpose. Recessed, modular ceiling lights include Category 2 louvres that significantly cut down on glare, and where surface lights are already present, inexpensive diffusers are available.

As for flexibility, on a basic level we would recommend dimmer switches, but a whole-building approach might be best. Using the Grafik Eye QS control system, each classroom can be programmed as its own “zone” with different “scenes” that dim or brighten the lighting according to the time of day.

It’s possible, and even easy, to design a lighting system for schools that improves learning and stays within government guidelines. For more information, why not drop by the showroom?

Image by dcjohn (Creative Commons)

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