The effect of ambient light on learning

If people are more alert and perform better in good ambient light at work – what might this mean for schools? Scheduled teaching and a well-defined work place – the classroom – makes schools a perfect environment for studying the effect of lighting on people’s performance and well-being. This is why we conducted a year-long research study at a middle school in London.

Our aim was to ascertain the effects of ambient light

The aim was to investigate how pupils were affected by working in a classroom with more ambient light, i.e. a greater proportion of light on the walls and ceiling. For the study, we set the lighting in a test classroom where the mean value of the ambient light aimed at the ceiling and wall surfaces was approx. 300 lux. The light on the calculation plane – the work desk – was 500 lux as before. The lighting was also equipped with daylight and presence detectors to optimise energy consumption. 

The pupils’ performance, alertness and well-being (visual, biological and emotional) were then studied over a whole school year with the help of interviews and cortisol measurements. The results were then compared with pupils who followed the same school timetable in an identical classroom with standard lighting. 


The ambient light made pupils feel better and work harder

The study showed clearly that the pupils in the classroom with more ambient light both felt better and worked harder.  They had lower levels of sleep hormones and were therefore more alert during the darker months of the year. These pupils also displayed increased alertness with a higher level of stress hormones throughout the school year. They also achieved better school results in mathematics, reading and writing throughout the entire school year, and this improvement was especially noticeable during the darker part of the year. The pupils also felt better throughout the year. 



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