A Case Study Examining LED Lighting Compared to Fluorescent Lighting on Child Engagement Behaviors in a Pre-K Classroom

Presented by: Dr. Alana Pulay, Amy Williamson

The objective of this study was to examine if young children’s engagement behavior differed in a classroom lit with fluorescent lighting compared to Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lighting. Most American public school facilities have fluorescent lighting installed due to building age and budget issues. However, due to energy conservation practices, LEDs are becoming popular in commercial facilities. Multiple studies suggest that worker productivity improves with LED lighting in a workplace setting (Kretschmer, Schmidt, & Griefahn,2012) but the influence of this lighting type on student productivity is unknown. Due to their smaller body sizes, children respond and react to stimuli differently than do adults (Evans, 2006). We hypothesize that students will display more engagement behaviors under the LED lighting because LED lighting can emit precise correlated color temperature (CCT) levels whereas fluorescent lighting can only emit CCT levels within a certain range of the specified CCT level. Previous research using fluorescent lighting in a second grade classroom confirmed that students display more on-task behaviors under higher CCT levels of fluorescent lighting around 4100K (Pulay et al., 2016). Student engagement behaviors were gathered for their potential to influence academic success in young children. Engagement behavior is defined as doing the activity asked by the teacher. It is suggested that the more time a student spends engaged with the academic material they are expected to have higher levels of cognitive development (Fisher, Godwin, & Seltman, 2014). Upon university IRB and parent approval, twenty three students, aged 3-4, were observed in a Child Development Lab (CDL) pre-kindergarten classroom at a land grand university in the Midwest. Utilizing an ABAB design, researchers examined student engagement behaviors under fluorescent lighting conditions as compared to LED lighting conditions in the same classroom for 5 months. New ballast and the control lamp “A” (fluorescent lamps at 4100K CCT) were installed in the classroom the night before the study. Normal class activities continued for two weeks as an adjustment period. The following two weeks, data was collected using non-participant observations (Figures 1 & 2) of student engagement behaviors utilizing the Emergent Academic Snapshot Observational Method. Students received a “1” score if they were engaged in the activity and a “0” if they were not (Early et al., 2005). At the end of the two week period of data collection, LED lamps at 4100K CCT (Lamp “B”) were installed in the classroom during the night. Normal class activities continued for two weeks as an adjustment period. Data collection followed for two weeks. This cycle continued for the duration of the study. Refer to Figures 3, 4, 5, & 6 for photographs of the classroom. A paired samples t-test compared the mean differences in engagement scores between Lamp A and Lamp B. Results indicate that students displayed more engagement behaviors in the classroom lit with LED lighting than the classroom lit with fluorescent lighting (t = -4.006, p .001). Graphs and line charts (Figure 7) indicated that all male students displayed more engagement behaviors while under the LED lighting and overall they displayed the lowest engagement behaviors under the fluorescent lighting condition. Analysis revealed that students with learning disabilities displayed the most difference in engagement behaviors between the lighting types with more engagement behaviors displayed under the LED lighting condition.


  • Early, D., Barbarin, O., Bryant, B., Burchinal, M., Chang, F., Clifford, R., Crawford, G., Weaver, W., Howes, C., Ritchie, S., Kraft-Sayre, M., Pianta, R., & Barnett, S. (2005). Pre-kindergarten in eleven states: NCEDL’s multi-state study of prekindergarten and state-wide early education
  • Evans, G. (2006). Child development and the physical environment. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 421-453. Retrieved from arjournals.annualreview.org.
  • Fisher, A., Godwin, K., & Seltman, H. (2014). Visual environment, attention allocation, and learning in young children: When too much of a good thing may be bad. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1362- 1370. doi:10.1177/0956797614533801
  • Kretschmer, V., Schmidt, K.H., & Griefahn, B. (2012). Bright light effects on working memory, sustained attention and concentration of elderly night shift workers. Lighting Research Technology, 44, 316-333.
  • Pulay, A., Read, M., Tural, E., & Lee, S. (2016). Examining Student Behavior under Two Correlated Color Temperature Levels of Lighting in an Elementary School Classroom. Educational Planning, 23(3), 57-70.
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