Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 61.98
Liaison Michael Amadori
Submission Date March 2, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Hobart and William Smith Colleges
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Robin Lewis
Assistant Professor
Environmental Studies
"---" 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)?:
Yes

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

This assessment was developed by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis in coordination with other faculty members teaching in the HWS Sustainable Living and Learning Program (SLLC) for first-year students. With the help of an undergraduate research assistant, Lewis queried the literature and internet to find examples of sustainability literacy surveys. From these, Lewis and the research assistant compiled a list of possible questions and then circulated to the SLLC faculty as well as the HWS Sustainability Manager. Following their feedback, the sustainability literacy survey instrument was finalized and submitted to the HWS Institutional Review Board for review and approval.


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

Surveys are administered during the first month of the fall semester to incoming students. Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis and other members of her research team, which included undergraduate students and staff, visited the first-year seminars of those faculty members who agreed to host them. After reading a brief disclaimer statement that explained the project as well as the roles and responsibilities of study participants, researchers provided first-year students with a paper copy of the sustainability literacy to complete over a period of 10 to 15 minutes. Once students were done, the researchers collected the completed survey instruments and returned them to Lewis for data entry. Each class at HWS contains 625-650 students and the pre-survey is completed by approximately 70% of the first-year class.

A follow-up (post) survey is administered using an online survey tool (Baseline/Campus Labs) during spring semester. The post survey participation rate has ranged from less than 1% when we started our surveys to 25% in our most recent school year.


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

Students were asked asked on a 1 to 5 scale their level of concern about 12 issues of sustainability. The average concern rate went from 3.8 at the start of the year to 4.3 at the end. This shows they learned and recognized the challenges we face ahead as a society. Also, when asked about over 25 different sustainable lifestyle choices they practice their scores rose from 11.3 to 13.8 with the top five sustainability related activities/choices first-year students reported are turning off lights when not in use (80.9%), using a reusable water bottle (69.3%), practicing the three R’s (reduce/reuse/recycle; 68.4%), drinking tap water instead of bottled water (66.0%), and using reusable shopping bags (61.1%).

Lastly, when only surveying students in our Sustainable Living and Learning Seminar, our data show students developed an increase awareness of sustainability in their first-year of school. For example, when asked if they “make an effort to be knowledgeable about sustainability issues” only 58.8% of students said yes at the start of the year while that rose to 80.4% by the end of the year. Similarly, when starting at HWS 78.4% of students said their “daily behaviors reflect a concern about sustainability issues” but by the end of their first-year that rose to 92.2%.


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