Influence of the School Facility on Student Achievement:


One of the most critical physical characteristics of the classroom is lighting (Phillips,1992). The importance of an appropriate visual environment for learning tasks deserves careful consideration. The visual environment affects a learner's ability to perceive visual stimuli and affects his/her mental attitude, and thus, performance. Dunn (1985) insisted that the lightning of a school should be considered an active element of the total educational environment. He found that good lighting contributes significantly to the aesthetics and psychological character of the learning space. Luckiesh and Moss (1940) found in their study of 5th and 6th grade students in well-lighted classrooms over regular (poorly lighted) classrooms that significant increases in the scores on the New Stanford Achievement Test were demonstrated by the students in the well-lighted classrooms. Concomitantly, Horton's (1972) research suggested that the ability of individuals in school to concentrate on instructions was strongly influenced by factors such as lighting. In the same way, LaGuissa (1974) concluded that many schools by modifying the existing lighting system could reduce systems costs while providing an improved learning environment through better vision, visual impact and comfort.

Bowers and Burkett (1987) found that "improper maintenance of fixtures led to lower than average student performance such as misinterpretation of the written word, whether on a handout or at the chalkboard" (p.3). Knirck (1970) maintained that inappropriate illumination levels "abuse the human eye and have unfortunate physiological consequences" (p.10). Mayron, Ott, Nations, and Mayron (1974) discovered that "students achieved better in classrooms with an 85 or more footcandles environment; others achieved less well" (Dunn, 1985, p.866). Tinker (1939) summarized experimental results on color, light, intensity and light distribution with major emphasis on intensity standards. Tinker recommended that minimum intensity at desk-top level be no less than 10 footcandles for schoolrooms. Cooper (1958) concluded in his study that an identical amount of light is required to perform any visual task of total equal difficulty. Likewise, Chorlton and Davidson (1959) conducted a test of glare conditions at various locations in the room under various levels of illumination. Elementary school students were given tasks such as reading no. 2 pencil on ruled matte paper and reading print on various stock papers. The tasks were performed under different types of illumination systems, including general diffused, direct and luminous indirect systems. According to researchers, the significant factors that affect loss of contrast in a school situation are visual tasks, type of lighting, and lighting levels.

Classroom lighting plays a particularly critical role because of the direct relationship between good lighting and student's performance (Phillips, 1997). Hathaway and Fielder (1986) found that light is a key to the general well-being of people confined to a physical facility a great portion of the day. Rouner (1982) discovered that "illumination seems to be so important that even seasonal mood changes as strong as depression have been treated successfully merely by increasing the bright light in a person's environment" (Dunn, 1985, p.868). Blackwell (1963) observed that the eyeball is not damaged structurally by bad lighting, either insufficient quantity or poor quality. He also found that the effectiveness of information collection is reduced in bad light. Seeing in bad light can lead to the development of ineffective programming of the information collection process which may become habitual. Bad lighting leads to discomfort.

Taylor and Gousie (1980) noted the ill effects of poor lighting on neuron docrine functions, hyperactivity, health, and on task behavior. Hathaway (1994) concluded that under full spectrum fluorescent lamps with ultraviolet enhancement, students developed fewer dental cavities and had better attendance achievement, and growth and development than students under other light. King and Maran (1979) noted several research reports showing that florescent lighting increased hyperactivity among children compared with the use of full spectrum or incandescent lighting. Sleeman and Rockwell (1981) found that fluorescent fixtures were better than incandescent ones for glare reduction and diffused light production. Better lighting produced greater productivity (Lexington, 1989). Hawkins and Lilley (1992) concluded that the Illumination Engineering Society recommends 50 footcandles for regular classwork and 100 footcandles for instruction at a chalkboard. A minimum of 1 window per instructional space contributed to the increases of a quality educational environment. (The SDPL recommends at least 20% of the wall space be devoted to windows).



Color choices can also impact the teaching/learning process. Sinofsky and Knirck (1981) found that color influences student attitudes, behaviors and learning. In fact, they cited the most important reasons for using color effectively in learning environments. These reasons include that color affects a student's attention span and affects the student's and teacher's sense of time. Rice (1953) found that paint color in schools especially carefully planned color schemes positively affect academic achievement of elementary students and especially students of kindergarten age. Papadatos (1973) suggested that the proper use of color in schools can convert an atmosphere that is depressing and monotonous into one that is pleasing, exciting and stimulating. He concluded that such change in color schemes in schools would reduce absenteeism and promote positive feelings about schools. Bross and Jackson (1981) declared that colors liked by students influenced their muscular tension and motor control (Poyser, 1983). Wohlfarth (1986) and Sydoriak (1987) associated warm colors with slight elevations in blood pressure in children while cooler colors caused slight drops in blood pressure (Hathaway, 1988). Likewise, Faily (1979) reported findings that optical stimulation by the use of warm colors and brilliance of lighting will cause increases in muscular tensions, respiration rate, heart action, blood pressure and brain activity. Cool colors and dim lighting bring about reverse effects such as muscles relaxing more and sleep being facilitated.

From these findings, it is evident that lighting, color choices and windows play a significant role in the achievement of students.


Blackwell, H.R. (1963). A general quantitative method for evaluating the visual significance of reflected glare utilizing visual performance data. Illuminating Engineering, 58, 61.

Bowers, J.H. & Burkett, G.W. (1987). Relationship of student achievement and characteristics in two selected school facility environmental settings. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: 64th Annual International Conference of the Council of Educational Facility Planners. (ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED286278)

Chorlton, J.M. & Davidson, H.F. (1959). The effects of specular reflection on visibility: Part II- field measurement of loss of contrast. Illuminating Engineering, 54, 482-488.

Cooper, B. D. (1958). The Blackwell Report. Better Light Better Sight News, 14-16.

Dunn, R. Krimsky, J.S., Murray, J.B. & Quinn, P.J. (1985). Light up their lives: A research on the effects of lighting on children's achievement and behavior. The Reading Teacher, 38(19), 863-869.

Failey, A., Bursor, D.E., and Musemeche, R.A. (1979). The impact of color and lighting in schools. Council of Educational Facility Planners Journal, 16-18.

Hathaway, W.E. (1994). Non-visual effects of classroom lighting on children. Educational Facility Planner, 32(3), 12-16.

Hathaway, W.E. & Fielder, D.R. (1986). A window on the future: A view of education and educational facilities. Columbus, Ohio: Paper presented at the meeting of the Council of Educational Facility Planners.

Hathaway, W.E. (1988). Educational facilities: Neutral with respect to learning and human performance. CEFPI Journal, 26(4), 8-12.

Hawkins, W.E. & Lilley, H.E. (1992). CEFPI's guide for school facility appraisal. Columbus, Ohio: The Council of Educational Facility Planners International.

Horton, C.D. (1972). Humanization of the learning environment. Arlington, VA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED066929).

King, J. & Marans, R.W. (1979). The physical environment and learning process. (Report No. 320-ST2). Ann Arbor: Univeristy of Michigan Architetural Research Laboratory.

Knirck, F.G. (1970). Acoustical and visual environments affect learning. Audiovisual Instruction, 15(1), 34-35.

Lexingtron, A. (1989). Healthy offices: Hard to define, but we need them. The Office, 73-75.

Luckiesh, M. & Moss, F.K. (1940). Effects of classroom lighting upon the educational progress and visual welfare of school children. Illuminating Engineering, 35, 915-938.

Papadotas, S.P. (1973). Color them motivated-color's psychological effects on students. National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin, 57(370), 92-94.

Phillips, R. W. (1997). Educational Facility Age and the Academic Achievement of Upper Elementary School Students. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Georgia.

Poyser, L.R. (1983). An examination of the classroom physical environment. South Bend: Indiana University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED251954).

Rice, A.H. (1953). Color: what reserach knows about color in the classroom. Nation's Schools, I-viii.

Sinofsky, E.R. & Knirck, F.G. (1981). Choose the right color for your learning style. Instructional Innovator, 26(3), 17-19.

Taylor, A. & Gousie, G. (1988). The ecology of learning environments for children. CEFPI Journal, 26(4), 23-28.

Tinker, M.A. The effect of illumination intensities upon speed of perception and upon fatigue in reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 30, 561-571.(3), 12-16.

This summary was compiled by Elizabeth Jago and Ken Tanner

Posted: (April 1999)

Interior Colors for Schools and College Buildings (pp 174 -175)
John Pile (1997). Color in Interior Design. New York: McGraw Hill

Classrooms and lecture rooms need colors that will be comfortable for students as their attention moves from work station to various parts of the room. Mild colors for walls and floors will minimize glare and brightness contrast between work stations and the surroundings. Tones may be warmer or cooler as climate and orientation may suggest. A stronger color may be used for the front wall with color related to or contrasting with the light green, white, or blue of the marker board. The idea is to get away from an institutional implication (dark green and black boards). Classrooms for young children may use stronger colors, usually in warm tones. Strong tones are not desirable. Gymnasiums, auditoriums, and large lunchrooms are best in lighter tones, warm to neutral, possibly with some bright colors accents in small areas. Stairways and corridors can use some areas of bright color - ends of corridors and doors, for example - to provide variety and stimulation while passing between other spaces.

The SDPL recommends this excellent book on color.

Revised by Ken Tanner (March 2009)

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