Wednesday, Sep. 20th 2017

Better Lighting Leads to Better Learning

Better Lighting Leads to Better Learning

Teachers have a tough job. I can still picture my school days long ago; I remember how distracting the classroom could be—thinking about lunch, the football game that night, the girl two rows up. Teachers struggle for their students’ attention, and it’s often a losing battle.

So, it’s no surprise that school administrators look for any advantage to help create an environment more conducive to learning—everything from smart boards, new curriculum and – the one that caught my attention – a change in lighting.

‘Dramatic effect’

Lighting, if you think about it, can make a huge impact on mood and behavior. It’s the reason why night clubs are dark and why gyms are nice and bright, and why you dim the lamps and fire up some candles to create that perfect romantic atmosphere, complete with a warm, soft glow.

It turns out the same lessons can be applied to an educational setting. A recent study found that lighting can be adjusted to achieve certain outcomes and support specific classroom activities: test-taking, reading and play time, for example. All that was needed was a change in the correlated color temperatures (CCTs) from warm to cool. It’s a revelation that’s long overdue, researcher Hyeon-Jeong Suk told the Huffington Post:

“Besides improving human performance, variable lighting CCTs also exert a great influence on both the physical and mental conditions of humans. However, such benefits of lighting have not yet been fully adopted in the educational environment. At the beginning of our research, we were shocked by the fact that the lighting facilities in educational environments were much poorer than we’d anticipated.”

The research looked at two fourth-grade classrooms; the lighting in the first room was set up with LED lights that could be adjusted from lower color temperatures (which give a warm, yellow-tinted light) to high color temperatures (which provide a cool light closer to daylight). A second classroom had the regular fluorescent lighting most of us remember from our childhoods.

For test taking, the researchers found the best results – higher scores and more alert students – were in the room with LED lights set to the high (cool) color temperatures. The other temperatures from the LEDs were found to be beneficial as well: A neutral temperature was good for reading and the warmer light promoted a more relaxed environment conducive to recess. Suk explains the extra benefits are well worth a retrofit:

“This shows that the effect of lighting was direct and intuitive and that anyone, regardless of age or level of knowledge, could experience and be aware … Lighting, compared to numerous other facility investments to enhance such physical and mental states of humans, is highly effective in a sense that it could produce a dramatic effect with slight change.”

The study is further proof that with a simple adjustment to a classroom’s overhead lights, teachers could not only help focus their students but also increase learning potential as well. And LED lights are particularly versatile and effective at serving the various needs of the school.

Saving money while improving learning

LED2 has helped retrofit may school districts across the country, led by administrators who realize that an upgrade to LED not only means better energy efficiency (which makes taxpayer dollars go further) but also an improvement in the classroom environment.

We were proud to recently work with the Smithville School District in Smithville, Mo., on a complete retrofit project for all lighting fixtures at the high school, middle school and upper elementary school. The district was of course excited about the cost savings – which is projected to have a positive cash flow every year starting in year one with a positive return of $3,996, and up to $340,169.04 after 10 years.

Now that the district has started the first full school year under the new lighting, we’re excited to check back in with them next spring to see how the lighting change may have impacted the learning environment. After all, the studies are unanimous in their endorsement of proper lighting for education. For example, research from 2011 showed that lighting can positively impact children’s “cooperative learning.” A summary of the study from the University of Mississippi reported, “Children were 20 percent faster in solving a puzzle together in the relaxed light setting compared to the standard setting. In the energy setting, children talked 95% more than compared to the standard light setting.”

These kinds of results have huge potential for our teachers and school administrators! I’m excited to be a part of the next wave of lighting innovation and to learn more about the countless benefits that come with it.

All I can say is, thank goodness I had fantastic teachers back in the day because my school’s buzzing, flickering fluorescents sure didn’t help at all!

Nelson Struewe is vice president of sales at LED2, a manufacturer and seller of indoor and outdoor commercial LED lighting products. How do you use the color temperature of lighting to improve your daily activities? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @LED2.


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