Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 56.72
Liaison Christie-Joy Hartman
Submission Date May 12, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

James Madison University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Christine DeMars
Professor and Senior Assessment Specialist
Graduate Psychology and Center for Assessment and Research
"---" 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:

Sample questions are below. The full test contains 50 items. The remaining items, which are confidential, are similar.

1. Based on the graph below [graph], which sector of the US economy had the largest decrease in emissions from 1990 to 2008?
a) Agriculture
b) Industry
c) Electricity generation
d) Transportation

2. The following data [table formatting lost in reporting tool] are most consistent with which of the following:
Indicator / Change from 1950–1990
World population / increased 2.2 times
Food (grain production) / increased 2.7 times
Energy use / increased 4.4 times
Economy / increased 5.1 times

a) Population is growing at the same rate as consumption.
b) Population is growing faster than the rate of consumption.
c) Population is growing slower than the rate of consumption.

3. The tragedy of the commons refers to situations where individuals, acting independently in their own self-interest, can ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even though exploitation of shared resources is harmful to everyone. Consider the example of crab fishing in Alaska. In an effort to protect limited resources regulators have shortened the fishing season to less than a week per year. As a result, fishermen all deliver their catch at the same time. This frenetic race to catch as much as possible in this short window of time results in lowered prices for the fisherman, increased costs to the fishermen, and increased danger for fishermen. And even with the very short season in place, the total catch may still be above the sustainable limit. In this case, which of the following strategies might potentially overcome the dilemmas inherent in the tragedy of the commons?
a) Increase the length of the season but at the same time increase the cost of fishing licenses.
b) Shorten the season and increase the cost of fishing licenses.
c) Trust the long-term self-interest of the individuals to maintain the resource.
d) Lengthen the season, but at the same time issue individual quotas for total season catch limits based on the number of licenses requested and the total available harvest.

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

A subcommittee of the JMU Institute for Stewardship of the Natural World Education and Scholarship Committee created the instrument. Faculty from multiple disciplines participated.

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

Incoming first-year students are required to participate in an assessment day. They are randomly assigned to assessments, of which the Environmental Stewardship Reasoning and Knowledge Assessment (ESRKA) is one, by the last digits of their student ID numbers. This random assignment ensures the samples are representative of the student body. 18 months later, students take the same assessments. Assessments are administered in proctored conditions.

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

The most recent cohort with both pre- and post-tests took the pre-test in August 2014 and the post-test in February 2016. Matched pre- and post-test scores were available for 413 students. Average learning gains were about 5 percentage points (mean score 65.6% pretest, 70.6% post-test.

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.