Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.64
Liaison Kimberly Post
Submission Date Feb. 22, 2022

STARS v2.2

Saint Joseph's College - ME
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Greg Teegarden
Natural Sciences
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of the sustainability literacy of its students?:

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 list or sample of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment or the website URL where the assessment tool may be found:
1) An example of a renewable energy resource would be
a) American coal
b) nuclear power
c) electricity from wind turbines
d) shale oil

2) In the U.S., what do we currently do with the waste generated by nuclear power plants?
a) re-use it as nuclear fuel
b) sell it to other countries
c) shoot it into space
d) store and monitor the waste

3) The largest source of air pollutants is presently
a) combustion of fossil fuels
b) volatile organics emitted by forests
c) wind erosion of contaminated soils
d) particulates from construction and development

4) The largest source of freshwater pollution, affecting the greatest percentage of streams, rivers, and lakes is
a) fugitive solid waste from landfills
b) toxins from factories and industry
c) municipal wastewater treatment plants
d) agricultural and urban surface runoff

5) Sustainable forest management could be defined as
a) setting aside forests as wilderness, off-limits to the public
b) harvesting at a rate equal to the rate of new growth/regeneration
c) producing lumber for nearby communities
d) harvesting as needed to maintain high employment in timber industries

6) An example of an ecosystem service, a benefit provided to society by ecosystems, in the state of Maine would be
a) ecotourism
b) natural resource production (fish, timber)
c) pine state enterprise zones
d) a) and b)
e) all of the above

7) Of the three “R’s” below, which is the most important (the one to do first)?
a) re-use products
b) reduce consumption of products
c) recycle used products
d) all equally important

8) The most abundant greenhouse gas emitted by human activities is
a) sulfur oxides (SOx)
b) carbon dioxide (CO2)
c) helium (He)
d) chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

9) Which country is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases?
a) the United States of America
b) Russia
c) India
d) China

10) Endless growth of human populations is considered unsustainable because
a) there are insufficient resources to support continuous growth
b) Social Security funding will be exhausted
c) we will run out of space for housing
d) the global economy cannot generate jobs fast enough

11) The most significant driver of species extinctions and loss of biodiversity globally is
a) overhunting/overfishing
b) conversion of natural habitats into human-dominated (farms/agriculture, urban spawl)
c) toxic contamination from air pollution
d) interbreeding of domesticated and wild stocks of plants and animals

12) The overall impact of human populations on the environment depends on
a) the total number of people
b) the per capita consumption of resources
c) the technology we use (old/dirty vs. modern/clean)
d) a) and c)
e) b) and c)
f) all of the above

13) the most commonly used definition of sustainable development is
a) Creating a government welfare system that ensures universal access to education, health care, and social services
b) setting aside resources in perpetuity, never to be used
c) meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
d)designing communities for maximal economic and socio-demographic diversity

14) Market-based solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions work by
a) regressive taxes that punish people for polluting
b) progressively increasing the cost of fossil fuels, causing people to find ways to use less
c) creating enforceable regulations that force companies to stop polluting
d) providing tax subsidies for development of non-polluting energy sources
e) a) and c)
f) b) and d)

15) Use of groundwater aquifers for agricultural irrigation is presently unsustainable because
a) groundwater is suffering from widespread fracking contamination
b) groundwater is being withdrawn faster than it is being recharged
c) factories and powerplants are using excessive groundwater for cooling
d) GMO crops require more water than non-GMO crops

16) Increasing movement of humans, goods and services results in unintended introductions of harmful invasive species. In Maine, examples of invasive species that threaten ecosystems and our economy include
a) milfoil
b) the Asian shore crab
c) the wooly adelgid
d) all of the above

17) Over-use of pesticides on crops can be unsustainable because
a) it becomes too expensive for farmers to keep it up
b) it forces natural detoxification mechanisms to speed up
c) it can promote pesticide resistance, creating pests that are harder to eradicate
d) it creates unfair economic conditions for organic farmers

18) The Gulf of Maine is warming, from climate change, faster than almost any other body of water worldwide. This is a problem because
a) native species may be forced to migrate to colder water, or perish if they cannot
b) tourists expect cold ocean water, and will consider warmer water “contaminated”
c) this will affect the amount of clean energy available from offshore wind farms and wave/tidal generators
d) sea level will rise faster in Maine than other parts of the U.S.

19) The stratospheric ozone layer has been depleted by certain chlorinated pollutants. This is a problem because the ozone layer provides vital protection from
a) acid rain
b) climate change
c) cosmic debris
d) ultraviolet light radiation

20) Consumption of which of the following foods has the greatest negative overall environmental impact?
a. corn
b. eggs
c. lettuce
d. beef
e. I don’t know

21) Approximately how many of the world’s roughly 7 billion people go hungry or are malnourished?
a. 1 million
b. 10. Million
c. 100 million
d. 1 billion
e. 3.5 billion

22) The American college and university presidents’ climate commitment (ACUPCC) pledges to achieve carbon neutrality by a certain date. What must we do to meet that commitment here at Saint Joseph's College?
a) reduce greenhouse gas emissions through switching to renewable energy sources and increasing efficiency
b) pursue ways of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions (pull them out of the air)
c) divest (take investments away) from any polluting corporation
d) a) and b)
e) all of the above

A brief description of how the literacy assessment was developed and/or when it was adopted:
Sustainability Literacy Assessment
At Saint Joseph's College
Organizing principles (Adopted 2016)
The scope of the assessment questions and mode of delivery are derived from the STARS Technical Manual, Academics credit, AC 6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment. This document provides unambiguous guidelines for the structure of a literacy assessment.
In Section B. Criteria, the manual states that the assessment measures “knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges”, and does not measure “sustainability culture (i.e. values, behaviors, beliefs, and awareness of campus sustainability initiatives) or student engagement in sustainability related programs and activities”, which are to be treated in the Campus Engagement credit (EN 6: Assessing Sustainability Culture). Thus, the questions focus on what students know about sustainability, rather than attitudes or engagement, and does not cover an overly broad definition that would for example include economic sustainability divorced from environmental concerns.
In section D. Scoring, the manual states that full 4 point credit is awarded for pre- and post-assessment, defined thusly; “Pre-and post-assessments measure student learning by comparing results from tests conducted at the start and end of the course [or program].” (N.B. learning is one of the things that differentiates AC 6 from EN 6). The full 4 points requires pre- and post-assessment of the entire student body. Given the definition of pre-and post- course, the most applicable and appropriate assessment is at the beginning and end of the ES 100 core course. This also captures every student likely to graduate from Saint Joseph's College.
It does not make as much sense to also assess students at the start of first-year and again as seniors, since they are not all part of a “program,” mandatory participation is not feasible (thus not capturing a sufficient unbiased or representative sample of the students), and administering the same assessment four times (first year, start of ES 100, end of ES 100, and senior) is too redundant and unnecessarily cumbersome. Limiting the assessment to pre- and post-ES 100 satisfies all of the requirements in the STARS technical manual and avoids any disqualifications. For the specific mode of delivery, we can either issue paper assessments in ES 300 classes, or perhaps preferably, via a Brightspace™ quiz online.
Existing sustainability literacy assessments generally take the form of multiple choice examinations. From Section G. Standards and Terms, “Literacy assessments are predominantly composed of items with “correct” and “incorrect” responses in contrast to assessments of sustainability culture (i.e. values, behaviors, beliefs and awareness) that are predominantly composed of items with no single “correct” response.” There are some common questions in use by various institutions (note that Ohio State used questions taken from the University of Maryland, even including Maryland-specific questions!). The best approach would be to use some questions with themes common to all higher education institutions, and some region-specific questions, making the test unique to and reflective of Saint Joseph's College and the region. Twenty questions is on the longer end of the spectrum for a test, and should be sufficient for our purposes. The test should explicitly not be graded, i.e. should not count towards an academic grade, but simply measure literacy pre- and post-course.

A brief description of how a representative sample was reached (if applicable) and how the assessment(s) were administered :
Assessment has been administered using our learning management system to students enrolled in Ecology and the Environmental Challenge (ES 100) at the beginning of their time in the course, and again at the end of the course. Thus the literacy assessment determines whether increases in student sustainability literacy does or does not increase as a result of participating in the required sustainability course. The ES 100 course is a required core course for all students in the campus program, thus reaching the entire student body of on-campus students at some point in their undergraduate career. Graduate online students may not all be reached by the sustainability literacy assessment, but the predominance of full time equivalent students are assessed through the ES 100 required courses.

A brief summary of results from the literacy assessment(s):
Modest improvement in student sustainability literacy(10-15% higher scores, from approximately 60% to 75% between the pre- and post-assessment) have been regularly observed over the last 4 years. An example of a spreadsheet for a course section with their scores is included below in the additional documentation to support the submission.

Website URL where information about the sustainability literacy assessment is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:
Data source(s) and notes about 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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.