Can lighting really improve student performance?
Author: Raymund McGrath
Lighting for Education
Modern teaching spaces are flexible, interactive and often mixed-use spaces. Lighting solutions should, therefore, seamlessly integrate into these spaces and offer a dynamic solution to meet the many different needs of users.
Educational spaces aren't confined to just classrooms. For example, open-plan learning spaces are becoming the norm in primary schools, and the use of libraries and sports halls all make up part of the overall teaching environment.
Lighting controls offer many benefits in educational areas, such as whiteboard switching, smartboard integration, daylight harvesting and different colour temperatures. From a facilities management viewpoint, integration with systems such as Building Management Systems (BMS) and the use of automatic emergency light testing are additional benefits. They all come together to create a more advanced student experience. The inclusion of lighting controls in a learning environment provides teachers with the ability to ensure that, regardless of the activity at hand, the lighting scenes are best suited. Different lux levels are needed for different activities to ensure optimum performance, whether it’s a presentation, exam or physical activity. In university campuses, multi-site connectivity is possible to enable remote maintenance, monitor system performance, energy usage and even extract occupancy data.
Whether in schools, colleges or university lecture theatres, much of the learning process is visual. Setting the right lighting conditions is critical to enable the optimum environment to improve learning ability. Where possible, natural daylight would be harvested, but this isn't always achievable. Artificial light must also be used to light the space. By using tuneable white luminaires, dynamic lighting scenes can be achieved, giving the right colour temperature for the time of day.
Human Centric Lighting in Education
Using colour temperature has been shown to have a positive impact on the concentration levels of students. Light can be used to better performance by improving alertness and focus. Warmer white light with slightly lower intensity can be used to help users calm down when facing high stress. Cooler white light with higher intensity can be implemented to help awaken student's senses and help them prepare for the day ahead. In a study conducted by Mott et al (2012), US students showed a 36% higher percentage increase in oral reading fluency when exposed to high-intensity light, compared to 16% of students who were exposed to standard lighting.
People have evolved under daylight conditions, and our body clocks set to this biorhythm. In a room under static light with six 600x600 modules set to 100%, and three dimmable luminaires near the window is far away from the creative environment we should be giving students. Particularly when DALI fittings are now a standard feature for most luminaire manufacturers. We can now use Human Centric Lighting to replicate daylight using artificial light in combination with intelligent lighting controls. This method of lighting educational spaces gives a better environment to study in, for interaction and socialisation purposes. Concentration levels can be boosted, buildings are more aesthetically appealing, and energy can be saved by harvesting natural daylight where possible.
Activity, location, and age are just some of the factors which could determine which lighting profile is best suited for the environment. Customisable tools are designed to meet specific application, occupant needs, and the programming flexibility of such systems make them suitable for a range of educational settings. These include lecture theatres, sports halls and libraries, where light can have a significant impact on student concentration, wellbeing and alertness.
So, with lighting having a significant impact on student productivity, how close is your educational institutional from enhancing the learning needs of your students?