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Environmental Factors Impacting Student Test Performance

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Students are faced with taking assessments throughout their academic career. What types of things impact performance? This lesson gives an overview of various environmental factors and tips on how to make the environment conducive to success.

What Are Environmental Factors?

It's that time again. Students in Ms. Bridges class are preparing for their next assessment. They take all kinds of tests throughout the year, from simple quizzes and end-of-unit tests to district- and state-wide assessments. Ms. Bridges has learned a few things over the years about how to make sure she prepares her classroom environment as carefully as she has prepared her students.

She knows that many environmental factors can have an impact on student performance. Environmental factors are those things in her classroom that can affect students and how well they do on the test. She never thought about these things as a new teacher, but she's been around the block a few times and knows what to do and how to prepare her classroom. Let's take a look.

Lighting

While it may not seem an important thing to consider, the lighting in the classroom impacts students when testing. Students need to be able to clearly see the work in front of them, but some types of lighting can lead to low student performance, such as inefficient fluorescent lighting. Studies have shown that standard fluorescent lights can result in headaches and low concentration levels.

Ms. Bridges makes sure her classroom is lit with cool white fluorescent lighting. With this type of light, students are able to focus for longer and perform better on tests. When the time of day allows, she also uses natural light, another great source of illumination for her students.

Class Arrangement

Adults put a lot of time and energy into how they arrange furniture in their homes and offices. Think of your own bedroom. Did you put your bed in a place that is relatively dark so you could sleep? Or maybe your desk is situated under a window for natural light. Ms. Bridges thinks of these same things when arranging the desks in her classroom for assessment.

An important factor to success during assessments is a student's ability to focus without distractions. If student's desks are in rows, or close to each other, any movement or noise can cause a student to lose focus. For testing, Ms. Bridges arranges the desks to make sure there is plenty of space between them. She also makes sure the new seating doesn't offer its own distraction. For example, she won't put a student's desk near the hamster cage, or facing the window of a busy street.

Distractions

Ms. Bridges wants her students to work hard on the assessment and keep their minds on the material in the tests. She knows that some typical daily noises, like bells, student's passing through the hallway, announcements, or people walking in and out of the room, can really throw a student off track.

To minimize distractions, Ms. Bridges takes a few precautionary measures. She hangs signs on her door to let people know not to enter during testing times. She also asks the office to hold all announcements and phone calls to her classroom, and silences the ringer on the classroom phone. She makes sure things she can't control, like passing bells and student's moving in the hallway, always happen when the students are taking a brief break. This way the noises don't distract students in the middle of thinking.

She also provides students with activities to do if they finish early, like reading a book or writing a letter. This way, students aren't tempted to talk to one another, another noisy distraction.

Room Temperature

We all know how hard it is to concentrate or get any work done if we're too hot or too cold. The same is true for students in classrooms, particularly during assessments. Because testing environments require students to remain in the same position for longer periods of time, they can become cold, resulting in a lower performance. Similarly, if the room is too hot or humid, students may have a difficult time thinking clearly or become too tired to perform well.

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