Physical factors that affect learning

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Learning is one of the most important processes in human experience, allowing us the ability to make informed choices throughout the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, there are a number of physical factors that can impede the learning process, ranging from impairments of the senses to basic nutrition, that can affect a student's ability to learn effectively.

Impaired Vision

Vision is a crucial part of the learning process. According to the website All About Vision, almost 80 per cent of information children learn during school is presented to them visually. If undetected and uncorrected, vision problems such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism can lead to learning problems. Less obvious, however, are problems with perceptual vision, which relate to the way the brain processes visual information in order to provide a clear understanding of what's being seen. A student suffering from perceptual vision problems may not interpret the information correctly, leading to a fundamental misunderstanding of what is being taught.

Impaired Hearing

A student with a hearing impairment can have increased difficulties learning in a classroom setting, for the simple reason that he may not able to hear the instructor. When this occurs, the student will rapidly fall behind the rest of the class. Over time, a hearing-impaired student will demonstrate an ever-growing gap in vocabulary skills, sentence comprehension and construction, and other areas. As a result, many hearing-impaired students will pretend to understand what's being taught, leaving the teacher with the false impression that the student is fully comprehending the material. In this way, hearing impairment may seem to be an "invisible disability" that a teacher can easily forget about when the student maintains the appearance of learning along with the rest of the class.


Nutrition plays a fundamental role in the learning process for the simple reason that a student who shows up to school hungry will not be able to function to the best of his abilities. Although an adequate intake of food is important, so too is the nutritional value of the food. According to the website Public School Review, much of the food available in America's state schools may actually be negatively affecting a child's ability to learn, as non-nutritious food containing large quantities of sugar, caffeine, sodium and assorted chemicals will leave students feeling "tired, unfocused, jittery and sick," which will in turn affect their academic performance.


Ensuring a student has had enough sleep is also a crucial part of effective learning. According to a study of medical residents at Case Western Reserve University, sleep deprivation has an undeniable negative impact on the brain's ability to learn. In the findings, 20 of the 22 focus groups felt that fatigue adversely affected their cognitive abilities and their ability to learn from classroom lectures and reading. In addition, the residents reported that fatigue brought about problems with long-term and short-term memory that made it difficult to recall information that was learnt.

Most recent