The learning conditions in the classrooms of many schools are far from ideal. The furniture cannot be adjusted to the height of the user; lighting is too weak; and the room acoustics and air quality present problems. These sub-standard learning conditions are also a source of stress for the teaching staff. The conditions for both learning and teaching can be improved by optimized classroom design.
For this reason, the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) conducted the project with the title "Ergonomic classroom - a contribution to good and healthy schools", in which it studied practical implementation of optimized learning and working conditions in a classroom.
This sub-project was conducted in close co-operation with the Institute of Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IAG) and the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions for the public sector in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Saxony.
A classroom was redesigned in a secondary school in Hennef (in NRW, supervised by the IFA) and another in an elementary school in Dresden (in Saxony, supervised by the IAG). The classrooms were redesigned in consideration of aspects promoting good health and learning conditions, namely: acoustics, ventilation, lighting and ergonomics. The technical aspects of acoustics and ventilation were addressed by the IFA, those of lighting and ergonomics by the IAG.
The classroom at the secondary school in Hennef already featured a wooden panelled ceiling, and behind that a mineral fibre material with good sound-absorbing properties. A further measure was installed in the form of a sound-absorbent acoustic panel at the top of the back wall.
In the classroom in the elementary school in Dresden, a sound-absorbing acoustic ceiling was installed beneath the existing sound-reflecting concrete ceiling.
Two local air-conditioning units were fitted beneath windows in each of the two classrooms in order to support the ventilation through the windows. The flow rate of the ventilation units is controlled by means of a CO2 sensor.
The lighting in the classrooms fell short of the requirements in many respects (such as its illuminance). A new lighting system employing "dynamic light" (refer also to the results) was therefore installed in both classrooms. The external blinds were also replaced by new shutters.
The existing double desks, which were not adjustable for height, were replaced by height-adjustable single desks. The new chairs are likewise adjustable for height, and permit dynamic sitting. The blackboard, which had previously been fixed, was replaced by a flexible board system. An interactive whiteboard was purchased in addition for the secondary school in Hennef. School bags can be stored in dedicated cupboards.
The influence of the new classroom design measures upon the students was evaluated. The study was performed over an entire school year in accordance with a test/control-group design. The data were recorded by means of standardized questionnaires for assessment by the respondents of themselves and others, and by observation of teaching. The persons involved also completed a test for objective monitoring of their concentration.
The reverberation times in the secondary school, which were already very good, were reduced further by the acoustic panel.
In Dresden, the acoustic ceiling reduced the reverberation times and substantially improved the comprehensibility of speech.
The local air-conditioning units assure consistently high air quality in the two classrooms, even when the windows are closed.
Three different lighting scenarios, differing in their illuminance and colour temperature, can be selected as appropriate for the tuition situation. The lighting, which supplements the existing standard lighting, also promotes concentration or calming.
The tables and desks can be adjusted for height to suit the height of each individual student. The dynamic sitting facility enables the students to adopt alternating sitting positions.
The board components of the board system can be removed and used on both sides. The interactive whiteboard used in the secondary school in Hennef employs a special teaching software application and has Internet access.
The facility for school bags to be accommodated in the dedicated cupboards has eliminated a risk of tripping in both classrooms.
The results of the questionnaires show that the new classrooms have met with a high degree of acceptance among students and teachers alike, in both the secondary school in Hennef and the elementary school in Dresden. The new working and teaching conditions were consistently rated highly.
education, scienceType of hazard:
unfavorable, adverse work environmentCatchwords:
Gesundheitsförderung, ErgonomieDescription, key words:
school, classroom, learning conditions, ergonomics