How the Introduction of Daylight Can Boost Learning by 20%

The classroom has evolved considerably over the years. Blackboards have been replaced with whiteboards, tablets and PCs are as commonplace as notebooks and pencils and lesson plans no longer centre around textbooks as subjects are brought to life with the latest technology.

(Image: CMD Ltd)

But while teaching styles and the curriculum have advanced, certain aspects of the learning environment haven’t moved on since the teachers were pupils.

For decades, overhead fluorescent strip lighting has been the standard in classrooms. Although it meets the basic need to illuminate the space, its stark effect does nothing for the room’s atmosphere and — according to a study carried out by the University of Nevada — could actually trigger off-task behaviour in pupils, such as fidgeting, daydreaming and talking in lessons.

Further studies have shown that children studying in classrooms that receive a high level of daylight — either naturally or replicated with full spectrum lighting — achieve better results than those receiving little or no natural light. The resulting increase in performance was as much as 26% in reading and 20% for maths — a significant improvement from a relatively simple adjustment to the learning environment.

Daylight also has a distinctly positive effect on children’s anxiety levels and wellbeing, with teachers seeing a marked improvement in behaviour in class.

And it isn’t just students who could benefit: according to a study published in the journal Optics Express, lighting also affects the working environment for teachers, especially when they are able to optimise it to suit specific activities. Dynamic lighting systems, for example, allow teachers to remotely adjust the brightness and temperature of classroom lighting on a light-by-light basis to create a suitable ambiance to enhance learning. For example, lighting can be dimmed at the front of the classroom to reduce glare from a whiteboard. Different brightness levels can also be used to complement different subjects — creative tasks can benefit from lower lighting, while detailed work such as scientific experiments require crisper, more focused lighting.

Making the switch from fluorescent tubes to full spectrum LED lighting is a small adjustment that could reap huge rewards in the classroom. The simple introduction of daylight — real or replicated — into the learning environment can essentially improve the behaviour, wellbeing and academic results of students, which concurrently benefits teaching staff through enhanced working conditions and greater job satisfaction.

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