OK, we have diagnosed our problems, how might we remedy them?


Light (lux) above 500 for learning work - we aim for 750+ in schools we work with - and a minimum of 250 lux if there is only conversation taking place.
We recommend temperature between 18 and 21°C, no more.
CO2 levels under 2,200 parts per million. 5,000 would be illegal in an office, but concentration starts to suffer noticeably above 2,200.
We would expect sound in normal circumstances to be under 70db with 72 as the point when things start to get distracting.
A rapid sound tempo seems to damage concentration - certainly keeping under 100bpm would be very desirable, and under 80bpm would be seem wise until we know more. That means fan tempos, and other mechanical rhythms as well as any background musak. .

We are less clear about the impact on learning of
pollution (but have a project in place exploring that) because in classrooms that might well also include cold and cough germs,
or air pressure (we are tracking it to respond to the popular expression "pressure headaches"),
or humidity (although it does track with temperature largely...)
and crucially, we are still working on the interrelationships: for example if light is too low AND it's too hot is there a multiplier effect?

The front and Back of a Learnometer device.

So, what to do to improve these parameters?...

Light levels

Three big changes are very easy to implement:

get light into the room, usually by getting all the paper off the windows (invoke a "glass means glass" protocol maybe?)

Next lift the light reflected from walls and ceilings - basically repaint surfaces with a high refraction index paint.
Our favourite paint is Dulux Light + Space paint - available from the usual DIY places - it is really impressive and you can get it all done in a weekend - 40% better light reflection.

Finally, the lights themselves could use a bit of investment. Don't replace them; these days good LED substitutes for whatever bulbs you have can transform the light in the room relatively cheaply, but with very low power consumption and no flicker. Eschew the "warm white" and "blue white" options and just go for bright white.

If you haven't yet got hold of a Learnometer, mobile phones make very accurate lux meters with lots of (mainly free) apps to allow your students to survey the school for the best learning spaces.

Temperature & Humidity

This sounds easy - cut the heating, open the windows, etc. But in practice it is initially hard to convince the students ("Can I keep my coat on?" (No) and so on).

Simplest is a cheap plastic garden thermometer - label it with "Good learning" and "Bad learning" for the scale 18-21°C and for the temperatures outside of this range...

Goldilocks thermometer - yellow is just right!

Humidity may be tougher; it's often the result of where you live. But there are a couple of things that help:
No rugs - they really do store up damp given half a chance. Shoeless helps too, less damp walked into the room;
Fill a biggish basket with charcoal briquettes - they will cut moisture and work for a couple of months (and you can still barbecue after with them!). Silica based cat litter works too (but not on the barbecue afterwards...)

Sound volume & rhythms

Of course, proper acoustic modelling and sound absorbing panels are ideal, but in the absence of these many other ideas are effective too:
Hanging umbrellas from the ceiling upside down (each student brings and decorates their own - use white to help light levels). Then fill the umbrellas with fibreglass wool ("rockwool") of the kind ceilings were once insulated with. One tech / science project later and you will have quantified the sound changes.

sound reducing umbrellas

Or even simpler, fix an old tablet, perhaps an out-of-date iPad or phone, to the wall (Velcro pads), leave a power supply connected and run one of the many decibel metering apps, saying to the students, simply, "In this corner we expect sounds below 70db" and then merely point to the screen when the numbers go above that. Usually, they will have already noted the numbers and hushed each other.

Air pollution and Co2

Carbon Dioxide is a heavy gas. Just opening doors helps, but it is much more effective if air is moved around too. A closed room full of breathing students quickly fills with CO2, even more so in exam halls. However, plants absorb CO2 and add Oxygen. The best plants do this very well and here is a report in the Khaleej Times of a school in Dubai doing their own Learnometer research project to cut CO2. The impact on staff and on (in particular) ADHD children is impressive.

CO2 reducing plants

Air pressure

This one is just a case of watch this space - we don't yet understand the impact on learning and it's not clear what you can remedy you have other than to move up a mountain - but we will find out more and publish here.

Professor Stephen Heppell.

And of course they are a myriad of other ingenious things that you can, and will, do. This page is just a place for a very few starting points.

But just to reiterate - involving your students in all this is effective and important. Show them this page, look for solutions with them. And remember: this is all about learning, and making learning better.

Do keep us in touch with their (and your) own solutions and remedies

Professor Stephen Heppell