Clever Classrooms Need To See The Light

What does a clever classroom look like?

A clever classroom is a high quality learning environment that has a direct impact on the standards and attitudes of pupils. A variety of factors feed into making a classroom ‘clever’ some of which we can control and some we can’t.

Clever Classrooms’, the University of Salford summary report of the HEAD project (Holistic Evidence and Design) found the physical school environment plays a significant role in influencing student learning and achievement.

Other studies have also drawn similar conclusions. Cheryan et la (2014) note

 Inadequate lighting, noise, low air quality, and deficient heating in the classroom are significantly related to worse student achievement.

Both the University of Salford and the University of Washington are pretty clear: environment matters.

What the research tells us is that students exposed to more natural light perform better. Depressingly, up to 28 percent of schools lack sufficient natural light.

Barrett et al (2015) found that of all the design parameters considered, lighting has the strongest individual impact.

Good natural light helps to create a sense of physical and mental comfort, and its benefits seem to be more far-reaching than merely being an aid to sight. This owns in part to the soft and diffused quality of natural light, its subtle changing value and colour, which electric lighting does not have.

Their checkpoints for teachers include:

  • Keeping glazing clear, by minimizing occlusion of the windows can maximise environmental benefits from natural light.
  • Access and active use of the blinds/curtains is needed to address problems with glare.
  • Careful siting of high power projector to minimise need to close blinds.
  • Shrubs or planters placed outside south-facing windows can reduce glare

And their checkpoints for designers:

  • Large glazing is welcomed when it is towards the North, East or West which receives abundant daylight and has a low risk of glare during the normal hours of occupation.
  • Oversize glazing should be avoided when the room is orientated towards the sun’s path and in this situation external shading should be provided.
  • High quality electrical lighting is essential to provide a natural light alternative.

Some students enjoy school more than others because their buildings have been designed for learning and designed to be clever. Eco-designed schools understand what clever classrooms are all about. If only all schools could be like this.

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