Is School Lighting to Blame for Poor Performance at School?

(Image:  Catherine  via  flickr/ CC BY 2.0 )

In a new study researchers have shown how the different intensities of artificial lighting can improve or hinder the physiological alertness and cognitive performance in school children.

It has been known for some time that the intensity of artificial lighting has a range of effects on our mood and our ability to concentrate. However, this new study explored how the color of lighting affects our cognitive performance.

Hyeon-Jeong Suk, an associate professor of industrial design and led author, said in a statement:

The study specifically looked at how the different correlated color temperatures (CCTs) affected our physiological alertness and cognitive performance.

The CCT is a way to describe the color appearance of a light source; a low CCT below 3500 Kelvin (K) has a “warm” appearance (yellowish white), while a high CCT over  5000 K gives off light that appears “cool” (bluish white).

Suk said that fluorescent lamps can be purchased with fixed CCT options that range from 2500 K to 5000 K, adding that:

Suk and co-author Kyungah Choi tested the effect three different lighting conditions had on the academic performance and recess activities of fourth-grade children. Two groups of students were studied in real-life classrooms.

One classroom was equipped with LED lights that could be tuned to CCT of 3500 K, 5000 K, and 6500 K, as a control the other had standard fluorescent lights. The students were then given timed arithmetic tests to test their academic performance.

Their results showed that students scored best on academic tests with the 6500 K lighting, while they performed best on recess activities under the 3500 K lighting. The study clearly indicates there is a limit to the intensity that classroom lighting can be before a child’s academic performance would no longer improve with it ultimately declining over time.

According to The Optical Society (OSA), at the end of their study, the research team demonstrated a mobile-app-based dynamic lighting system with preset conditions of “easy,” “standard,” and “intensive” for smart learning environments.

In addition, Choi is now developing an integrated visual system that can adaptively tune the CCT of visual-display terminals, such as electronic books and smart boards, in correlation with that of lighting to optimize the effects on learning and performance, OSA added.

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