Review: Natural light makes kids smarter?

Date: 12 Sep, 2008
Posted by: admin
In: life & family

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daylight article at ParentDishParentDish is fast becoming a bastion of slapdash reporting in my mind. They report:

Natural light makes kids smarter

Including this paragraph:

In fact, “…students with the most daylight in their classrooms perform better-by 20 percent on math tests and by 26 percent on reading tests-than those with less daylight….” which is incentive enough to head outside, away from our fluorescent lighted classroom, with it’s single (albeit rather large) window.

This is my response

About 10 mins of research gives this from the Heschong & Mahone reportDaylighting in Schools – An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance“. There’s also a summary by Heschong.

This kind of observational study cannot determine a causal relationship. We have merely shown an association between the presence of daylight and higher student  performance, not shown that daylighting causes students to learn  more. Daylighting seems to be a good predictor of student performance, but there are other possible associations that might be involved in this correlation. The most obvious one is that there is some bias of “better” teachers being assigned to classrooms with more daylight.

Note also that the report is commissioned by PG&E, who sell daylight systems to schools. Also, the report writer is Lisa Heschong of Heschong & Mahone, an architect – who would presumably gain from drawing up the plans for the schools on behalf of PG&E.

No conclusive correlation

So in summary the report states itself that their is no conclusive correlation; those connected with the report will gain financially only if it appears that there is a correlation.

FWIW – I imagine schools with bigger windows / skylights are in richer areas where effects of generally more stable homelife, better diet (&c.) tend to produce  better students with higher exam achievements. See page 62 where the studies authors claim they couldn’t allow for such inputs.

They don’t seem to have done the obvious test. Put in a load more windows and test whether the schools exam results improve over other schools. Presumably they know the answer to that one!

All that said, I love being outside and encourage everyone to try it, especially those wishing to avoid rickets.

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