Learning Outcomes

For details about this credit, including the criteria, reporting timeframe, applicability, scoring, and more, please review the full credit language:

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Frequently Asked Questions

How has this credit changed between STARS 2.1 and 2.2?

Substantive changes have been made to this credit. Institutional and divisional sustainability learning outcomes are recognized independently from the percentage of students that graduate from sustainability-focused programs. In addition, partial scoring is now available for institutional learning outcomes that are supportive of, but not explicitly focused on sustainability. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the 2.2 Summary of changes.

What are some examples of sustainability learning outcomes (SLOs)?

Sustainability-focused learning outcomes:

  • Students will be able to define sustainability and identify major sustainability challenges.
  • Students will have an understanding of the carrying capacity of ecosystems as related to providing for human needs.
  • Students will be able to apply concepts of sustainable development to address sustainability challenges in a global context.
  • Students will identify, act on, and evaluate their professional and personal actions with the knowledge and appreciation of interconnections among economic, environmental, and social perspectives.

Sustainability-supportive learning outcomes (STARS 2.2):

  • Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of systems.
  • Students will have an understanding of their social responsibility as future professionals and citizens.
  • Students will be able to accommodate individual differences in their decisions and actions and be able to negotiate across these differences.
  • Students will be able to analyze power, structures of inequality, and social systems that govern individual and communal life.
  • Students will be able to recognize the global implications of their actions.

Do sustainability learning outcomes need to include the word sustainability to count?

A learning outcome does not necessarily have to include the term “sustainability” to count as sustainability-focused as long as there is an explicit focus on the interdependence of ecological systems and social/economic systems.

How do we determine what graduating students should be counted under Part 2?

To Count, programs must meet one of three criteria:

  1. Students majoring in programs are identified as sustainability-FOCUSED under AC 3: Undergraduate Program or AC 4: Graduate Program.
  2. Students majoring in programs REQUIRE successful completion of a sustainability-FOCUSED course as identified in AC 1: Academic  Courses.
  3. Students majoring in programs have adopted one or more sustainability-FOCUSED learning outcomes that reference the interdependence of ecological systems AND social/economic systems.

What kind of documentation is required for this credit?

To support the number of students claimed to graduate from programs that have adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome, a complete listing of programs and their respective sustainability learning outcomes is required.

  • If reporting on programs that are identified as sustainability-focused under AC 3/AC 4, the full program names must be listed.
  • If reporting on programs that require successful completion of a sustainability-focused course, as identified under AC 1, please include the course name(s) and list of program(s) that require the course.
  • If reporting on other programs with one or more sustainability-focused learning outcomes, please include the program name(s) and at least one sustainability learning outcome per program.

Can overview/mission/vision/values statements for a course, program, or division be counted?

No. General program overview statements, mission/vision/values statements, or general methodology statements are not sufficient. According to the credit criteria, “learning outcomes are distinct from the aims of learning in that learning outcomes are concerned with the achievements of the learner rather than with the overall intentions of the teacher”.

Example Responses

Version 2.1

  • California Polytechnic State University – Great example of an institutional learning outcome that focuses on sustainability and applies to all students.
  • Lehigh University – Uploaded file provided under “Additional documentation to support the submission” outlines the number of graduates per program.
  • Missouri State University – Unique approach of engaging an academic committee to identify sustainability-focused institutional and divisional learning outcomes.
  • Southern Oregon University – Great documentation on reporting graduates from programs that require completion of at least one sustainability (focused) course (as reported under AC 1).
  • South Seattle College – Good example of solid program-level learning outcomes from an associate degree granting institution.
  • Stanford University – Uploaded list of departmental learning outcomes is very comprehensive.
  • University of Central Florida – Great documentation on reporting graduates from programs that require completion of at least one sustainability (focused) course (as reported under AC 1).

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Score Outlier – Uncommon for institutions to earn full points or very close to it. If a high score is reported, check closely for the issues below.
  • Numeric Outlier – Part 2: A high amount (70%+) under “Percentage of students who graduate from programs that have adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome” may indicate misclassification of sustainability-focused courses, programs and/or learning outcomes. If a high amount is reported, check closely for the issues below.
  • Parts 1 and Part 2: Sustainability-focused learning outcomes include the term “sustainability” OR have an explicit focus on the interdependence of ecological systems and social/economic systems. A common mistake is listing an outcome as sustainability-focused when it does not cover ecological dimensions of sustainability.
  • Parts 1 and Part 2: Mission, vision, and values statements do not qualify because they outline intentions for the course or program, rather than expectations of what the student will learn.
  • Part 1: Institution-level learning outcomes must apply to the entire (or predominant) student body (e.g., all undergraduate students).
  • Part 2: To Count, programs must meet one of three criteria:
    • Programs are Identified as sustainability-FOCUSED under AC 3: Undergraduate Program or AC 4: Graduate Program.
    • Programs REQUIRE successful completion of a sustainability-FOCUSED course as identified in AC 1: Academic  Courses.
    • Programs have adopted one or more sustainability-FOCUSED learning outcomes that reference the interdependence of ecological systems AND social/economic systems.
  • Part 2: Response under “Total number of graduates from degree programs” must reflect all students. A common mistake is overlooking graduate students.

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