The quantity and quality of light affects a person’s level of alertness. This also applies in schools. The quantity of light in the classroom and the quality of the pupils’ learning outcomes are indeed connected.
Lighting helps us to use our sense of vision and obtain through this information about our environment in order to assist our activities and movements. Our sense of sight works best in bright, natural light. Good lighting is particularly important when precise work is being done in the classroom, such as reading, writing, crafts and building.
Bright lighting supports activity, while dim lighting is calming
Lighting also affects alertness levels and daily rhythms. Bluish light energises us and wakes us up in the morning, while warmer light makes us tired and helps us to get to sleep in the evening.
In a classroom environment as well, bright lighting supports activity while dim lighting is calming and relaxing. Both are needed during the school day. This is why it is good to be able to adjust the lighting to suit different learning environments and methods.
Classrooms require both natural light and artificial light
It is generally considered that 500 lux is a good lighting level for classrooms. The midday sun gives off over 100,000 lux, while bright light devices produce around 2500 lux. The recommended general lighting level for indoor spaces is 100 lux. In order to produce sufficient lighting, both natural light and artificial lights are required.
Sufficient natural lighting in classrooms is ensured by having a sufficient total window surface area. For example, the recreational and study areas of schools in Finland must have a total window surface area equal to at least 10% of the floor surface area.
Lighting needs to be adjustable
The colour temperature for a light aimed at keeping people alert should be at least 4000 kelvin, which is a neutral, clean tone of light. The colour temperature for daylight lamps is over 5000 kelvin.
Light requirements and visual ability vary between individuals. For this reason also, lighting should be easily adjustable.
Light affects reading speed and overall learning
The effect of lighting on learning outcomes has received relatively little research. It is known, however, that letters and numbers are perceived better if the lighting is good because the eye needs light to distinguish the finer details. This affects reading speed, which in turn affects other learning.
A Dutch study found that the quantity of light affects school pupils’ ability to concentrate. In the US, research has been carried out on whether natural light promotes learning, but a clear conclusion has not been reached. In some of the studies, the quantity of daylight was connected with better test results, but in others it had a negative effect. This effect resulted from the dazzle and reflections caused by the light.
Daylight-like lighting gives the best results
Comparisons have also been made of different kinds of artificial lighting. The best learning outcomes have been obtained using full-spectrum striplights that imitate natural daylight. LED lights were not included in this comparison.
In a study carried out in England, it was observed that using 500 lux lights at work stations and raising the indirect lighting level from 100 lux to 300 lux led to a positive impact on the mood and learning outcomes of school pupils, especially in classrooms that receive little natural light during the winter. Learning outcomes improved for mathematics, reading and writing, and school pupils were more alert and more active in the mornings.
Module schools maximise window size and lighting quality
Cramo Adapteo module scores have both natural light and good artificial lighting. The lighting strength on the work surfaces is 500 lux, which is well suited to reading and other precise work. Cramo Adapteo’s Sales Manager Niko Oksa explains that the LED lighting is pure white in colour – not as white as natural light, but more pleasant for the eye.
“We ensure sufficient natural light by having windows that are as large as possible, with the exact size varying depending on the space in question. We continually keep track of lighting standards and we offer our customers the best possible lighting conditions, which also take into account the space’s purpose of use”, Oksa adds.
National Research Council, 2007. Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press.
The Norwegian Directorate of Education and Training: Physical Learning Environment.
OECD: Effective Learning Environments.
Tommy Govén et al: Influence of ambient light on the performance, mood, endocrine systems and other factors of school children. 2010.
Lisa Heschong, Roger L. Wright ja Stacia Okura: Daylighting Impacts on Human Performance at School. Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, 2002.
Warren E. Hathaway: Effects of School Lighting on Physical Development and School Performance. The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 88, 1995,4.
PJC Sleegers et al: Lighting affects students’ concentration positively: Findings from three Dutch studies. Lighting Research & Technology
Nuikkinen, Kaisa and the Finnish National Board of Education: Terveellinen ja turvallinen koulurakennus (a healthy and safe school building), Saarijärvi 2005.
Satu Aksovaara and Irmeli Maunonen-Eskelinen: Oppimisen iloa tukeva opiskeluympäristö (a learning environment which supports the enjoyment of learning). JAMK University of Applied Sciences 2010-2013.