Learnometer research: helping you to monitor your classroom environment for factors which may hinder learning and behaviour (buy one from here)

what are the variables
why do they each matter?


Poor lighting is a significant barrier to learning. Our work is confirmed by recent school environment studies, and detailed research for other working environments. For example recent research confirms evidence that good lighting significantly influences reading vocabulary and Science test scores (Barrett et al., 2015). Learnometer reports lumen (lux) levels throughout the day and plots them constantly and automatically for you wherever it is installed.

Our guide would be to stay above 500 lux, with a sensible target of 1,000 - but being careful to get the "right" Kelvin values in your electrical lighting too.


Lots of caveats - our literature search was like a jigsaw puzzle, everyone had bits, noone had it all. With much data already logged, we know that many classrooms are either too hot or (less damagingly) too cold for learning. Even though national law (eg UK) does not usually give an upper limit for temperature, research broadly suggests that between 18 and 21 degrees is ideal for learning, although it arguably doesn't start to be significantly damaging for a couple more degrees.

Learnometer contains a sensitive digital thermometer and hygrometer which tell you the temperature of your classrooms throughout the day. You’d be amazed how much it changes.

Joshua Graff Zivin, of UCSD, and two colleagues in an NBER Working Paper noted that "we find that math performance declines linearly above 21C". They thankfully didn't see much accumulation of damage. Fix it and it ends.

More recently, R. Jisung Park, Joshua Goodman,and Mike Hurwitz (who were looking as the equity issue of schools who could cool spaces, and those who could not) found that "Using data from over 12,000 schools and 10 million middle- and high-school students across America, my colleagues and I found that students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on subsequent standardized exams. A small 1 degree hotter-than-average academic year reduces learning by about 1%." An opinion piece by R. Jisung Park is here.


Studies confirm that the classroom sound signature can affect how well students achieve (Picard and Bradley 2001). Learnometer constantly gives you automated feedback on sound volumes (including from the students!) and rhythms (for example from projector fans or air conditioning units) in your classroom, will highlight changes to be made, and plots the results of your changes by hour, day, and even year.

As a starting point we suggest that sound above around 72 decibels starts to be disruptive - although what the sound is matters too (for example is is harder to write when background music contains a familiar lyric). A simple guide for beats per minute is to stay below 80 bpm


Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide cannot be sensed by humans, both of course have the potential to kill, but at lower levels, Co2 will affect concentration.

Our pilot work suggested a correlation between absence / illness levels and high classroom Co2 levels (for staff and students) and we have been dismayed by the damaging levels we have observed in examination and test rooms. Learnometer logs and tracks the levels of Co, Co2 and particulate matter ("pollution") to help you identify airflow issues and optimum levels for learning and performance.

A useful guide would be to be aware that above as little as 1,000 parts per million (and arguably lower still) Co2 will be inducing sleepiness, poor concentration with abnormal heart rate and nausea. Problems ncrease towards 5,000 ppm which is a workplace limit in most countries, but which, disappointingly, many learning spaces often exceed daily.

This 2015 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a worse, direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making than was previously understood.


When we began the learnometer project the link between wellbeing and pollution was clear, but pollution's impact on learning was largely hypothesised by us, without much good evidence. Since then however some substantial research projects, like this one using data from China, published by Xi Chen et al, at Yale School of Public Health in the US, have suggested that high levels of urban pollution have a major impact on attainment - some children dropping a whole year of progress in their school lives.

Although it is unlikely that relocating a school will be possible (but see our remedies section), battles against planning approval for siting polluting industries near schools will be a lot easier to win, given clear pollution data from within classrooms. However, a little micro-research study at ARU's Cambridge campus has shown us that opening windows to let the heat and CO2 out, can let high levels of urban pollution in - a nice indicator of the complexity of all this which our learnometer and its algorithms might hopefully inform.

Pollution levels can be damaging in the case of a one-off exam too. Avraham Ebenstei,n Victor Layv and Sefi Roth found published in 2016 that pollution hurt the exam marks, but that the impact f that lasted into later attainment and employment. Another nail in the coffin of examination equity?

"Exploiting variation across the same student taking multiple exams, we find that transitory PM2.5 exposure is associated with a significant decline in student performance. We then examine these students in 2010 and find that PM2.5 exposure during exams is negatively associated with postsecondary educational attainment and earning."


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this page created February 2014, last modified Wednesday, May 26, 2021 12:23 PM