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Lighting affects students’ concentration positively: Findings from three Dutch studies

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The importance of lighting for performance in human adults is well established. However, evidence on the extent to which lighting affects the school performance of young children is sparse. This paper evaluates the effect of lighting conditions (with vertical illuminances between 350 lux and 1000 lux and correlated colour temperatures between 3000 and 12 000 K) on the concentration of elementary school children in three experiments. In the first two experiments, a flexible and dynamic lighting system is used in quasi-experimental field studies using data from 89 pupils from two schools (Study 1) and 37 pupils from two classrooms (Study 2). The third experiment evaluated two lighting settings within a school-simulating, windowless laboratory setting (n = 55). The results indicate a positive influence of the lighting system on pupils’ concentration. The findings underline the importance of lighting for learning. Several suggestions are made for further research.
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DOI: 10.1177/1477153512446099
2013 45: 159 originally published online 22 June 2012Lighting Research and Technology
PJC Sleegers, NM Moolenaar, M Galetzka, A Pruyn, BE Sarroukh and B van der Zande
Lighting affects students' concentration positively: Findings from three Dutch studies
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Lighting affects students’ concentration
positively: Findings from three Dutch studies
PJC Sleegers PhD
a
,NM Moolenaar PhD
a
,M Galetzka PhD
b
,A Pruyn PhD
b
,
BE Sarroukh PhD
c
and B van der Zande PhD
c
a
Department of Educational Sciences, University of Twente, Enschedee, The
Netherlands
b
Department of Marketing Communication and Consumer Psychology, University of
Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
c
Philips Lighting, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Received 18 October 2011; Revised 28 January 2012; Accepted 18 March 2012
The importance of lighting for performance in human adults is well established.
However, evidence on the extent to which lighting affects the school performance
of young children is sparse. This paper evaluates the effect of lighting conditions
(with vertical illuminances between 350 lux and 1000 lux and correlated colour
temperatures between 3000 and 12 000 K) on the concentration of elementary
school children in three experiments. In the first two experiments, a flexible and
dynamic lighting system is used in quasi-experimental field studies using data
from 89 pupils from two schools (Study 1) and 37 pupils from two classrooms
(Study 2). The third experiment evaluated two lighting settings within a school-
simulating, windowless laboratory setting (n ¼55). The results indicate a positive
influence of the lighting system on pupils’ concentration. The findings underline
the importance of lighting for learning. Several suggestions are made for further
research.
1. Introduction
Research has indicated that both natural and
artificial lighting affect people’s health, mood,
well-being and alertness.
1–3
Studies suggest
that the intensity and colour temperature of
artificial lighting affect various physiological
processes in the human body, such as blood
pressure, heart rate variability, EEG, core
temperature and melatonin.
4–8
Moreover,
exposure to lighting with different illumin-
ances and correlated colour temperature
(CCT) can affect the quality of sleep, the
mood, alertness and perceived self-efficacy of
the subjects studied.
6,9–19
One of the
beneficial biological effects of lighting is the
inhibition and suppression of cortisol and
melatonin in human subjects exposed to
different lighting systems.
20
In addition to
physiological and psychological effects of
different types of illumination, research has
indicated that specific lighting conditions may
also increase human performance.
3
For
instance, studies suggest that artificial lighting
can have positive effects on working speed,
accuracy and task performance.
12,21–23
Empirical studies supporting the effects of
lighting have been conducted in various
settings, such as retail environments,
24
offices
13,18
and schools.
25–27
The findings of
these studies indicate that the effect of light-
ing is in part dependent on the situation, the
task at hand and the specific environ-
ment.
9,28–30
Although these studies did find
some effects, they do not unequivocally verify
Address for correspondence: Peter JC Sleegers, Faculty of
Behavioural Sciences, Department of Educational Sciences,
University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE, Enschede, The
Netherlands
E-mail: p.j.c.sleegers@utwente.nl
Lighting Res. Technol. 2013; 45: 159–175
ßThe Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers 2013 10.1177/1477153512446099
at Universiteit Twente on April 16, 2013lrt.sagepub.comDownloaded from
or falsify the effects of lighting in different
settings as expected in the literature.
31
In this
study, we add to the literature base by
exploring the extent to which classroom
lighting conditions in elementary schools
affect children’s concentration. While educa-
tional research has provided valuable insights
as to the importance of various aspects of
learning environments, such as learning tasks
and materials, time on task, feedback, and
teachers’ instructional behavior, systematic
empirical research into the influence of phys-
ical aspects of students’ learning environment,
such as lighting, is limited.
32
In a recent study,
positive effects were found for brighter light-
ing (500 lux) compared to standard lighting
(300 lux), on the reading, writing and math-
ematics of elementary school children.
33
Besides the effects of illuminance, studies
also indicate positive effects of lighting of
different CCTs (4000 K and 17000 K) on
various physical, psychological and perform-
ance outcomes of children, such as dental
health, physical growth and development,
attendance, alertness and academic
achievement.
34,35
In addition to these studies into ‘static’
forms of lighting, researchers have started to
examine the potential effects of dynamic
lighting in school settings. Dynamic lighting
refers to lighting that provides different light-
ing settings, in specific combinations of illu-
minance and CCT, that can be applied over
time to support both mental alertness and
relaxation. The findings indicate that dynamic
lighting systems may have positive effects on
students’ visual performance, arousal and
well-being.
36–38
Furthermore, dynamic light-
ing has been found to improve both pupils’
performance as assessed by increased reading
speed and pupils’ behavior in terms of rest-
lessness and aggressive behavior.
25,26
While
some studies support the effects of dynamic
lighting on performance on elementary school
children and university students.
26
other evi-
dence disputes these effects.
39
Although the literature suggests that light-
ing in school settings can affect pupils’
achievement and behaviour, empirical evi-
dence on these suggested effects is still very
limited. Moreover, the studies vary greatly
with regard to the research designs (field
studies and experiments), types of lighting
systems (static and dynamic, differences
between illuminance and spectrum), target
groups (young children, adolescents, or
adults) and outcome measures (e.g., subject-
ive measurements, objective tests, physical
measures). In addition, research suggests that
the timing and duration of the lighting
available plays an important role.
34,35
In
some studies, students were followed for a
longer period of time, other studies were
conducted in different seasons, and in some
studies students were exposed to different
preset lighting conditions for a short period of
time. More research is needed to understand
the influence of artificial lighting in schools
and classrooms and to establish consistent
and unequivocal support for these effects.
Given the lack of empirical evidence, studies
into the influence of dynamic lighting systems
on children’s alertness are indicated. This
paper makes a contribution to the existing
body of knowledge by examining the extent to
which dynamic lighting in elementary schools
affects children’s concentration. Our inquiry
examined the following question: To what
extent does a dynamic lighting system affect
the concentration of Dutch elementary school
children?
In this paper, we will present the results of
three different and complimentary studies,
namely two quasi-experimental field studies
and one randomized laboratory experiment,
into the effects of dynamic lighting on the
concentration of elementary school children.
The studies were conducted in different sea-
sons: Winter and spring. We used instruments
that have been used by other researchers to
measure pupils’ concentration. By doing so,
this paper aims to validate earlier findings
160 PJC Sleegers et al.
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and make a unique contribution to increased
insights on the effects of lighting conditions
on children’s concentration in elementary
schools.
2. Method
2.1. The dynamic lighting system: Settings and
conditions
A system for dynamic lighting of class-
rooms was designed to support the rhythm of
activity in the classroom with four different
lighting settings. The teacher is able to select
the most appropriate setting via a five-button,
wall-mounted control panel located in the
classroom. The system has four preset lighting
settings:
Energy setting. This setting is intended to
be used to activate the pupils at the start of
the day or after lunch. The average hori-
zontal illuminance measured at desk level is
650 lx, and the CCT is 12 000 K (a ‘cold’,
blue-rich white light.)
Focus setting. This setting aids concentra-
tion during challenging tasks, such as
exams and tests. The average horizontal
illuminance measured at desk level is
1000 lx with a CCT of 6500 K (a bright
white light).
Calm setting. This setting brings a relaxing
ambience to support independent and col-
laborative learning. The average horizontal
illuminance measured at desk level is 300 lx
with a CCT of 2900 K (white light with a
warm, red colour tone).
Standard setting. This lighting setting is
used for regular classroom activities. The
average horizontal illuminance measured at
desk level is 300 lx, and the CCT is 3000–
4000 K (standard white light as commonly
used in indoor workplaces).
The settings were created by colour-mixing
the light output from a surface-mounted
Philips Savio luminaire fitted with a diffuser
(TCS770 3xTL5-49W/452/827/452 25/90/25
Electronic PC MLO). The light output was
pre-programmed in the ballasts for each
setting.
2.2. Research design and sample
2.2.1. Study 1
The first study was designed as a pre-test-
post-test nonequivalent control group study.
Two schools in the south of the Netherlands
were appointed to the control and experimen-
tal condition. A timeline for the administra-
tion of the pre- and post-tests is presented in
Table 1. As can be seen from Table 1, data
from two post-tests were gathered 1 month
after the installation of the dynamic system in
November and December.
The illuminances produced in both schools
have been measured on a horizontal plane at
the pupil’s desk level, without outdoor light-
ing, using a Konica Minolta CL - 200A.
The original lighting condition of the
classroom in the experimental school (pre-
test) was nine recessed conventional lumin-
aires with a louvre creating about 300 lx at
desk level and with a CCT of 4000 K
(Figure 1). Table 2 summarizes the cumula-
tive use of the different settings of the
dynamic lighting system in the experimental
school in the period November 2009 to
March 2010. The ventilation of the class
rooms was uncontrolled. All tests in the
experimental school were administered using
the Focus setting of the dynamic lighting
system (Figure 2). Figure 3 shows the pattern
Table 1 Time points for the assessment of concentration
(Study 1)
Time point Date Illumination
1 23 October 2009 Pre-test (no dynamic
lighting)
2 24 November 2009 First post-test
(dynamic lighting)
3 2 December 2009 Second post-test
(dynamic lighting)
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of use of the dynamic lighting system during a
test day
The control school was equipped with
conventional recessed luminaires fitted with
louvres (Figure 1). The average illuminance
was about 600 lx at desk level with a CCT of
4000 K for both classes. The ventilation of the
classrooms was uncontrolled.
Concentration tests were administered on
the same days in both the experimental and
control school. The exact starting time was
agreed upon and managed by both schools
for each of the time points, and took place
between 9 and 10 a.m. The outdoor condi-
tions during the test days were classified as
cloudy and overcast by the Dutch weather
station KNMI.
A total of 98 pupils participated in the
study; 52 pupils from the control school (27
pupils in grade 4 and 25 pupils in grade 6) and
Figure 1 Conventional lighting system in the control school/classroom and the experimental school/classroom
(pretest)
Table 2 Cumulative percentage use of the different settings of the dynamic lighting system in the
experimental school during November 2009 to March 2010 (Study 1)
Lighting setting Grade 4 Grade 6
Mean (%) Standard deviation (%) Mean (%) Standard deviation (%)
Standard 51.0 21.4 74.2 20.6
Energy 3.3 3.7 4.0 4.2
Focus 14.2 10.8 6.6 11.3
Calm 31.4 20.9 15.2 15.3
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46 pupils from the experimental school (21
pupils in grade 4 and 25 pupils in grade 6). In
all, 39 pupils (40%) were boys, and 59 pupils
(60%) were girls. The average age was 10
years. Pupils with learning disabilities (e.g.
dyslexia, behavioral disorder) were excluded
from the sample.
2.2.2. Study 2
The second study was also designed as a
pre-test-post-test nonequivalent control
Figure 2 The dynamic lighting system in the focus setting (post-tests)
Calm
Focus
Energy
Standard
6 am 8 am 10 am 12 am 2 pm 4 pm 6 pm
Figure 3 The use of the dynamic lighting system during a test day in Study 1
Lighting and student concentration 163
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group study. In contrast to the first study, in
study 2 two classrooms within the same
school in the west of the Netherlands were
appointed to the control and experimental
condition. A timeline for the administration
of the pre- and post-tests is presented in
Table 3. As can be seen from Table 3, data
from two post-tests were gathered 2 weeks
after the installation of the dynamic system
scene in February.
During the pretest (baseline), the interven-
tion group was equipped with conventional
lighting where the light distribution is created
by a Philips SmartForm luminaire fitted with
a diffuser (TBS471 3xTL5 54 W 830
Electronic PC MLO). The average illumin-
ance at desk level was about 350 lx with a
CCT of 3000 K.
The lighting of the experimental classroom
(post-tests) was six luminaires with constant
Focus setting of the dynamic lighting in the
period 21 January 2011 to 18 February 2011.
After the baseline measurements, the average
illuminance at desk level was about 750 lx
with a CCT of 3000 K.
The control group was equipped with con-
ventional lighting where the light distribution
is created by a Sylvania Sylpack luminaire
fitted with a louvre (SYLPACK2 2 x F36W/
830). The average illuminance at desk level was
about 380 lx with a CCT of 3000 K.
The ventilation and the temperature in the
experimental and control classrooms were
controlled at CO
2
level 1000 ppm and 218C,
respectively. The temperature and ambient
acoustics were recorded during the test
period. Table 4 shows the average values of
these environmental variables in the control
and experimental classrooms.
As mentioned above, all post-tests in the
experimental classroom were administered
using the Focus setting of the dynamic
lighting system (Figure 2). The concentration
tests were administered on the same days in
both the experimental and the control class-
room. The exact starting time was agreed
upon and managed by both classrooms at
10 a.m. The outdoor conditions during the
test days were classified as cloudy and over-
cast by the Dutch weather station KNMI.
A total of 44 pupils participated in the
study (23 boys; 21 girls; average age ¼10
years); 22 pupils from the control classroom
and 22 pupils from the experimental class-
room. Pupils with learning disabilities (e.g.
dyslexia, behavioral disorder) were excluded
from the sample.
Table 4 Measured environmental conditions in the experimental classroom (Study 2)
Experimental classroom 20 January 2011 3 February 2011 17 February 2011
CO
2
level (ppm) 1208 1072 1024
Temperature (8C) 20.5 20.6 20.3
Noise level dB(A) Not measured 40 40
Control classroom 20 January 2011 03 February 2011 17 February 2011
CO
2
level (ppm) 1118 1156 1112
Temperature (8C) 20.4 20.9 20.7
Noise level in dB(A) Not measured 40 40
Table 3 Time points for the assessment of concentration
(Study 2)
Time point Date Illumination
1 20 January 2011 Pre-test (no dynamic
lighting)
2 03 February 2011 First post-test
(dynamic lighting)
3 17 February 2011 Second post-test
(dynamic lighting)
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2.2.3. Study 3
The third study was designed as an experi-
mental post-test-only control group design.
For this study, the dynamic lighting system
was installed in a windowless lecture room
designed for 28 students at the University of
Twente in the Netherlands. As the data were
gathered during springtime (in May/June
2010), exposure to natural light may affect
the effects of artificial lighting more than
during the winter season.
35
Therefore, we
asked the students to visit the University early
in the morning. The pupils were welcomed
and instructed by two researchers of the
university. A third researcher was responsible
for manipulating the setting of the dynamic
lighting system so that during the test, both
pupils and researchers did not know which
lighting setting was used. Several tests were
administered to the pupils to assess their
concentration, mood and performance. The
concentration test was administered half way
through the session.
In total, 55 pupils from 6 schools (grades 4,
5 and 6) near the university participated in
the study that ran for a total of 6 weeks. The
pupils were randomly assigned to one of the
two lighting settings (Focus or Standard) and
experienced the same, constant lighting con-
ditions (illuminance and CCT) rather than
different settings and conditions for different
activities as in the field studies. A total of 25
boys (45%) and 30 girls participated in the
study. The average age was 10 years. Pupils
with learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia, behav-
ioral disorder) were excluded from the
sample.
2.3. Measurement of concentration
To assess the concentration of the pupils,
we used the d2-test as developed by
Brickenkamp and colleagues.
40
This test has
been used in previous research into the effect
of lighting on the concentration of pupils.
25,26
The d2-test consists of 14 lines, each contain-
ing 47 symbols. A symbol is either a letter p or
a letter d with one or two lines (either ’ or ’’)
above and/or below the letter (see Figure 4).
The assignment is to mark each letter d that
has a total of two lines above and below the
letter. In order to do the test perfectly,
respondents should not mark any other
symbol than a d2, and all d2 symbols
should be marked. The d2-test is timed, and
respondents are given 20 seconds to complete
each line. After these 20 seconds, respondents
have to continue on the next line. As such, the
test assesses concentration in terms of both
accuracy and speed.
Several measures can be derived from the
d2-test. In this study, we focus on two
measures; concentration performance (CP)
and the total number of errors made by the
pupils (E). CP is assessed as the number of
correctly marked d2-symbols minus the
number of incorrectly marked symbols (sym-
bols that are not d2-symbols). This measure is
the most reliable measurement of concentra-
tion as it captures both accuracy and speed in
the assessment of concentration and it is not
very sensitive to extreme scores due to inci-
dental coincidences (so-called outliers).
41
The
total number of errors is assessed as the
number of errors made by failing to identify a
correct d2-symbol plus the number of errors
made by incorrectly marking symbols that are
not d2-symbols.
41
This measure was also used
in previous studies to assess the impact of
lighting on concentration,
25,26
and therefore
an examination of this measure will facilitate
the comparison of this study with previous
work. We also included gender as a variable,
because research into the effects of lighting on
problem solving has shown that men, com-
pared to women, perform better in bright
light.
21,22,42
2.4. Analysis strategy
To analyze the differences between the
experimental and control conditions on the
repeated measures variables (Study 1 and 2),
we conducted mixed ANOVAs. A repeated
Lighting and student concentration 165
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measures design is a sensitive design that
reduces sampling error. By comparing pupils’
scores on the concentration test at least twice
over time and across schools and classrooms,
it can be assumed that the variation in
individuals’ scores will be due to the experi-
mental manipulation of lighting and that any
variation that cannot be explained by these
manipulations must be due to random factors
outside our control.
43
By doing so, we could check for so-called
‘learning effects’, meaning children may just
perform better on the concentration test
because they have learned how to perform
well on the test.
44
Specific contrasts were
formulated to identify treatment effects
(focused effects). Effect sizes (r) were
calculated for these contrasts using the effects
size estimate calculated as the square root of
the F-ratio divided by the sum of the F-ratio
and the residual degrees of freedom.
43
Following Cohen,
45
we interpret an effect
size of 0.10 as a small effect, while effect sizes
of 0.30 and 0.50 point to a medium and large
effect, respectively.
To validate the findings of the quasi-
experimental field studies and offer additional
support for the effect of lighting on the
concentration of young children, we con-
trasted two different lighting settings (Focus
setting vs. Normal setting) of the dynamic
lighting system as used in the experiment
(Study 3). The differences between the per-
formances on the concentration test by the
Figure 4 Example of part of the d2-test for measuring concentration
166 PJC Sleegers et al.
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pupils in these two experimental groups were
tested with a t-test.
3. Results
3.1. Study 1
3.1.1. Concentration performance
The results showed a significant main effect
of CP (F
(1.35, 117.05)
¼79.28; p50.001,
p2
¼0.477). On average, pupils in the control
school performed better on CP than their
peers in the experimental school and, overall,
pupils’ performance increased at the consecu-
tive time points, indicating a potential learn-
ing effect (see Table 5). More importantly, a
significant interaction effect was found
between school and time for pupils’ perform-
ance (F
(1.35, 117.05)
¼6.88, p50.01,
p2
¼0.073). This indicates that although the
performance of pupils in both sample schools
increases, this increase is more pronounced
for pupils of the experimental school. To get a
better understanding of this interaction, con-
trasts were performed comparing the second
post-test with both the pre-test and the first
post-test across the experimental and control
schools. The findings indicated significant
interactions when comparing CP scores of
pupils across schools on the second post-test
with the pre-test (F
(1, 87)
¼8.57, p50.01,
r¼0.30) and with the first post-test
(F
(1, 87)
¼6.29, p50.05, r ¼0.26). As such,
the results suggest that in addition to an
overall learning effect for pupils in both
schools, the Focus light setting had a positive
effect on pupils’ concentration in the experi-
mental school.
3.1.2. Errors made
These results showed that, in general,
pupils performed better on the d2-test over
time indicating a learning effect (F
(1.35,
117.24)
¼78.83, p50.001,
p2
¼0.475). On
average, pupils in the experimental condition
made more errors than their peers in the
control condition at the three different time
points (Table 6). Furthermore, there was a
significant interaction effect between school
and time on errors made (F
(1.35, 117.24)
¼6.93,
p50.01,
p2
¼0.074). Although the number
of errors made in the experimental and
control school decreases, this decrease is
more pronounced for pupils in the experi-
mental school. Contrasts yielded significant
interactions when comparing errors of pupils
across the schools for the second post-test
versus pre-test (F
(1, 87)
¼8.63, p50.01,
r¼0.30) and second post-test versus first
post-test (F
(1, 87)
¼6.57, p50.05, r ¼0.26).
These findings also suggest that the Focus
light setting had a positive effect on pupils’
concentration.
3.1.3. Differences between grades
As grade 6 pupils of both schools achieved
higher scores on CP and made fewer errors
over the three time points than pupils from
grade 4 (Tables 5 and 6), we also performed a
mixed analysis of variance for the two grades
separately.
Table 5 Average scores and standard deviations for concentration performance for three
measurement times (Study 1)
School/grade NPre-test Post-test (1) Post-test (2)
Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)
Experimental 38 114.70 (20.88) 141.11 (33.32) 161.18 (38.40)
Grade 4 17 106.24 (15.46) 125.59 (21.28) 143.71 (18.79)
Grade 6 21 121.56 (22.48) 153.67 (36.35) 175.33 (44.44)
Control 51 140.00 (28.44) 154.18 (33.39) 165.35 (45.89)
Grade 4 27 140.86 (31.00) 134.81 (27.21) 140.95 (34.98)
Grade 6 24 139.03 (25.90) 175.97 (35.59) 192.79 (41.34)
Lighting and student concentration 167
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For pupils in grade 4, we found a signifi-
cant main effect of time on CP (F
(1.48,
62.21)
¼22.20, p50.001,
p2
¼0.346). In add-
ition, a significant interaction effect was
found between school and time for pupils’
CP (F
(1.48, 62.21)
¼22.31, p50.001,
p2
¼0.347), indicating that the increase in
CP of pupils in grade 4 of the experimental
schools is more pronounced over time than
the increase of CP of their peers in the control
school. Contrasts revealed significant inter-
actions when comparing the second post-test
versus the pre-test (F
(1, 42)
¼27.25, p50.001,
r¼0.63) and the second post-test versus the
first post-test (F
(1, 42)
¼7. 62, p50.01;
r¼0.39).
The results also showed a significant main
effect of time on CP in grade 6 (F
(1.58,
67.82)
¼110.92, p50.001,
p2
¼0.721). In con-
trast to the findings for grade 4, no significant
interaction effect between school and CP
was found (F
(1.58, 67.82)
¼0.29, n.s.). As such,
lighting appears to positively affect the con-
centration of pupils in grade 4 but not in
grade 6.
As for the number of errors made, there
was a significant main effect of time on the
total number of errors made by all pupils in
grade 4 (F
(1.48, 62.44)
¼22.06, p50.001,
p2
¼0.344). Furthermore, there was a sig-
nificant interaction effect between school and
time for the total number of errors made
(F
(1.48, 62.44)
¼22.17, p50.001,
p2
¼0.345)
indicating that the decrease in pupils’ errors
was different for both schools over the three
time points. Contrasts revealed significant
interactions when comparing the second
post-test to the pre-test (F
(1, 42)
¼27.18,
p50.001, r ¼0.63) and to first post-test
(F
(1, 42)
¼7.66, p50.001; r ¼0.39). These
results indicate that although the total
number of errors made by the pupils from
grade 4 in both schools decreases, this
decrease is more pronounced for the pupils
in the experimental school.
The errors made by the pupils in grade 6
showed a significant main effect of time
(F
(1.58, 67.71)
¼109.17, p50.001,
p2
¼0.717).
We did not find significant interaction effects
of school and time on number of errors made
(F
(1.58, 67.71)
¼0.32, n.s.). As such, these find-
ings reflect the CP results meaning that
lighting appears to positively affect the con-
centration of pupils in grade 4 but not in
grade 6.
3.1.4. Gender
As statistically significant effects were
found for the influence of lighting on chil-
dren’s concentration, we performed add-
itional analyses to examine whether this
effect may be stronger for boys than girls, as
suggested by the literature.
21,22,42
Results
indicated a main effect of gender on concen-
tration, indicating that on average, girls
perform better on CP than boys
(F
(1, 85)
¼7.92, p50.01,
p2
¼0.085) and
Table 6 Average scores and standard deviations of number of errors made for three measurement
times (Study 1)
School/grade NPre-test Post-test (1) Post-test (2)
Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)
Experimental 38 183.90 (20.73) 157.56 (33.32) 137.30 (38.69)
Grade 4 17 192.43 (15.35) 173.08 (21.28) 154.96 (18.79)
Grade 6 21 177.00 (22.25) 145.00 (36.35) 123.00 (44.80)
Control 51 158.62 (28.38) 144.39 (37.42) 133.32 (45.89)
Grade 4 27 157.80 (31.00) 163.77 (27.29) 157.72 (34.98)
Grade 6 24 159.54 (25.76) 122.60 (35.57) 105.87 (41.34)
168 PJC Sleegers et al.
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make fewer errors (F
(1, 85)
¼8.02, p50.01,
p2
¼0.086).We did not find statistically sig-
nificant interaction effects involving gender
on both CP (F
(1.35, 114.49)
¼1.54, n.s.) and
number of errors (F
(1.35, 114.72)
¼1.55, n.s.).
When we examined whether the increase in
concentration for boys and girls differed
between both sample schools, we found that
this three-way interaction effect was not
significant for both CP (F
(1.35, 114.49)
¼1.00,
n.s.) and number of errors (F
(1.35,
114.72)
¼1.00, n.s.). Moreover, three-way inter-
action analyses for both grades separately
indicated that gender did not play a role in the
effect of light on CP for grade 4 (F
(1.46,
58.33)
¼0.11, n.s.) nor grade 6 (F
(1.67,
68.30)
¼0.14, n.s.). As such, these results sug-
gest that there are no significant differences
between boys and girls regarding the effect of
lighting on CP.
3.2. Study 2
3.2.1. Concentration performance
The results showed a significant main effect
of time on CP (F
(2, 70)
¼89.16; p50.001,
p2
¼0.718). The finding showed that on
average, pupils in the experimental classroom
performed better on CP than their peers in the
control classroom, and that overall, pupils’
performance increased at the consecutive time
points, indicating a potential learning effect
(see Table 7). More importantly, a significant
interaction effect was found between class-
room and time on pupils’ CP (F
(2, 70)
¼19.25,
p50.001,
p2
¼0.355). This indicates that
although the performance of pupils in both
sample classrooms increases, this increase is
more pronounced for pupils of the experi-
mental condition. Contrast revealed signifi-
cant interactions when comparing CP of
pupils across classrooms on the second post-
test with the pre-test (F
(1, 35)
¼24.07,
p50.001, r ¼0.64), but not on the first post-
test (F
(1, 35)
¼0.41, n.s.). These findings sug-
gest that above an overall learning effect for
pupils in both classrooms, the Focus light
setting had a positive effect on pupils’ con-
centration in the experimental classroom.
3.2.2. Errors made
We found a significant main effect of time
on the total number of errors made by all
pupils in both the experimental and control
condition (F
(2, 70)
¼89.24, p50.001,
p2
¼0.718). On average, pupils in the experi-
mental condition made fewer errors than their
peers in the control condition at the three
different time points (Table 8). Furthermore,
there was a significant interaction effect
between classroom and time and errors
made (F
(2, 70)
¼19.22, p50.001,
p2
¼0.354).
Although the number of errors made in the
experimental and control classrooms
decreases, this decrease is more pronounced
for pupils in the experimental classroom.
Contrasts yielded significant interactions
when comparing errors of pupils across the
classrooms for the second post-test versus
pre-test (F
(1, 35)
¼24.03, p50.001, r ¼0.64)
but not on the first post-test (F
(1, 35)
¼0.41,
n.s.). These findings suggest that the Focus
light setting had a positive effect on pupils’
concentration.
Table 7 Average scores and standard deviations of concentration performance for three
measurement times (Study 2)
Classroom NPre-test Post-test (1) Post-test (2)
Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)
Experimental 18 158.56 (21.99) 192.00 (26.31) 206.89 (29.97)
Control 19 158.79 (26.56) 166.26 (27.82) 178.32 (30.81)
Lighting and student concentration 169
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As the first study showed, we found
differences in the effect of lighting across
grades. Therefore, we also performed add-
itional analyses to examine whether the effects
of lighting maybe stronger for younger than
for older pupils. There were main effects of
age, indicating that, on average, older pupils
showed better CP than younger pupils at all
three measurements points (F
(3, 29)
¼3.87;
p50.05,
p2
¼0.286) and made fewer errors
(F
(3, 29)
¼3.87; p50.05,
p2
¼0.286). No sig-
nificant interaction effects of age on both CP
(F
(6, 58)
¼1.45, n.s.) and number of errors
were found (F
(6, 58)
¼1.45, n.s.). Three-way
interaction analysis indicated that age does
not play a role in the effect of lighting on CP
(F
(6, 58)
¼0.78; n.s.) and number of errors
made (F
(6, 58)
¼0.77; n.s.).
3.2.3. Gender
As in the first study, we also found a
statistically significant main effect of gender
on CP (F
(1, 33)
¼15.02; p50.001,
p2
¼0.313)
and number of errors made (F
(1, 33)
¼15.00;
p50.001,
p2
¼0.313). This indicates that, on
average, girls do perform better than boys on
the concentration test. There were no signifi-
cant interaction effects of gender on both CP
(F
(2, 66)
¼2.54, n.s.) and number of errors
(F
(2, 66)
¼2.58, n.s.). Moreover, no significant
three-way interaction effects were found for
both CP (F
(2, 66)
¼0.07, n.s.) and number of
errors (F
(2, 66)
¼0.08, n.s.), indicating that
gender does not play a role in the effect of
lighting on concentration.
3.3. Study 3
3.3.1. Concentration performance
The results showed that pupils in the Focus
lighting setting performed better on the CP
(M ¼159.57; SD ¼27.78) than pupils in the
Normal lighting setting (M ¼157.69;
SD ¼31.21). A similar pattern was found
for the total number of errors made: Pupils in
the Focus lighting setting made fewer errors
(M ¼139.10; SD ¼27.78) than their peers in
the Normal lighting setting (M ¼140.97;
SD ¼31.21). Although pupils in the Focus
setting performed better on the concentration
test than pupils in the Normal lighting, these
differences were not statistically significant
for both CP (T
(53)
¼0.24, n.s.) and total
number of errors made (T
(53)
¼–0.24, n.s.).
These findings indicate that the Focus setting
does not have a larger impact on the concen-
tration of pupils than the Normal lighting
setting. Although we did not find the expected
positive effect of Focus lighting, the results do
support the direction of the expected effect on
the concentration of pupils. As we did not
find statistically significant effects of lighting
on pupils’ concentration in the third study,
additional analyses including background
variables were considered redundant.
4. Discussion
The following research question guided our
investigations: To what extent does a dynamic
lighting system affect the concentration of
Dutch elementary school children? In order to
Table 8 Average scores and standard deviations of number of errors made for three measurement
times (Study 2)
Classroom NPre-test Post-test (1) Post-test (2)
Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)
Experimental 18 140.39 (21.87) 107.00 (26.31) 92.11 (29.97)
Control 19 140.21 (26.56) 132.74 (27.82) 120.68 (30.81)
170 PJC Sleegers et al.
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find answers to this question, we conducted
two field studies and an experiment to exam-
ine the effect of dynamic lighting on the
concentration of pupils in elementary schools.
Following previous research, we focused on
pupils’ CP
25,26
and evaluated the impact of
different lighting conditions and settings on
pupil’s concentration. In addition, we exam-
ined the differential effects of classroom
lighting conditions on concentration for
gender. We evaluated the effects of lighting,
conducting analyses of variance, using three
samples of data from 181 elementary school
children. In this section, we discuss our most
important findings.
First, the results of our field studies offer
support for the positive influence of class-
room lighting conditions on concentration.
Although all pupils performed better at the
concentration test at the consecutive meas-
urement points, it appeared that the perform-
ance of the pupils in the experimental groups
improved more than the performance of their
peers in the control groups. Furthermore, the
findings of the first field study show differ-
ences between grades: we find effects of
lighting on concentration for pupils from
grade 4 but not for pupils from grade 6.
These findings suggest that older pupils’
concentration might be less affected by the
lighting conditions used than younger pupils.
One plausible explanation is that older pupils
are more trained to concentrate while per-
forming tests than younger pupils. Because
pupils in Dutch elementary schools are tested
on a regular basis to assess their development
in basic skills such as reading and mathem-
atics, pupils become more skilled in testing
during their school career. Moreover, pupils
in grade 6 are in their final year of elementary
education and will participate at the end of
the school year in the nation-wide standar-
dized Final Primary Education Test. Based
on the performance of this test – together with
noncognitive factors such as attitudes, motiv-
ation and interests, and the teacher’s
judgements with regard to the child’s home
situation – an educational recommendation
will be provided for the transition from
primary to secondary school at the end of
elementary school. Given the importance of
this test for the future school career of their
pupils and to prepare them for this test as well
as possible, grade 6 teachers might be paying
more attention to testing the basic skills of the
pupils (teaching to the test) than their col-
leagues from other grades. This may explain
the possible differences between grades as
found in the field study. Although the
findings of the second field study show that,
on average, older children perform better on
concentration tests than their younger peers,
no additional support was found for the role
of age in the effect of lighting on concentra-
tion. This may be related to the small number
of different age groups within both
classrooms.
Our results partly concur with findings
from two recent studies into the effects of
dynamic lighting on concentration conducted
in Germany.
25,26
In one of their studies, the
researchers found differences in errors made
when comparing elementary school pupils in
the experimental setting with the control
setting. By substantiating these earlier find-
ings, results from our study offer additional
support for the effect of dynamic lighting on
concentration for young children. More
research is needed to test the effects of
different lighting conditions and settings on
the school performance of different age
groups. Future studies should use reliable
and repeated measurements of concentration
in order to reduce bias, increase the validity of
the design used and evaluate the possible
long-term effects of lighting on school per-
formance of young children in natural school
environments.
Second, the results of the third study
showed no statistically significant effect of
lighting on concentration and do not sub-
stantiate the findings of the two field studies
Lighting and student concentration 171
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in a controlled environment. One possible
explanation for not finding a significant effect
in the third study might be related to the
differences in the designs used. The rando-
mized experimental design features of the
third study promise full control over extrane-
ous sources of variances. If correctly done, the
random assignment experiment ensures that
any outcome differences between groups are
likely to be due to the treatment, not to
differences between groups that already
existed at the start of the study.
46
Although
we have tried to get a more valid estimate of
the treatment effect by using a sensitive design
(repeated measures) that reduces sampling
error, the quasi-experimental design features
of the two field studies create less compelling
support for counterfactual interferences than
the randomized experimental design used in
the third study. This suggests that the statis-
tically significant differences found in the field
studies might be caused by uncontrolled
extraneous influences that might limit or
bias observation. In order to validate the
findings of the third study, more randomized
experiments are needed. Results from mul-
tiple randomized experiments on the effect of
dynamic lighting on pupils’ achievement can
yield more accurate estimates than any one
individual study.
It might also be that differences between
the findings are related to differences in the
way the children were exposed to the lighting
conditions and settings in the different envir-
onments. In the field studies, the pupils in the
experimental conditions were subjected to
different lighting settings and conditions
during one day for a longer period of time
(Study 1) or were constantly exposed to the
Focus setting for one month (Study 2), while
the pupils in the controlled environment were
subjected to the same lighting conditions
during one morning (Study 3). Although we
did not evaluate the dynamic nature of the
light system used, our findings seem to
suggest that an environment in which
different lighting settings and conditions are
used to support the specific activities and
tasks at hand during a longer period of time
may be more effective for pupils’ learning
than an environment in which pupils are
exposed to the same lighting condition for a
relatively short period of time. The effect of
lighting might be situation-, task- and time
(duration)-dependent as previous studies also
have indicated.
28–30,34
Future research should,
therefore, focus on the interaction between
light conditions and settings, specific activities
and tasks and duration (in terms of exposure).
This may increase our understanding of the
variability of the effect of lighting among
classroom environments, school activities,
tasks and student performance and the poten-
tial effects of dynamic lighting in school
settings.
The differences between the findings of the
field studies and the third study for the
relationship between lighting and concentra-
tion may also have to do with seasonal effects.
As described above, the field studies were
conducted between October and February
(autumn and winter) while the third study was
conducted during a six-week period from
May to June (spring). Although in all three
studies the tests were administrated in the
morning, the pupils who participated in the
third study were more exposed to daylight
than pupils in the field studies before they
visited the lecture room at the university and
were tested. The pupils in the two field studies
were less exposed to normal daylight before
the administration of the post-tests; due to
seasonal conditions, it was still relatively dark
outside when school started and the test were
made. Seasonal effects were also found in a
more recent study into the effects of dynamic
lighting on student alertness in a lecture room
environment.
35
The results of that study
showed that in spring no change in alertness
could be detected, while in the autumn study
the decrease of alertness during lectures was
significant. These findings shed light on the
172 PJC Sleegers et al.
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effects of exposure to lighting conditions
during different seasons and the effect of the
dynamic nature of light (both artificial and
daylight). As such, attention should be paid
to the added value of artificial lighting in
combination with exposure to daylight for the
improvement of the performance of students
in educational settings. We therefore agree
with Rautkyla and her colleagues
35
that more
systematic research is needed on the relation
of daytime and artificial light, concentration
and seasonal effects, using objective measures
to analyze performance in real-life settings
and with prolonged exposure.
Third, the results of our field studies
showed no evidence of differential effects of
gender in the relationship between lighting
and concentration. Although earlier studies
did find effects of lighting on performance
and mood differ between men and women,
our findings do not indicate gender-related
effects of lighting on pupils in elementary
education. This may be related to the differ-
ence between children and adults in effects of
lighting, for instance in regard to the devel-
opment of psychological and affective prefer-
ences for the environment in general, and
lighting specifically.
The positive effects of lighting conditions
on pupils’ concentration as found in our
study were based on data from samples of
‘normal’ children. As mentioned above, in all
three studies, pupils with learning disabilities
were excluded from the sample. We therefore
encourage researchers who are interested in
examining the role of lighting in learning
environments to also evaluate the impact of
lighting on the performance of children with
learning disabilities (both cognitive and
behavioral). For example, studies into the
effect of lighting on concentration, reading
speed and accuracy of children with dyslexia
compared to ‘normal’ readers could validate
our findings and provide valuable insights in
the differential effects of dynamic lighting. By
doing this, the findings of these studies may
help to increase our understanding of person/
environment interaction and its impact on the
performance and learning of elementary
school children.
Acknowledgements
A great deal of input, hard labour and
support from our masters-students Anna
Janneke Salverda and Johan van Dijk made
it possible to invite and transport over hun-
dred school children from different schools in
the region of Twente, and to collect data from
them. We gratefully acknowledge their help-
ful input. Last but not least we would like
thank the school management and the school
children that took part in the studies.
Funding
This research received no specific grant from
any funding agency in the public, commercial,
or not-for-profit sectors.
Conflict of interest
BES and BVDZ have salary support from
Royal Philips Electronics N.V. The other
authors declared no conflicts of interest with
respect to the authorship and/or publication
of this article.
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... A study by Sleegers et al. [4] evaluated the effect of lighting conditions on the concentration of elementary school children, with the results showing the influence of the lighting system on pupils' concentration. The study by Hviid et al. [6] conducted a field lab study on 92 children, aged 10-12, to determine how ventilation and lighting impact children's academic abilities. ...
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... Lighting Tanner and Langford (2002) indicated that the quality of lighting improves productivity and performance in an online learning environment. Quality lighting enables students to see the surroundings clearly, which would improve their concentration (Sleegers et al., 2012), thus resulting in better performance and class participation. Furthermore, quality lighting provides visual comfort and prevents other physiological discomfort, such as strained eyes and headaches which may impact on one's attention span. ...
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... In a recent review of the impact of dynamic lighting on classroom occupants, Hansen et al. (2018) concluded that over 75% of studies investigated the impact on academic performance. However, more real world systematic research needs to take place in actual classrooms where students are exposed to daylight for prolonged periods of time and their performance is assessed by objective metrics (Sleegers et al., 2013). ...
Thesis
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