Environmental Factors Impact Childrens Ability to Learn
Most people know that the children's physical classroom environment plays a major role in their ability to learn. Classroom design is important to students' success in the classroom. But what about other aspects of the environment such as lighting, temperature, noise, etc? Let’s take a look at how these factors impact children in a learning environment.
Impact of Lighting on Ability to Learn
Having a source of good lighting is critical in the classroom for many obvious reasons. Students need to be able to see the teacher and each other, and to read the chalk board, white board, or projection screen as necessary. However, the amount of daylight in a classroom can also play a major role in how students perform on standardized tests. A study conducted by Heschong Mahone Group for Pacific Gas and Electric produced the following observations:
Students with the most daylight in their classrooms progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests in one year than those with the least amount of daylight.
Students with the largest window areas were found to progress 15% faster in math and 23% faster in reading than those with the least.
Students that had a well-designed skylight in their classroom, one that diffused the daylight throughout the room and that allowed teachers to control the amount of daylight entering the room improved 19–20% faster than those students without such a skylight.
Teachers like natural daylight in their classroom, as long as they have control over when it comes in and the amount that comes in. A 2003 follow-up study to the one mentioned above found that direct sunlight beaming into children’s faces was detrimental to their ability to learn. Not only was it a distraction, but it caused unpleasant temperature changes that were hard to control. In addition, light that creates a glare on the chalkboard or whiteboard impairs students’ ability to learn, especially in math. The use of blinds or shades is an important classroom design element that allows teachers to regulate light in the classroom, shutting out direct sunlight when necessary, while still getting some of the benefits of natural daylight.
Classroom Environment: Temperature
The temperature of the classroom is another element that plays a role in how well students learn. While it’s not possible to make every student comfortable all the time, it’s a good idea to try to find an ideal temperature that works for most of the class. Most teachers agree that the room should border on the cool side. Cooler temperatures keep children more alert; a warm room can lead to sleepiness and lack of attention on the part of the students. If the room is too cool for some, they can bring in a sweater or jacket, thereby learning that they can take some responsibility for their own comfort.
The Role of Acoustics in Classroom Design
The acoustics in a classroom also have an impact on students’ ability to learn. Reverberant noises, annoying equipment sounds, or other loud noises from outside the classroom can hinder children's learning. Loud noises especially seem to impact students’ ability to read. A couple of independent research studies have corroborated the correlation between loud noises outside the classroom and a decrease in reading proficiency. Schools can help eliminate some of the outside noise by installing soundproofing in the classroom and saving big maintenance jobs for after school hours.
Of course, there are many other variables that can impact children's learning in a classroom environment. Not all of them are controllable. But by taking steps to control the ones they can, both schools and the teachers who teach in them will give students the best environment possible to help them in their journey through their educational years.