Friday, 24 April 2009

Classroom lighting could be harming pupils' performance

Lighting conditions in UK classrooms could be needlessly harming children's school performance, psychologists have claimed. Mark Winterbottom and Arnold Wilkins assessed 90 classrooms in 11 secondary schools across the UK during the Summer of 2006.

Past research has shown that fluorescent lights that flicker imperceptibly at a rate of 100Hz are harmful to mental performance. They're easily replaced by more efficient and less harmful lights, yet Winterbottom and Wilkins found 20 per cent of classrooms were lit solely by the harmful variety. In the remaining classrooms, an average of 90 per cent of lighting was of the harmful variety.

Excess or inadequate luminance is another problem in classrooms, usually caused by a lack of control over lighting in different areas of a room. The researchers found that luminance exceeded recommended levels in 88 per cent of the classrooms they investigated. More fine-tuned light control and more use and servicing of blinds could easily ameliorate these issues.

Another lighting problem, brought about since the introduction of data projectors into classrooms, is glare reflecting off the projection screen into pupils' eyes. The researchers found that all bar one of the classrooms they studied had equipment arranged in such a way as to exacerbate this problem, with projectors on the ceiling and screens mounted vertically. The situation can be improved by tilting the screen upwards slightly, so that the glare is directed towards the ceiling.

"Most of these problems are unnecessary and appear due to poor policy decisions," Winterbottom and Wilkins concluded. "In most cases, action to correct the problems would be simple, and any costs would be offset in the medium term, due to increased efficiency, reduction of wastage, and benefits in terms of health of pupils and staff."
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ResearchBlogging.orgWinterbottom, M., & Wilkins, A. (2009). Lighting and discomfort in the classroom. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29 (1), 63-75 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2008.11.007

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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