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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 Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Eric O'Brien
Submission Date March 1, 2013
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.1

University of Northern Iowa
ER-13: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Kathy Scholl
Assoc Professor
Health, Physical Educ & Leisure Services
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Has the institution conducted a sustainability literacy assessment?:

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

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment:

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment :

The Literacy Assessment at UNI combined an environmental and sustainability literacy assessment into one survey tool.

Evaluation Tool
The purpose of this survey is to understand the environmental awareness, knowledge, and attitudes of University of Northern Iowa students. The results from this survey will be important in UNI’s efforts to improve environmental practices and curricula on this campus. This survey is entirely voluntary, and your identity will remain anonymous. The results of the survey will be used only by the Research and Evaluation class and should take you about 10-15 minutes to complete. Please answer each question to the best of your ability.

Section 1. Knowledge

1. From what source does Iowa derive most of its energy?
.Through burning coal
. Nuclear power
. Solar energy
. Hydro electric power plants
. Wind power

2. What is the main source of water pollution in the Midwest?
.Waste disposal from the cities
.Surface water running off yards, city streets, paved lots and farm fields
.Trash and litter washed into the water from surrounding areas
.Waste disposal from factories and industries

3. Which of the following is a renewable resource?
.Iron ore

4. Ozone forms a protective layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere. What does ozone protect us from?
.Acid rain
.Global warming
.Sudden changes in temperature
.Harmful, cancer-causing sunlight

5. Where does most of the garbage in the U.S. end up?
.Recycling centers

6. Which of the following is considered a hazardous household waste?
.Plastic packaging
.Spoiled food

7. What is the most common cause of animal extinction today?
.Habitat destruction
.Over hunting
.Climate change

8. Scientists have not determined the best solution for disposing of nuclear waste. In the U.S. what do we do with it now?
.Use it as nuclear fuel
.Sell it to other countries
.Dump it in landfills
.Store and monitor it

9. Which of the following is NOT a function of wetlands in the Midwest:
.To serve as a sponge, soaking up excessive run-off water
.To filter out run-off water to remove soil and nutrients
.To recharge underground aquifers
.To provide habitat for wildlife

10. There are many different kinds of animals and plants that live in many different types of environments.
What word is best used to describe this:
.Biodiversity (Over)

Section 2. Your Environmental Behavior

Mark the box that best corresponds with your current behaviors about the given statement. (Check one) Always True; Sometimes True; Rarely True; Never True

I use other forms of transportation instead of driving to cut down on air pollution.
I donate personal time towards a local clean-up or other environmental efforts.
When it is cold in my house, I put on an (extra) sweater so I don’t have to turn up the thermostat.
When the cashier gives me a plastic bag in a store, I accept it.
When I use a plastic bag once, I throw it away.
After unwrapping a present, I keep the wrapping paper and use it again.
When my batteries run down, I take them to a special location to recycle.
I make a conscious effort to buy organic products.
I make a special effort to recycle.
I celebrate Earth Day.

Section 3: Demographics:

Gender: Male______ Female_______

Age: ________

College Credit Classification: (Check () one)






Did you transfer to UNI from another College or University?

Yes______ No_______

College Associated with your Major: (Check () one) BD21301_

___ Business Administration

___ Education

___ Humanities & Fine Arts

___ Natural Sciences

___ Social & Behavioral Sciences

___ General Studies

___ Undecided

___ Unsure

Please write down the department(s) associated with your
major (e.g., LYHS):


What kind of environment did you spend the majority of
your childhood?

_____Rural Farm

_____Rural Non-Farm (2,500 people or fewer)

_____Small Town (2,501 and 25,000 people)

_____Urban Area (25,001 and 100,000 people)

_____Metropolitan Area (More than 100,000 people)

_____Other: _______________________________

How many classes dealing with the environment have you
taken while in college?


_____1-4 classes

_____5-9 classes

_____10 or more classes

Final Thoughts: Name 3 environmental issues that most
concern you (please use other side if needed).

A brief description of how the assessment was developed:

The Literacy Survey of Students at UNI was designed, distributed and analyzed to gather information about the students’ environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The questions the survey was trying to answer were 1). What is the level of environmental knowledge of the students at the University of Northern Iowa? and 2). Does the number of environmental classes a student has taken correlate with their knowledge score?

The following steps made up the survey process:
• Step 1:Topic agreement
The Research and Evaluation for Leisure Services instructor, Kathy Scholl, suggested the topic of environmental literacy to the class. The students in the class had the option to reject that topic if they chose. The class agreed the environmental literacy would be a good topic relevant to today’s society.

• Step 2: Gathering information on the topic
After the topic of environmental literacy was set each student in the class found a peer reviewed article on the topic. After selecting an article each student wrote a summary of the article and shared it with the class. The survey formats, questions, and findings from these articles were used to aid in the design and development of the class’s survey.

• Step 3: Survey design
A survey was put together using the principles of survey design that the class had been focusing on. Many kinds of questions were suggested, as well as questions related to different aspects of environmental literacy. The class decided to measure the environmental knowledge, opinions, and behaviors of the student population at UNI.

It was agreed upon that the knowledge section would consist of multiple choice style questions. Both the attitudes and behaviors sections were designed as Likert Scales. The demographics were mostly open ended. Having the demographics section made up of open ended questions allowed respondents to efficiently answer questions that could have numerous possible answers. The three questions in the demographics section that were multiple choice (these were questions regarding the college that the respondent’s major is associated with, the kind of environment they grew up in, and the number of environmental classes they have taken while in college) were designed so, because we were looking for specific and consistent answers to those questions.

• Step 4: Editing the survey
After completing the first draft of the survey we edited it for clarity, flow, and relevancy. As a class we reworded questions so that they would read more clearly. We changed the order of some questions to give the survey a feel that it logically flowed from one idea to the next. We also threw out some questions entirely after deciding that they were not important to the information we were trying to gather. This process was repeated several times until the class was satisfied with the final product.

• Step 5: Determining the sample
The student population of UNI according to the 2009-2010 Fact Book is 13,080 students. According to our text book (Henderson and Bialeschki, 2002) the sample size needed to accurately gather information from this size of a population is between 370 and 375. This required each student in the class to collect 21 surveys each.

A brief description of how the assessment was administered:

• Step 6: Data collection
Each student in the Research and Evaluation class signed up for a location on UNI’s campus where they would distribute and collect their 21 surveys. This produced a convenient sample. A total of 354 surveys were collected. This is a little short of the number suggested as a sample size by the textbook used in the class as discussed above due to one member of the class becoming ill. One survey was collected at an unknown location. More than 21 surveys were collected at four locations and less than 21 surveys were collected at two locations. Table 1 shows how many surveys were collected at each location.

Table 1: Number of Surveys Collected by Location
Location Number of Surveys Collected
Maucker Union 59
Schindler Education Center 42
University Book and Supply 41
Wellness and Recreation Center 23
Communications Arts Building 22
Bender Hall Senate Store 21
Curris Business Building 21
Gilchrest Hall 21
Lang Hall 21
WRC Parking Lot (Tailgating) 21
Rider Hall 20
Rod Library 20
Unknown Location 1
Total 354

A brief summary of results from the assessment:

The first section of the Literacy Survey of Students at UNI used ten multiple choice questions to measure environmental knowledge pertaining to the U.S. and the Midwest. Each question had only one correct answer and there was not an option for “unsure,” requiring the respondents to pick one of the given choices. The average knowledge score, out of 10, was 5.55. This means that the average score on the survey was a failing grade. Figure 3 shows the frequency of the number of questions answered correctly.
When each of the ten questions is looked at individually it is found that the answers most commonly chosen were the correct answer for the first eight questions. For questions nine and ten the correct answer was chosen by respondents second most often. However, this can be misleading. This does not mean that the majority of respondents answered each question correctly. The majority of respondents (18.6%) answered only five questions correctly. Only 3.4% of respondents answered all ten questions correctly and there were even some respondents (0.6%) that answered all ten questions incorrectly (See figure 3).
Question number 7, “what is the most common cause of animal extinction today?” was the question most often answered correctly by respondents. “From what source does Iowa derive most of its energy?,” question number 1, was most often answered incorrectly.

The third section of the survey used ten Likert Scale questions to measure respondents’ environmental behaviors. The highest possible score was 40 and the lowest possible score was 10 for respondents that indicated responses for every statement. The average environmental behavior score for respondents was 22.98. The average score represents moderately environmentally friendly behaviors. The lowest score received was 11 and the highest 40. See Table 9 for the frequencies of responses for each statement related to environmental behaviors.

The information gathered by this survey provides information about the levels of environmental knowledge, opinions, and behaviors of students on UNI’s campus. The purpose of the study was to measure the environmental knowledge of UNI’s student body, and if the number of classes dealing with the environment a student has taken while in college correlates with their level of environmental knowledge.
It turns out that the environmental knowledge level of UNI’s student population is low. In fact, the students’ average knowledge score was 5.55 out of 10, a failing grade. Only 131 (37.11%) of 353 respondents received passing grades (7 or more correct answers, an equivalent of a C or better).
The number of classes dealing with the environment a student has taken while in college was found to correlate with their knowledge score. Students who have taken one or more classes dealing with the environment had higher knowledge scores than those you had not taken any such classes. There was a statistically significant difference of 0.01.

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

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.