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How pupils learn – and how light can help

Feb 13, 2020

Light has a big influence on the way we learn, so good lighting design in education settings is crucial


Broughton Primary School in Edinburgh dates from the Edwardian era, but its new lighting is cutting-edge, and is helping pupils to learn better. Thorn recently provided new LED luminaires and wireless controls for the whole school, including the IQ Wave Suspended fittings for the classrooms. These luminaires provide a blend of direct and indirect illumination for good light distribution that supports comfort and concentration. IQ Wave is ideal for desk-based tasks, group presentations or discussions, and creates a positive atmosphere for learning. Teachers at the school can control lighting from wall switches or mobile devices.

Striking the balance

Installations like the one at Broughton Primary School are based on the understanding that great lighting is about much more than just being able to read the paper on your desk or the whiteboard at the front of the room. It also means being able to communicate effectively with those around you, and being in an atmosphere that feels conducive to learning. The best lighting for education settings takes into account the kind of activity being done, the spatial environment, and face-to-face communication. We sum this up as task, space and face.

“Glare and flicker can make spaces uncomfortable, and make it difficult for pupils to concentrate”

Task, space and face

Firstly, there needs to be clear lighting for the task at hand. Secondly, there needs to be comfortable and pleasant lighting of the space. And lastly, there needs to be good facial modelling to support face-to-face communication. This is achieved by balancing diffuse and direct light. If light is too directional, shadows become too harsh, but if it’s too diffuse, then the space will feel bland and modelling of faces will not be clear enough. These are the priorities that drove the creation of IQ Wave, which uses direct and indirect light to achieve high-quality light distribution, with high cylindrical illuminance to light faces.


Comfort without compromise

The new lighting at Broughton Primary School is just one example of how light can influence better learning. We all know that a dose of light can help us feel more awake and alert, while dim surroundings can leave us drowsy. Similarly, glare and flicker can make spaces uncomfortable, and make it different for pupils to concentrate, while evenly distributed light allows us to focus on what’s important.