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The Heat Effect: Do high temperatures affect learning?

The Heat Effect: Do high temperatures affect learning?

2 min read
  • The science of learning

Do students suffer with hot temperatures?

It has been one of the hottest summers on record, with both June and July at near record levels. But what impact do soaring temperatures have on student grades? And if it does have an impact, what can be done about it?

The Heat Effect

Every teacher knows the challenges of having to teach a class on a very hot day. Likewise, students know all too well the difficulties of sitting in a hot stuffy exam room. Previous research has indicated that on the day of test, high temperatures can lead to a reduction of up to 14% on exam performance. Likewise, a 1◦F increase in average temperature is associated with 4.5% lower GDP per capita.

However, it is only recently that researchers have started piecing together just how significant this effect really is for long term learning. Specifically, one report found that “hotter school days in the year prior to the test reduce learning, with extreme heat being particularly damaging and larger effects for low income and minority students” and that “without air conditioning, each 1° F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent”

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Remember to drink water

This research further highlights the importance of keeping hydrated during hot summers. Particularly in the UK, where we aren’t overly familiar with hot temperatures, we are prone to not drink enough water when we are exposed to heat. Doing so has been found to help boost exam results by an average of 5%. Drinking water has been found to help improve memory, concentration, mood, decision making and alertness. For a more detailed explanation, this blog provides some good additional reading.   

Final thought

With global temperatures on the up and our ever increasing understanding of the impact that heat has on student learning, it will be interesting to see how schools and students combat this effect. Hopefully this year’s students will have taken good steps to combat The Heat Effect and so will get the exam result they hope and wish for come results day.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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