New Research: Students Learn Better In Classroom With View Of Trees

By Dongying Li and William C. Sullivan

Champaign, IL (February 3, 2016) – A new study of high school students in central Illinois found that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows. The University of Illinois researchers reported their findings in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

school window treesPrevious research has demonstrated positive associations between the greenness of high school landscapes and school wide academic performance. It is not known, however, if green landscapes cause better performance or if the association between the two is a product of self-selection. If there is a causal relationship, the pathways through which green school landscapes affect student performance remain unclear.

Researchers hypothesized that views onto green landscapes help students recover from mental fatigue and stress. To test these hypotheses, they conducted a randomized controlled experiment with 94 high school students at five high schools.

Participants were randomly assigned to classrooms without windows or with windows that opened onto a built space or a green space. Participants engaged in typical classroom activities followed by a break in the classroom to which they were assigned.

Attentional functioning was measured using Digit Span Forward and Backwards. Physiological stress levels were measured by skin conductance, body temperature, pNN50 (the proportion of the number of pairs of successive NNs that differ by more than 50 ms divided by the total number of NNs) and LF/HF (the ratio between low-frequency peak and high frequency peak).

Results demonstrate that classroom views to green landscapes cause significantly better performance on tests of attention and increase student’s recovery from stressful experiences. A lack of mediation effect demonstrates that attention restoration and stress recovery are two distinct processes. Implications for school site selection, design and renovation are discussed in the published research.

Learn more: Jared Green, “New Research: Students Learn Better in Classrooms with Views of Trees,” ASLA’s The Dirt

Download pdf of research: “Impact of views to school landscapes on recovery from stress and mental fatigue