Those educators are now looking beyond teaching methods to determine the effects of a physical environment on student performance. They have known for years that bad lighting has an adverse effect on performance, and they are now beginning to appreciate that the proper lighting for a learning environment can objectively improve student performance. In all cases, color balanced LED’s are the proper lighting for that environment and improve student performance.
As least as early as the 1970’s, research revealed that cool-white fluorescent lighting (which continues to be the standard in many classrooms) caused hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, and attention deficits in some students. When fluorescent fixtures were replaced with full-spectrum lighting, student behavior and academic performance shows notable improvements.
All lighting is characterized by its correlated color temperature, or CCT, on a spectrum that ranges from warm to cool with measurements on a “Kelvin” temperature scale. The “temperature” of a light source on this scale is not a measure of the actual physical hot or cold temperature of the lighting fixture. Instead, it is a rating of how light is perceived. “Warm” lights generally emphasize yellow and gold components, while “cool” lights trend more toward white and blue components. Fluorescent lights, and particularly fluorescent fixtures that have been installed in schools, fall more toward the “cool” side of the lighting scale with little or no “warm” balance.
Research outside of the education industry has shown that certain wavelengths of “blue” (i.e. cooler) light can inhibit a person’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps a person fall asleep. Commercial environments are using this research to create lighting environments that allow their employees to be more energetic and productive. In an educational setting that is designed for adolescents who already have an excess amount of energy, too much blue light can lead to the hyperactivity and fatigue that depresses student performance. Thus, lighting that is appropriate for an adult business environment may be wholly inappropriate for a learning environment. Those learning environments benefit more from lighting that can be adjusted throughout the day to better interact with an adolescent’s internal rhythms and cycles.
Research has shown, for example, that LED lighting can be adjusted in early hours to increase the general sense of alertness of adolescents who are typically more tired in the earlier part of a day. That LED lighting can be modified throughout the day with an optimized color balance that better matches natural lighting without overstimulating any students. One European research project showed that the performance of some students improved by one-third or more under these color-balanced lighting conditions.
LED lighting manufacturers and engineers are producing LED lighting systems that respond to the challenges and requirements of educational communities. Next generation LED systems, for example, can be tuned from a cool 600K down to a warmer 2500K, with matching adjustments for lighting intensity. These options give educators unprecedented control over how they light their classrooms to create the environments that facilitate optimum student performance.