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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 69.67
Liaison Trina Innes
Submission Date June 30, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Alberta
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 4.00 Kurt Borth
Project Planner
Office of Sustainability
"---" 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::
Standalone evaluation without a follow-up assessment of the same cohort or representative samples

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:

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

The survey was developed using the Assessment of Sustainability Knowledge (ASK) as a basis, a tool developed at Ohio State University and the University of Maryland. We contacted the Ohio State University ASK team and were given permission to adapt the 28 questions in ASK to a Canadian context (i.e. remove U.S.-based questions). We then added questions of local and Canadian context to arrive at a total of 18 questions. These 18 questions assess environmental, social and economic sustainability areas of knowledge.

The final version of the assessment was vetted within the Office of Sustainability. The survey was distributed on April 18, 2017 through a campus-wide email to all University of Alberta undergraduates.

ASK was developed by:

Environmental & Social Sustainability Lab at the School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University; and the Office of Sustainability, Ohio State University (Adam Zwickle, Tomas Koontz, Andy Bodine (Department of Psychology), Kristina Slagle); in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability, University of Maryland (Mark Stewart & Nicole Horvath).


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

The data was collected online through the Sustainability Literacy Assessment Survey. The survey was sent to all undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Alberta in the winter 2017 term. The participants were given from April 18 to April 30, 2017 to complete the survey, at which point the survey was deactivated. Each eligible student was sent a link to the survey and only one entry per IP address was allowed. Proper steps were taken to ensure confidentiality and anonymity.

397 students completed the assessment, providing a 4.9% margin of error with 95% confidence level.

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

The attached file goes over each question on the literacy assessment. The questions that provided the most difficulty for students (65% or less correct responses) were:

"Which of the following is the most commonly used definition of economic sustainability?" Only 65% of students correctly answered the question "Long term profitability" and 20% answered "When costs equal revenue" and 10% answered "Don't know".

"Economists may argue that electricity prices in Alberta are too low because..." 64% answered correctly "They do not reflect the costs of pollution from generating the electricity" while 13% answered incorrectly "Electric companies have a monopoly in their service area" and 15% answered "Don't know."

"What is the most common cause of pollution of streams and rivers?" 65% answered correctly "Surface water running off yards, city streets, paved lots, and farm fields," while 15% answered incorrectly "Waste dumped by factories" and 8% answered "Dumping of garbage by cities."

The second worst performance came on a question that has implications for social sustainability and knowledge regarding local Canadian indigenous awareness. The question asked students if they were aware of which indigenous groups are part of the Treaty Six group that encompasses Edmonton and the University of Alberta lands. Only 55% of students answered correctly with "Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, plus others." 13% answered incorrectly "Ojibway, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe, Mohawk, Assiniboine, Siksika plus others" and 26% answered "Don't Know," the highest of any question.

The worst performance came to the question "Which of the following is a leading cause of the depletion of fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean?" Only 45% answered correctly "Fishermen seeking to maximize their catch" while almost 30% answered "Ocean pollution" and 16% answered "Global climate change."

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.