Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 70.16
Liaison Kylee Singh
Submission Date Sept. 19, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

California Polytechnic State University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 4.00 Kylee Singh
Sustainability Coordinator
Energy Utilities and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of the sustainability literacy of its students (i.e. an assessment focused on student knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges)?:

Which of the following best describes the literacy assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire (or predominate) student body, directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the assessment? The assessment is administered as a::
Standalone evaluation without a follow-up assessment of the same cohort or representative samples

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s):
A sample of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment or the website URL where the assessment tool may be found:

STARS Student Sustainability Assessment Survey
Please choose the best answer for each question.
1. Define sustainability
a. Protecting the environment
b. Ensuring the needs of today are met without harming the ability of future generations to meet
their needs
c. Reducing, reusing, and recycling
d. Providing resources to those in need
e. I don't know
2. Arrange the following four activities in order from largest environmental impact to smallest
environmental impact:
W. Keeping a cell phone charger plugged into an electrical outlet for 12 hours
X. Producing one McDonald's quarter-pound hamburger
Y. Producing one McDonald's chicken sandwich
Z. Flying in a commercial airplane from Washington D.C. to China
a. W, Y, X, Z
b. Z, W, X, Y
c. Z, Y, X, W
d. Z, X, Y, W
e. Don’t know
3. What factors influence the human population's impact on Earth?
a. Size of the population
b. Amount of materials used per person
c. Use of technology that lessens our impact
d. A, B, and C
e. A and B
f. B and C
g. A and C
h. Don't know
4. Which of the following is a leading cause of the depletion of fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean?
a. Fishermen seeking to maximize their catch
b. Reduced fish fertility due to genetic hybridization
c. Ocean pollution
d. Global climate change
e. Don’t know
5. Which of the following statements about water is true?
a. Globally, water for personal use such as washing dishes, doing laundry, and bathing is the major
user of water resources.
b. Globally, freshwater reserves (aquifers) are used faster than they are replenished.
c. Floods and severe weather will increase the availability of clean drinking water.
d. Because water is a free and abundant resource, it is not a major concern for most countries.
e. Don’t know
6. Of the following, which would be considered living in the most environmentally sustainable way?
a. Recycling all recyclable packaging
b. Reducing consumption of all products
c. Buying products labeled "eco" or "green"
d. Buying the newest products available
e. Don't know
7. Imagine that we had to pay for all the costs associated with the goods we use every day. What would
go into calculating the true costs of a product?
a. The cost of raw materials to make the product
b. The cost of environmental damage caused by production
c. The cost of health care for employees who manufacture the product
d. All of the above
e. Don’t know
8. Which of the following best characterizes sustainability?
a. Social Justice
b. Environmental Stewardship
c. Economic Security
d. All three
e. Don't know
9. Define economic sustainability:
a. Distributing money and resources equally so that all can obtain basic human needs
b. Distributing money and resources based on what people can afford to buy
c. Eliminating money from the world so as to wipe out all greed
d. When cost equals revenue
e. I don't know
10. Which of the following is an example of social sustainability?
a. Corporations build factories in developing countries where environmental laws are less strict
b. The government dams a river, flooding a rural community, in order to generate hydro-power for
a nearby metropolitan area
c. Urban citizens pass a bill to have toxic waste taken to a rural community
d. Indigenous community is involved in setting a quota for the amount of wood that can be taken
from a protected forest near their village
e. I don't know
11. How important do you think sustainability is?
12. How important do you think it is to include sustainability learning in the Cal Poly classroom?
13. How well does Cal Poly teach sustainability?
14. What are some ways to infuse sustainability education in the classroom at Cal Poly? (Choose up to 3)
• Better marketing of sustainability classes
• Integrate sustainability topics into already existing classes
• Offer more sustainability classes in major
• Make sustainability a GE requirement (would not increase number of required units)
• Advise how sustainability education relates to career opportunities
• The university should make it a priority by allocating more funds to sustainability
• Professors should allocate more time to sustainability education
• Add first year sustainability education opportunities
• I don’t think we should make sustainability education more accessible
• Other, Explain:
15. What prevents you from receiving more sustainability instruction at Cal Poly? (Choose up to 3)
• I don’t have enough time
• It doesn’t fit with my major or academic goals
• I don’t care about sustainability
• I don’t know how to find the courses
• Cost
• I don’t have enough electives
• Cal Poly does not offer enough sustainability courses
• Courses are not well promoted
• Professors lack motivation
• Professors lack competency in subject
• The university does not prioritize funding
• Other, Explain:
16. During your time at Cal Poly, how many courses have you taken that address the topics presented in
this survey?
3 or more
In what way(s) might Cal Poly better engage students in discussing and making decisions about what
sustainable practices might be promoted on campus?

A brief description of how the literacy assessment was developed and/or when it was adopted:

To support the advancement of sustainability education on campus, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology formed an interdisciplinary faculty learning community in 2016 focused on “Teaching Sustainability Across the Curriculum.” This faculty group, representing four of six academic colleges, works to improve students’ sustainability learning through the creation and promotion of educational experiences based on current best practices. Within the group discussions, anecdotal evidence and faculty experiences pointed to a consensus that implementation of sustainability goals was at best limited in the current campus climate, despite ongoing institutional efforts. Therefore, a campus-wide survey was proposed to assess student and faculty sustainability knowledge and awareness in order to make more informed future decisions.
Concurrent with the development of the survey, Cal Poly applied for certification through AASHE/STARS (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education/Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) receiving a silver rating in February 2017. This rating considers six domains of university sustainability: Institutional characteristics, curriculum and research, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. Cal Poly received only 28.13 of 40 possible points in the curriculum section, with two notable curricular areas contributing to this result—the lack of sustainability-focused and -related academic courses available (6.13 of 14 points) and the absence of assessment of sustainability literacy (0 of 4 points). The results indicate that only 4.9% of courses at Cal Poly are considered sustainability course offerings. Zero points were scored in the category of sustainability literacy assessment, because, at the time of submission, an annual assessment of students’ sustainability knowledge did not exist. These scores reveal that while Cal Poly has theoretically dedicated itself to sustainability education, it is unclear how related policies and commitments materialize within the curriculum.
This study seeks to understand how the perception of barriers to and solutions for the integration of sustainability in teaching and learning correlates with sustainability knowledge, in order to identify opportunities for improving sustainability education. To achieve this goal, students and faculty from across the six colleges were assessed using qualitative methods to determine in-depth understanding of both sustainability knowledge and the identification and overcoming of barriers to integrating sustainability in higher education curriculum.

A brief description of how a representative sample was reached (if applicable) and how the assessment(s) were administered :

Selection of participants for the STARS Sustainability Literacy Assessment was done with the use of 25Live, a campus scheduling software tool. This site was used to identify classrooms that had an occupancy of over 75 people. Using 25Live, GE courses taught in these rooms were identified, and the course number and course instructor were recorded. These professors were contacted using an email template developed by the team, which informed of the purpose of the survey, the intent to survey the class, and the potential times for survey implementation should they opt to have their class participate. This email was sent to professors regarding 40 classes. These out of these 40, 20 classes were surveyed. These general education classes ranged in course level from 100-400 level classes. This method was used to increase the likelihood that all grade levels would be reached, and that all majors would be reached as well.

A Climate Change Action Research Group (CCARG) team member would be assigned to a class and would set up a time to survey the class with the professors consent. The class was surveyed by the team member saying a short scripted intro to the survey, which did not mention the intent of the survey or its topic. A link to the survey was written on the board for the class, and then they were given 5-7 minutes to complete the survey on their own electronic devices. All responses were collected in this manner, and in person with a CCARG Team member present.

A brief summary of results from the literacy assessment(s), including a description of any measurable changes over time:

There were 867 responses to the survey, giving a large sample of Cal Poly’s student population. The surveys first ten questions serve as the literacy assessment, and respondents were graded on their multiple choice answers. The average score was a 6.242. There were respondents from each college and each major. Score increased with the number of classes taken that taught sustainability topics, and the difference in score after taking three of more classes was statistically significant. There is a positive relationship between score on the assessment, and ranking of the importance of sustainability (participants were asked to rank the importance of sustainability on a 0-5 scale).

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

This work was done in partnership with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology Community of Practice Faculty members and the Climate Change Action Research Group (CCARG) students.

This work was done in partnership with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology Community of Practice Faculty members and the Climate Change Action Research Group (CCARG) students.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.