Study eyes light in schools

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – How much do lights affect learning?
A University of Mississippi study being conducted at two Lee County schools aims to get more insight into that question.
Philips Day-Brite, which is funding the study, installed special lights last year in two classrooms at Saltillo Elementary. This year, it added them to two more classrooms at Verona Elementary.
Those lights have four settings: normal, focus, energy and calm. The settings use a variety of color temperatures and intensity to produce different effects.
A team of researchers has been studying whether using the focus setting in classrooms increases students’ concentration, motivation and reading fluency. Two classrooms at each school with traditional lights are used as control groups.
Last year’s initial study at Saltillo Elementary did reveal that the lights had a significant positive impact on reading competency, said Michael Mott, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the University of Mississippi’s School of Education. Mott, who is based on the UM-Tupelo campus, is leading the study team that also includes UM doctoral student Jodie Burnette and Dan Robinson from the University of Texas.
Increases in performance of students exposed to the special Philips SchoolVision lighting were 33 percent higher than increases in the control group.
Saltillo Elementary was chosen, Mott said, because the school already had a relationship with Philips Day-Brite. Mott also had done previous research with the Lee County School District.
He said similar studies on lighting and education also were being done in Asia and Europe but that this was the only one in North America.
The focus setting that the researchers studied is a little more blue than office settings, something that makes the light appear brighter, said Carlton Plunk, product development manager at Philips Day-Brite.
Teresa Thomas is one of the Saltillo Elementary teachers who has had the lights in her classroom this year and last year. She said that when the lights were on the focus setting, students tended to do a better job of concentrating.
Thomas also used the other settings. The calm setting helped students relax after recess and the energy setting helped motivate them, she said.
“We feel privileged to be part of the study,” Thomas said. “…Last year, students would remind me when we needed to switch to the focus setting. They kept up with it.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com