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Intellect

BYU-assisted national study shows school cleanliness affects learning

BYU facilities management students helped conduct study, analyze data

A recent national study of college students by a Brigham Young University professor found a correlation between the cleanliness of a school's facilities and students' academic achievement. Titled “Cleanliness and Learning in Higher Education,” the study was based around five levels of clean identified in APPA's Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities.

The study was conducted through the Center for Facilities Research at APPA — a national association promoting leadership in educational facilities — and co-sponsored by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association.

Researchers on the project were Jeffery L. Campbell, chair of the Facilities Management Department in the School of Technology at BYU, along with Alan S. Bigger, APPA president and director of facilities at Earlham College.

"This study presents new knowledge to help support educational facilities professionals in providing learning spaces to students that will enhance academic achievement and protect their overall health," said Campbell, whose facilities management students at BYU helped conduct and analyze the study.

Of the nearly 1,500 students polled, 88 percent reported that the lack of cleanliness becomes a distraction at APPA’s Level 3 (casual inattention) and Level 4 (moderate dinginess). Eighty-four percent reported that they desire APPA Level 1 (orderly spotlessness) or Level 2 (ordinary tidiness) standard of cleanliness to create a good learning environment. Level 5 on APPA's levels of clean is listed as unkempt neglect.

Cleanliness ranked as the fourth most important building element to impact the students' personal learning. The top three building elements were noise, air temperature and lighting. Students also reported that most effective learning spaces are classrooms, libraries and personal study space.

Eighty percent of the students surveyed admitted that they should be involved in keeping campus buildings clean. Seventy-eight percent reported that cleanliness has an impact on their health. Students reported that lack of cleanliness affects allergies, spreads germs, increases bug and rodent infestations and promotes higher stress levels.

"In this day and age when services are cut in order to save dollars, this study shows that cutting cleaning services could have a detrimental impact on our primary customers, the students," said Alan Bigger.

"These findings provide a vital tool for facility service providers to reinforce the benefits of cleaning; there's also a great deal of public-relations power in that message if an institution can use its cleaning program to inform students and their families what it is doing to protect the well-being of its population," said John Garfinkel, ISSA executive director.

For more information, visit the APPA Web site at appa.org.

Writer: Jill R. Amstutz

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Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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