Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.38
Liaison Olivia Shehan
Submission Date Nov. 13, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Wellesley College
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Dorothea Von Herder
Sustainability Coordinator
"---" 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:

Attached to the previous question is a document containing the entirety of Wellesley's sustainability literacy assessment.

Two example questions from the assessment can be seen below:

Greenhouse gases (GHG) have an effect on global climate. Which of the following statements about GHG is FALSE?
o GHG trap infrared radiation in the atmosphere. (1)
o Without GHG global average temperatures would decrease to 59° F or 15° C. (2)
o The burning of fossil fuels has caused an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (3)
o There are many different GHG, not just carbon dioxide. (4)

Which are the two primary sources of electricity production in Massachusetts?
o Natural Gas and Nuclear Power (1)
o Natural Gas and Petroleum (2)
o Petroleum and Coal (3)
o Nuclear and Hydroelectric & Renewables (4)

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

Wellesley’s literacy assessment was developed through the joint efforts of the Office of Sustainability, the Advisory Sustainability Committee, and the Office of Institutional Research. Beginning in November of 2017, questions were vetted by the aforementioned stakeholders and a student focus group over several months. Additionally, the Office of Sustainability contacted the STARS team to decide upon an acceptable structure for the timing and administration of Wellesley’s literacy assessment. The first assessment was released on April 17th, 2018 and the second was released on Sept. 1st, 2018.

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

The literacy assessment was rolled out on Qualtrics, an online survey platform. The Office of Institutional Research emailed all students a link to the survey on April 17th, 2018 alongside an explanation of the survey’s importance to the STARS report. The survey remained open for two weeks.

The completed Spring of 2018 survey served as a post-assessment. In the Fall of 2018, all incoming freshmen were administered the same survey, which served as a pre-assessment. Comparing the incoming class’s scores to those of the entire school helps the institution gauge how much Wellesley contributes to building students’ sustainability literacy and what knowledge areas need to be improved. The goal is to give faculty and the Sustainability Office a clear understanding of gaps in sustainability literacy and which programs we offer at the campus are popular with students versus the ones that are underused.

A representative sample of Wellesley students completed the spring 2018 survey. The survey was emailed to all Wellesley students, and completion of the survey was incentivized by a raffle. As a result, a little over 20% of the student body completed the survey. Survey completion was evenly spread out by grade and the percentage of survey takers from each area of study (STEM, Humanities, and Social Sciences) matched Wellesley’s typical spread of study area.

The same survey was taken by 50% all incoming first-years on Sept. 1st, 2018 at the conclusion of the Orientation week. This survey was also incentivized with a give-away steel mug. This pre-assessment survey also provides a representative sample of the entire college because the diversity of majors in an incoming class usually matches the diversity of majors in the entire school.

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

The literacy assessment included ten questions on sustainability literacy in addition to three questions meant to gauge sustainability engagement on campus. The results discussed here will be specific to the ten literacy questions.

On the Spring post-assessment, the students scored, on average, 10.79 out of 15. Performance on the literacy assessment was similar across all areas of study. Social Studies majors scored an average of 10.63, Humanities scored an average of 10.83, and STEM scored an average of 10.82. The results indicate that Wellesley students are fairly sustainability literate but have room for improvement.

On the Fall pre-assessment survey, the first years scored slightly less than the older class grades an average of 10.63 points out of 15 with a standard deviation of 1.73. The results indicate that the majority of the Wellesley students, as well as the incoming Class of 2022, are fairly sustainability literate but, could use some improvement.

The sustainability coordinator developed some recommendations on how to improve literacy in areas students did not score well. Recommendations pertain ES curriculum and visibility of sustainability campus programs for increasing literacy and culture of sustainability.

Recommendations go along with the 10 questions of the assessment:

1) Increase climate change education and scientific terms in the curriculum across all class grades. Elaborate on the basic concepts of climate change and discuss recent IPCC report from Oct. 2018.

2) All students underestimate their GHG footprint resulting from transatlantic flights. Advanced class grades have a higher awareness of the negative impact car usage has on their personal carbon footprints than first-years. First years overestimate the impact of buying electricity from renewable sources. In general, students need more information on which personal choices on and off campus can help them effectively decrease their personal footprint. Since seems to be prevalent in first-years, it’s recommended to have this information incorporated in any kind of orientation activity or early on in their curriculum.

3) In general, all Wellesley students are not knowledgeable about Massachusetts’ energy sources which are Natural Gas and Nuclear Power. This this is likely because the majority of our students are not from Massachusetts and the students, in general, have very little knowledge about their states energy portfolio. It’s recommended that students across the board are exposed to comparative data in regards to regional differences in states’ energy portfolios and the implications for Wellesley’s own energy supply through MLP. Massachusetts is one of the states that support the Renewable Portfolio Standard that demands utilities to provide a percentage of clean energy.

4) The question of world population growth trend between 1950, 1999, and 2050 is covered in many media and therefore all students reflect a high understanding of this pressing issue. It’s critical to contextualize this exponential growth with students’ own consumption of natural resources such as water and energy on and off campus.

5) We need to do a better job of educating students about how the college uses such an important local resource. Given the fact that long showers are a primary source of water consumption, it’s critical that water scarcity and human behavioral change is discussed in the classroom and incorporated in the Residential Life education at the beginning of each semester.

6) Both, pre-and post-assessment students show fair knowledge in this issue. In general, students perhaps overestimate the issue of water scarcity because it’s in an emerging issue in the developing world as draughts trigger harvest shortfalls and migrations widely covered in the media. It’s important to deepen students’ awareness of local water resources being limited. Education/excursions to the Charles River watershed in which the College resides could strengthen students’ knowledge of climate change effects in their direct vicinity.

7) The detrimental effects on water, land, and air by raising cattle is commonly known and brought to the public’s attention by the organic food movement. All students do know about the implications and the benefits of less meat. On a college food provider level, students would profit from having more vegetarian choices in the cafeteria which is a common complaint. We need to find a way how we can have a broader conversation on reducing over processed meats and increase vegetables and fruits in the cafeterias alongside an education campaign on the benefits for human health and the planet.

8) Both, pre-and post-assessment students show did very well on this question. Habitat loss by human development could be contextualized with the extraction of natural gas and fossil fuels in some of the US states in comparison to Massachusetts.

9) Environmental and social justice is an important issue to many of Wellesley’s students. It’s critical that we continue to offer students’ direct exposure to these issues by civic engagement opportunities. Unfortunately, a small percentage of students at Wellesley volunteer outside the college. A mandatory 10-hour civic service by students and staff would be a solution to how we could increase awareness and impact of Wellesley College in the community.

10) Disparities in social justice inside and outside the US are a commonly covered topic in Wellesley’s classes. The notion that “disparities in taxation” the US tax code is causing social justice issues is a topic that is constantly discussed along political party lines. It’s important to remind students of the fact that their vote can influence these societal disparities.

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

Additional documentation to support the submission:

See the attached document for more detailed post-test results.

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.