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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.20
Liaison Kimberly Williams
Submission Date May 14, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

George Washington University
ER-13: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Lisa Benton-Short
Director of the Sustainability Academic Program
Department of Geography
"---" 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:
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A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment :

We use a concept map tool, not a series of questions.


A brief description of how the assessment was developed:

The assessment tool was developed by the faculty of Sustainability 1001 along with Cheryl Beil, Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Assessment.


A brief description of how the assessment was administered:

In Fall 2012, GW began to access the sustainability literacy of our undergraduate students through the use of a pre-test and post-test concept map. We survey all Sustainability 1001 students at the start of the semester, then again at the end of the term to assess how well students have mastered important terms, concepts, and processes in sustainability. The class is taught each semester, so we have been gathering data on sustainability literacy for hundreds of GW undergraduates.

We administer this literacy pre/post-test in Sustainability 1001 “Introduction to Sustainability” for three important reasons.

First, this class is geared toward freshmen and the pre-test helps us understand how much they know about sustainability coming into the university so that we can well calibrate instruction. This course does not typically have declared Sustainability Minors, but freshman students who have not declared their majors or minors. Many of the students have no previous understanding of sustainability. For this reason we consider that this assessment is conducted on a broad student audience.

Second, this class has a diverse range of students that actually reflects the members of the undergraduate population. The class enrollment is 100 students, and the breakdown of students by schools matches the wider school-based distribution for all undergraduates (for example, 70% of students in the Sustainability 1001 class are in Columbian College, 12% are in Elliot School of International Affairs, 8% are in the School of Business and so on). For this reason we consider the assessment to be of a representative sample of the GW undergraduate population.

Third, by testing literacy within a course, we are able to assess what and how well students learn over the course of the semester, something we feel is valuable to enhancing the curriculum.

+ Date Revised: July 28, 2015

A brief summary of results from the assessment:

Improvements in knowledge are clearly seen in the post-test, particularly in improved understanding of the interdisciplinary nature and complexity of sustianability problems and solutions. That said, using a concept mapping tool is complicated and makes quantitative assessments difficult. One way we use this assessment is to provide qualitative feedback to the sustainability faculty to help them better understand instructional needs.


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