Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 69.95
Liaison Trey McDonald
Submission Date March 11, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

University of San Diego
ER-13: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Paula Morreale
Sustainability Coordinator
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Has the institution conducted a sustainability literacy assessment?:
Yes

Did the assessment include a baseline evaluation of students and then a follow-up evaluation of the same cohort?:
Yes

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment:
A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment :
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A brief description of how the assessment was developed:

The University of San Diego began releasing a sustainability literacy assessment starting in 2013. The initial pilot was carried out with a sample of incoming freshmen, with the view of expanding into the entire campus population. Selecting a sample of freshmen allowed the university, and the Office of Sustainability to gauge the level of sustainability knowledge of its incoming students, and allows us to tailor our sustainability education and outreach programs to target knowledge gaps and track the development of the student population through their time at USD. When expanded to the entire university community, the assessment will reflect whether and how students developed in terms of their knowledge and awareness of sustainability.
The questionnaire used in the pilot was limited to 10 questions. These questions pertained to every day choices a student will make to be more sustainable, as well as basic sustainability issues that can be considered as general knowledge (such as what emissions trading is or, expected sea level rise by the end of the century). The next edition of the survey will be expanded to include a self-evaluation of perceived understanding of issues (on a numbered scale) of various sustainability issues prior to the question on specific issues.
This will further enhance the survey effectiveness by showing student perceptions. For example, if students rate themselves as having little knowledge of a topic that they subsequently showed they have little knowledge on, the approach to providing that knowledge is different to if that student had rated their knowledge on the topic to be high.


A brief description of how the assessment was administered:

The assessment was administered via an online survey service (survey monkey) to a sample of incoming freshmen. This was done as a pilot with a view of expanding to the entire student population. The 10 questions were all multiple choice and had 3-5 answer options. Answers were collected anonymously via the online survey tool which provides final statistics. The results showed the trends of the student population in general, as opposed to the knowledge of individual students. This is acceptable as programs are focused on the whole population and not one- on- one.


A brief summary of results from the assessment:

The results showed that most students had knowledge of basic sustainability concepts. However, it showed that many of them didn’t necessarily understand the criticality or magnitude of those concepts. For example, all participants at least partially understood the various ways in which energy and water can be saved or wasted and the positive effects of local sourcing of food and public transportation. However their perceptions regarding the severity of climate change issues were underestimated. For the question
According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment report of 2008, estimate for the projected sea level rise by the end of this century (2100) is
a. 2 -14 inches
b. 3.4-12 inches
c. 4.6-13.7 inches
d. 7.1-23 inches
All students picked a. 2-4 inches (best of the 4 options), when the actual estimate was the worst. A larger more comprehensive survey with a larger sample should and will be carried out to get a more accurate depiction of student sustainability literacy. However this survey reveals a potential dimension where campus sustainability education work could be focused: building an awareness of the degree to which sustainability issues affects the planet and lives.


The website URL where information about the literacy assessment is available:

While a follow-up assessment has not been done (since this survey was only implemented this year), we are planning to administer the survey each year, as noted above.

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.