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It make sense that the lessons we learn in business must apply to our schools and classrooms. What business has learned is that the work environment including such factors as natural light, colour themes and room temperature very much affect productivity.

Taking an example from over the pond, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA wanted proof that room temperature affected the way students performed. Inasmuch as students are generally graded on test scores, the EPA helped students from Westview High School address the question of classroom temperature and its impact on student performance.

The structured series of tests were initiated because students at the school had complained about inconsistent room temperatures which they believed were affecting their ability to concentrate.

The challenge was put to tenth grade student Josean Perez to organise testing. Assisted by teachers and club advisors Debbie Cooper and Mark Green, 9th grade students were organised and mobilised to participate in two phase testing known as the EPA Indoor Air Quality Symposium.

The study

One of the goals of the test was to determine the effect of room temperature upon the attention span of the students. The idea was to subject students in different room temperatures to the same material and then test them as a measure of the results.

While the student’s ability to understand the material varies, the EPA has accumulated data that suggest there are outside influences that can affect how students learn and retain information. As the students at Westview High had consistently complained about room temperatures at the school it was considered a suitable environment.

The EPA was interested to know at what room temperature the 9th grade students demonstrated the longest attention span.

Phase I

The results of Phase I were inconclusive. In this phase, students were divided into six different classrooms and asked to memorise specific shapes, colours and to also solve basic maths equations.

  • Groups in each room consisted of students of the same ages.
  • Students had no prior knowledge of the test content.
  • Students were offered incentives by teachers for good performance.
  • The groups and time of day of testing were selected at random.
  • All rooms were science rooms, shaped similarly and with the same general characteristics.
  • In order to acclimate to the room and the room temperature, groups were positioned in their rooms ten minutes prior to testing.
  • The temperature of the rooms were increased using hot plates places strategically around the rooms.

The results of the first test in classrooms that had different temperatures were similar. In Phase I, the EPA concluded that the temperature variable had little impact on performance.

Phase II

Researchers from the Beaverton Hillsboro Science Expo identified several issues with the first phase. A critical flaw was that the test was too simple and therefore required no true test of attention span.

It was determined that in Phase II, the test would be more challenging. Members of the research team pre-tested the test to be administered in Phase II and determined it was more complex. Another problem with Phase I was that the temperature change was not significant enough to create a marked difference. All rooms remained less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit different in Phase I.

For Phase II, it was decided that temperatures would change more significantly between four classrooms that each had independent HVAC systems. Room temperatures would vary by at least 10 degrees between rooms. The research team also determined that test results were not evaluated consistently during Phase I. For Phase II, the test results were administered uniformly.

Results of phase II

Just as the students expected, when the test were more challenging and required greater attention span, room temperature played an important part in the test results.

  • In rooms where the temperature was consistently between 74 and 78 degrees, test results were similar.
  • In rooms where temperatures were higher, the scores were not as good and the variation worsened in rooms that were definitely too high, more than 87 degrees.
  • In rooms that had more sunlight than other rooms, students were more awake and did not have as great an urge to drowse.

The EPA concluded that room temperature plays an important part in sustaining the attention span of students and can influence how they process information.

For information about how you can install effective air conditioning in your educational building, get in touch with Oxford Air Conditioning today.

You can call 01235 524411 or contact us online.

Categories: Advice