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New Study Shows School Cleanliness Affects Learning

June 23, 2008
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Lincolnwood, IL, USA-A recent national study of college students has revealed a correlation between the cleanliness of a school’s facilities and students’ academic achievement. Entitled Cleanliness and Learning in Higher Education, the independent study was conducted through the Center for Facilities Research (CFaR) at APPA-the association promoting leadership in educational facilities-and co-sponsored by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association.

“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 ISSA Executive Director John Garfinkel. “This study is a great addition to ISSA’s ongoing initiative to create more research behind cleaning and its positive impact on public health.”

Cleanliness and Learning in Higher Education is available as a free download to ISSA members at www.issa.com in the Member Lounge. APPA members can receive a free copy at www.appa.org. Nonmembers can purchase the report for US$30.

The study was conducted by Jeffery Campbell, Ph.D., chair of the facilities-management program at Brigham Young University, along with Alan Bigger, director of facilities at Earlham College, Richmond, IN, and APPA president. The survey provided to students was based on the five levels of clean (see page 2) identified in APPA’s Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities, the basis for ISSA’s popular InfoClean workloading software for educational facilities.

Of the 1,481 students polled, 88 percent reported that the lack of cleanliness becomes a distraction at APPA Level 3 (Casual Inattention) and Level 4 (Moderate Dinginess). Eighty-four percent reported that they desire the APPA Level 1 (Orderly Spotlessness) or Level 2 (Ordinary Tidiness) standard of cleanliness to create a good learning environment.

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

“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, the study’s principal researcher. Students in Campbell’s facilities-management program at Brigham Young assisted with the survey.

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 the most effective learning spaces are classrooms, libraries, and personal study space.

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