Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 74.33
Liaison Austin Eriksson
Submission Date Dec. 10, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

California State University, Northridge
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Johnson
Sustainability Program Analyst
Institute for 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::
Pre- and post-assessment to the same cohort or to representative samples in both a pre- and post-test

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:

2. Ozone forms a protective layer in the earth's upper atmosphere. What does ozone protect us from?
a. Acid rain
b. Climate change
c. Sudden changes in temperature
d. Harmful UV rays
e. Don't know

12. Many economists argue that electricity prices in the U.S. are too low because…
a. They do not reflect the costs of pollution from generating the electricity
b. Too many suppliers go out of business
c. Electric companies have a monopoly in their service area
d. Consumers spend only a small part of their income on energy
e. Don’t know

19. 80% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions result from:
a. agriculture
b. energy consumption
c. industrial processes
d. landfills
e. carbonated beverages

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

The assessment was based on the tool developed by Ohio State University’s Environmental and Social Sustainability Lab in which an initial 30 questions were established and given as a survey to 2,000 OSU undergraduates in 2012. Using Item Response Theory, the questions were analyzed and the question set was reduced to 16 questions. Ohio State then partnered with the University of Maryland in 2013 and tested another 3,000 students. From there, the question set was expanded to 28 questions (Zwickle et al 2014). This survey is now known as the Assessment of Sustainability Knowledge, or (ASK) survey. 18 of the questions in our study came directly from this survey. We added seven more based on subject matter covered in our sustainability program.

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

Students were surveyed in classes using Scantron forms. We focused on testing students in 1. large section General Education classes, in which students were tested once, and 2. Sustainability classes, in which students were surveyed both at the beginning and end of the semester.

Assessments administered to large section G.E. classes included students from all disciplines. Students were asked to indicate their major and year in school. In addition all sections of SUST-designated classes (core classes for the Sustainability minor) were assessed pre and post course for three years. Almost 3,000 students were surveyed.

The sample is representative of all undergraduates at the university. The breakdown by college of those tested is shown below, with the % of students majoring in each college shown in parentheses. Clearly each college is represented according to its student population:
Arts, Media,Communication:15% (13%)
Business & Economics: 13% (17%)
Education: 3% (5%)
Engineering & Computer Science: 11% (11%)
Health & Human Development: 14% (18%)
Humanities: 7% (5%)
Science & Mathematics: 7% (8%)
Social & Behavioral Sciences: 22% (17%)
Undeclared: 9% (6%)

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

To assess the sustainability literacy of students at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), we administered a modified version of the Assessment of Sustainability Knowledge (ASK) to 2,993 students in 60 courses over 5 semesters. CSUN is a large minority-serving institution with a regional focus. Within the general student population, students gain about 2.7 percentage points each year as they progress from freshman to senior year. For each sustainability-related course they take (up to 3), they also gain an average of 2.7 percentage points. Within our core sustainability courses, students gain an average of 11.6 percentage points from pre-test to post-test. Students enter CSUN with a statistically significant gender gap in sustainability knowledge with males having average scores 7.6 percentage points higher than females, but the gender gap closes completely by completion of coursework in a sustainability minor program. Our students enter college with less sustainability knowledge than those in two other more selective institutions who conducted similar surveys (Ohio State University and Wartburg College) but gain knowledge at a similar rate. We also find that students with more prior sustainability knowledge self-select into sustainability courses and that students from different majors improve sustainability knowledge at different rates when taking related courses.

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

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.