Classroom Redesign: Lighting

Fluorescent light installations by Ko Siu Lan words lighting installation


In a classroom, there are many different factors to be considered in order to optimize student learning attributes such as keeping their attention, increasing their ability to recollect things learned, increasing awareness, decreasing apathy, and increasing critical thinking. The factor that I would like to analyze in the redesigning of a classroom is the lighting within the classroom.

When I began my research looking at different lighting ideas there was a common idea that I was seeing repeated throughout all the information I was reading. That theme was natural. Light ratings go by how much color they give off, and have been given the unit Color Rating Index (CRI) ranging from 0 to 100 for measurement of how good the light is. The best CRI is given by sunlight (100), and this is so because sunlight covers all the different colors of light within the spectrum. Moreover, studies have shown that the higher the CRI, the greater capacity a student has to succeed. Studies have shown that lighting has a direct effect on a student’s attitude, and thereby his or her performance in school. Furthermore, studies are showing that full spectrum lights will decrease a student’s hyperactivity (ADHD) and increase a student’s ability to collect information. (

Some more research has shown that without teacher and grade level bias, natural light (highest CRI) has the highest impact on academic success with a 20% increase in math and a 26% increase in reading. Whereas artificial lighting has been proven to have negative impacts on students’ success ranging from bad to worse with a respective lowering of CRI’s. ( Furthermore, natural light has even been proved to have physiological causes in children such as a decrease in cavities. ( This is rather important because this tells us that the effects of light on a person carry much more weight than you would have ever thought! In fact, redesigning a classroom has been proven to have as much as a 25% difference in a student’s ability to progress nicely through a school year. ( Therefore, I think that taking into account the lighting will make a significant difference in a student’s ability to have good critical thinking and problem solving skills needed for the classroom and life.


  The ideas I saw for lighting that is the most conducive for learning all dealt with these CRI’s and their ability to create a full spectrum of colors. Most fluorescent lights have a CRI range of 50-86 (, which is pretty low, but so are the prices. By going to these lights you save about 100$ per light in the beginning game; however, due to lights that help project natural light being more energy efficient, the long-run game goes to the more expensive lights. (

The best ideas our there are the indirect and direct pendant fixtures with the latter being the best. Moreover, using a screen over the lights called polarized diffusers is supposed to decrease the chasm between the artificial and natural light (CRI’s at 90 or above). ( Some control aspects are also suggested with the ability to close the blinds on a window, dim the artificial lights, turn certain rows of lights off, and being able to change the direction of the lights.


To end, I’d like to leave some quotes to ponder about in terms of the effectiveness of lighting in a classroom:

“Schools, classrooms and other work environments where people spend time learning and working under simulated sunlight (full spectrum lighting and color) experience less stress and anxiety, improved behavior and attitudes, improved health and attendance, and increased performance and academic achievement.
Research in the use of light in schools has shown that cool-white fluorescent bulbs, (which are used in virtually all classrooms) cause: bodily stress, anxiety, hyper-activity, attention problems and other distress leading to poor learning performance.”

“Titoff, 1999, concluded in his research that “There was a statistically significant difference between the students who worked under old-style fluorescent lights and those who worked under full-spectrum, visually-efficient lighting.” This controlled study verified that depression was lowered among those students who experienced learning under full-spectrum lighting.”

“With cool-white fluorescent lighting, some students demonstrated hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, and attention deficits.”

“Full spectrum lights showed improvements after one month”


From what I get out of all this is that perhaps poor lighting isn’t just bad for a student’s ability to learn, comprehend, and apply critical thinking skills, but it is also inhumane. Perhaps if we had better lighting we would see a decreased need for Adderall and Vivance in class, and an increased self-awareness. Perhaps we would see students that had less anxiety, stress, and poor learning abilities. I take from all the research that I have done that not only does lighting have a direct impact on a student’s ability to learn, but it also has a direct impact on a person’s well-being.

Side Effects of Fluorescent Light



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