Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 49.46
Liaison Margaret Bounds
Submission Date March 2, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Connecticut College
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 4.00 Chad Jones
Director of Sustainability
Office of 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:

The questions and responses are in the attached file.

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

The assessment was developed by a sub-group of our Environmental Model Committee. Once we had a draft of the assessment, we had a number of students, faculty and staff test the assessment and provide us with suggested changes before rolling it out to the entire campus population. These questions were first used in 2013. This is a joint Sustainability Literacy Survey and Sustainability Culture Survey. Literacy questions only are included in the attached file (additional questions are included in EN-6). One major goal of our survey is to gauge to what extent the college community understands the holistic concept of sustainability (i.e. that it must consider social and economic aspects of issues in addition to environmental ones) since this has been a major educational focus over the past five years.

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

The assessment was administered through the Office of Institutional Research and was sent out to the entire student body. One reminder email was sent out a week later to those who had not yet completed the survey. We have no campus mechanism for making the survey mandatory, so we relied on voluntary participation. We did not promote this survey in sustainability related venues to reduce over-representation. We also included questions about department or major and personal commitment to sustainability as a way to assess how representative the sample was. Preliminary analysis of the distribution by major is that the sciences were slightly over-represented, but that the distribution generally matched the distribution of majors. We had a 15% response rate among students

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

Although we collected these literacy data for all campus groups, these results focus only on responses from students.

Overall, students recognize that all three areas, social justice, economics and environment are related to sustainability, with at least 87% answering that each area is somewhat or very related. Clearly there is still a stronger association of the environment with sustainability (90% indicating very related) than for economics (60%) or social justice (58%). This suggests we still have work to do in helping students understand the holistic sustainability framework.

Our follow up questions about how specific topics relate to sustainability confirms these general patterns. Issues related to the environment (e.g. climate change, renewable energy) were seen as very related to sustainability by more than 90% of respondents. Issues seen as more economic or social focused (e.g. diversity, access to healthcare, fair living wages) were only seen as very related to sustainability by 40-50% of respondents. This suggests that students are not seeing the interconnections of these issues to all three areas of sustainability.

In terms of self-reported knowledge about these same issues, the response what much more variable. Knowledge of climate change topped the list (with 55% reporting a strong understanding) while issues such as diversity (42%) and access to education (39%) were also relatively high. The lowest level of knowledge were for areas more seemingly focused on economics (local economy: 17%, access of capital for small business: 11%, and access to job training: 14%) but some more “environmental” topics were also fairly low (e.g. natural resource management: 26%). In all these numbers point to considerable room for additional learning across all of these areas.

Learning about sustainability at the college has positively impacted personal sustainability practices for 53.5% of students that responded. They pointed to a number of educational events, but especially classes as instrumental in helping them change behavior. Almost half of the student respondents have been engaged with community groups related to economics, social justice and/or the environment over the past year. Given that community engagement is a major focus of our new general education curriculum, this is something we want to continue to monitor in future surveys.

Finally, most of the students feel committed to the three areas of sustainability personally, although less so to economic stability (62% very or somewhat committed) than to the environment (85%) or social justice (78%). Although college students in general are likely to be committed to these causes, this may indicate that we had a higher response rate from those already interested in the environment and social justice. Most of the students believe that Connecticut College is not as committed to any of the three areas as they are – although there were a wide range of responses.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

The assessment was administered in February 2018.

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.