Does Classroom Temp. Effect Student Performance?

The other evening, I came back into my dorm room to find my roommate sitting at his desk wearing a PSU beanie and a black leather coat. To clarify this is very out of the norm for him. I asked why he was all bundled up and he said that our room was too cold for him to focus. The temperature of the room felt like a crisp 68 degrees which is the perfect temperature for me to do my work. This caused me to consider what effect temperature had on a student’s performance and so I looked further into the concept.

I found a study that was conducted on rats to assess the affect that temperature changes on their memory. The experiment observed the speed at which rats were able to react to a slight shock and find a smaller compartment in which the electrical current was not present. The study showed that at higher temperatures, the rats reaction times were slower, whereas in the cooler temperatures there was no difference in reaction time to the subject’s baseline reaction time. Learning that it did in fact have an effect on rats made me even more curious as to whether or not it had an effect on humans. I was fortunate enough to find a study done by a school in Oregon in which students performance was observed in different temperatures.

Each student that participated was randomly chosen. The test administered to the students was composed of basic shape memorization, colors, and basic math equations. The classrooms were adjusted to three temperatures:  61 degrees F, 72 Degrees F, and 81 Degrees F. The students were put in the room for 10 minutes before the test in order to acclimate to the temperature. After the experiment was complete, the data showed that students in the warmest room, 81 Degrees F, did the poorest on the test with an average of 72%. Those in the cooler room were more likely to score higher by 4% or more. The students who performed the best were those in the 70 Degree F range

This study demonstrated that students are likely to perform better academically when the temperature is cooler rather than hot. That being said they will do their best when the temperature in the room is more neutral than not. Although this experiment rules out reverse causation, it still has several flaws such as the fact that the students in each classroom were taking different tests. All in all, these studies show that it’s better to work in a place that is cold rather than a place that is hot. The next time you study or work somewhere that’s hotter than normal, think about how that might affect your productivity. I guess since we do better academically in the cold, it’s a good thing that we all chose to attend school in State College.



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12 thoughts on “Does Classroom Temp. Effect Student Performance?

  1. Molly Mccarthy Tompson

    The temperature of a classroom is probably the first thing I notice, and most important thing about it. If a classroom is freezing, I spend the entire time attempting to adjust my clothes to keep warm; rolling my sleeves down past my hands or wrapping my backpack around my back imitating a jacket. If it’s hot, I feel like I’m going to fall asleep. Today, actually, I was running a tad bit late for class. I was almost on the verge of running, and I was wearing a sweater, boots, and a vest. When I sat down in my seat at 1:34 (oops!) I literally broke a sweat. For the first fifteen minutes of class, I couldn’t pay attention no matter how hard I tried. I took my vest off, put my hair in a ponytail, and rolled my sleeves up. I completely believe the correlation between classroom temperature and test results is not due to chance. A comfortable environment in terms of temperature, limited distractions, and more, makes for the most effective learning in my opinion.

  2. Taylor Weinstein

    Wow this was a very interesting topic choice. For me I am almost always cold so I never would have associated temperature to how someone behaves in the classroom. This does make a lot of sense though because when your hot and stinky nobody can focus and you feel gross where as when your cool you can be more alert and focus at least for me. I wondering if gender or age plays a role in this experiment as well? I think the correlation to gender would play a big role in this or could it be also do to chance? I looked up father information on the gender part and found this, women at least going work tend to dress and wear more layers than men. There are many different reasons but our boys play the biggest role. This article I found justify’s more why women are colder.

  3. Olivia Mei Zhang

    This is a very interesting topic, Victor. I’ve never really thought about temperature being a factor that affects my academic productivity. However, it does make a lot of sense that individuals will perform more/less productivity depending on the temperature of the environment. Personally, I find that cooler temperatures affect me more than warmer temperatures. If I’m at the library and the AC is blasting, I find it extremely difficult to concentrate. The study done by the school in Oregon produced results that were slightly surprising to me. I would have assumed that both cooler/hotter temperatures would distract students from being able to perform well. Is it possible that the results of this study were due to chance? I definitely think there were some confounding variables, like the different tests you mentioned. Check out this article that further discusses the effects of temperature on productivity:

  4. Olivia Frederickson

    Coming across this topic, I find it very funny because in the SC200 class today, I found myself a bit overdressed for the temperature of the room and was very uncomfortable. I found it very hard to focus at times, which is not good since paying attention in this class is very important to understanding the complicated topics we learn, especially the more advanced concepts we just reviewed today. I personally agree with this data, although I think there are still many other sources you could’ve reviewed to further support the one human tested experiment you included. Also, there is a whole other part of the question that needs to be addressed in a human conducted study. This study basically only provides data for testing conditions- is the ability to apply previously retained information affected by temperature? Other results you should’ve included the affect on learning conditions- is the ability to retain information affected by temperature? Then you would have a complete definition of school perfermance since learning is apart of this. I suggest referencing this book. On page 94, they include the results of students learning in a language lab in certain temperatures, which interestingly enough, have just about the same outcome of students who were tested in the same conditions. On a final note, maybe for you conclusion consider what type of outcome this really is since, is it really true, false positive?

  5. Jackson Grey Hope

    This was an extremely interesting topic that I can relate to. I know in my case, I can’t stand when it’s hot in a room and I am one of those guys that would prefer to sleep with the windows open in the winter and be under a ton of blankets. I often sweat in rooms with the temperature being anything above room temperature and I know that definitely throws off my focus. However, that is just for some people. I think there are definitely some confounding variables in this study. For example, maybe the participants that performed in the warmer classes are from an area of cooler weather and just weren’t used to the climate. Chance could also be present in this experiment because maybe it just so happened that the participants with the higher IQ’s were placed in the room temperature room. These are definitely some things that should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results to this experiment.

  6. Hannah Gluck

    This was fun to read because I can definitely attest to this. I know that I find it very hard to focus in a really cold classroom or a really warm classroom. If I am not comfortable it is harder for me to pay attention. After looking into the source you used I found that the data collected may not be that reliable. There seems to be many third variables that they did not keep constant. For example the three groups were all observed in different classroom at different times of day. It is very likely that one of these could have unsecured the data. I know that I am very tired in the mornings and my attention span doesn’t last for that long. The data collected could reflect this. Im sure students have different attention spans at different times of day. Overall I think this an interesting topic but in order for more reliable data i think a new study would need to be done where all these variables are kept constant.

  7. Molly Samantha Arnay

    In my high school, people would constantly complain about how cold it was. People always said the motive behind it being so cold was something to do with the dress code but this makes me think different! Maybe they were just trying to give us the best climate to work in? I never knew this and I find it fascinating. It is weird thought that people can’t study in heat. I bet it has to do with sweating. Heat makes you sweat which can be distracting but when it’s too cold, no bodily function occurs. Sweat is probably the distraction that inhibits learning!

  8. Jarrod T Skole

    This is a great post solely because it helps me understand why I can never study in a hot area. I walked into my dorm the other day and it was about 75 degrees, and I could not stand it. I tried to sit at my desk and concentrate but all I could think about was how hot it was. I had to walk to our study room where it was cooler just so I could concentrate better. Could there be another reason why we do poorly in hot weather? Maybe there is a part of the brain where it is affected by the heat when we try to concentrate. If a study was to find out how our brains react to temperature while studying we might find a new way to study smarter not harder.

  9. Mary M. Brown

    This post is so interesting to me because I find myself believing the opposite. When I attempt to do work in colder rooms, I usually get more distracted by my chilly hands and feet, and find it harder to focus and/or complete the tasks at hand. However, when I study, write a paper, or do homework in a warmer room (even if I am sweating) I usually end up being more proactive. Another interesting observation I’ve made is my constant ice fingers and toes. If my hands and feet never thaw, then shouldn’t I have adapted to cold temperatures enough to be able to study in colder temperatures? Honestly, I’m not sure! I guess I’ll just keep doing what works for me, but it’s nice to see there is in fact some science behind it!

  10. Dana Corinne Pirrotta

    This was a really interesting read because I expected the outcome to be exactly the opposite! Personally, I can’t focus when I’m cold, especially during class in a chilly room. I will be fidgeting and literally thinking about leaving the entire time. I like warm classrooms much better, and I feel much more comfortable and prepared to learn when I am warm. This is probably a personal preference though because I can’t stand being cold. (Wish me luck through this PSU winter.) According to the Scientific American , it takes a lot more energy to cool your body down than it does to heat it up. When it is warm outside, our bodies use our energy to sweat and cool us down. In turn, when our bodies ar using our energy to cool us down, there is less energy allotted to the brain to think harder. This article supports the data you’ve included in your blog posts.
    Another comment suggested that you use live links throughout your post, and I agree! However, I did really like that you’ve included a graph in your post! I haven’t thought to include one in any of my blog posts yet, and it is such a helpful resource to look at when reading through a post that I will start including them in mine now.

  11. Isaac Chandler Orndorff

    Hi Victor! Great topic. Definitely link the studies in the post using a hyperlink so we can read it as we’re going through. It’s a very interesting topic to think about. Personally, I’ve always had a higher body temperature, and get hotter faster as a result. So, like you, I prefer around 68 degrees to function properly. I’d much rather be cold than hot. Likewise, if you’re cold, often you are more awake than if it’s warmer. Here’s an interesting video on why you should sleep in the cold!

  12. Zachary Cope

    This is actually a fascinating topic to think about. I’ve always been bothered when the classrooms were really hot and yes, it did make me loose a lot of my concentration, especially on tests. I remember back in elementary school and junior high when our schools weren’t air conditioned and once it hit the end of the year, everyone in the school was basically dripping in sweat. It was literally hell, and it was so distracting from actually paying attention and being productive in class. So I would have to agree on your conclusion that cooler environments make a better atmosphere for learning and thus, increasing the chance of scoring better on your test. I would have to ask if gender role comes into play in this situation however. Would females score better in a temperature warmer or colder to that of males? Would it be close enough that gender has no role in the correlation?

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