5 Ways to Create a Brain Friendly Environment #5 Cool or Warm

People pay more attention in cooler environments.cool-or-warm

It’s a lifelong challenge to get the temperature in a learning environment right.

The air conditioning is too cool, or noisy, or there isn’t any and the room is stuffy and everyone feels sleepy. Some people arrive wearing thin tops whilst others are swathed in layers of wool and fleece. Sometimes what they’re wearing made sense in the outdoors but isn’t the right choice for indoors. And as the trainer you always seem to be hotter than everyone else, probably because you’re more under pressure than them and your hypothalamus is telling you to cool down.

Whenever our external temperature starts to move away from the ideal our brains have to tell us to adjust something to maintain a constant internal temperature. The interference from areas such as the hypothalamus drives us to make a change in the physical environment, like put a cardigan on, or in our internal physiological environment such as shiver or sweat. This distraction potentially interrupts other higher level areas of our brain from learning. At the very least some additional energy will be required to re-focus attention back on the learning rather than temperature.

Current air conditioning standards are derived from research conducted in the 1960s which was based on the resting metabolic rate of one 11 stone, 40-year-old man and that women typically find this too cool. A recent study showed that while dressed in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms women found the optimum temperature was 75F (24.5C) whilst men prefered 71F (22C).

Age also plays a factor in temperature preferences with younger people typically being more comfortable when it’s cooler.
Most the evidence seems to suggest that learning when you are slightly cooler than warmer is easier. Our attention and memory are less effective when we’re warm and you’ve only got to think of how you feel on a brisk frosty morning compared to a sunny warm afternoon. Of course time of day may be a factor there too but I’m sure you get the point. In one study room temperatures were set at 22, 26 and 18 degrees celcius and people performed better at memory tests in the 22 degree condition.
Perhaps consider the gender of your learners and make sure the larger group don’t necessarily ignore the needs of others.
Temperature also affects air quality so the amount of oxygen people are able to pump to their brains might be different on different days of the year.

Take control of what you can as a trainer and then encourage your learners to make their own adjustments. Vary activities so learners don’t sit in one place for too long – either too near or too far from the heat source. And of course the more engaged people are they less likely they are to be distracted by temperature.

For more tips like this and so much more join us for How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer 18th – 20th October 2016 in Derbyshire.

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