Sustainability Literacy Assessment

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of questions address sustainability literacy?

Sustainability literacy questions typically include right/wrong questions. For example, “Which of the following correctly identifies the Brundtland definition of sustainable development?” would have a single correct answer.  

Are there pre-made sustainability literacy assessments that can be used for this credit?

The Sustainability Literacy Test (Sulitest): an international sustainability literacy assessment to be used by Higher Education Institutions (HEI) across the globe.

See also the Example Responses below for guidance.

Can we earn points if we include sustainability literacy questions on another assessment?

Yes, the assessment can combine sustainability culture/behavior/engagement, or can be included with other assessments needed for STARS (e.g., transportation survey). Some institutions include sustainability literacy questions in broader surveys not specifically related to sustainability, such as a first year student survey. In order to count, a substantive portion of the assessment (e.g., at least 10 questions or a third of the questions) must evaluate sustainability knowledge (e.g., climate change, social and economic justice, biodiversity loss, global poverty, resource depletion, and so on).

Can a post-assessment that has not yet occurred count as the follow-up assessment?

Yes, in order to claim points for conducting a pre- and post-assessment, the post-test must have taken place already OR be scheduled to take place at a future date.

What constitutes a representative sample?

A representative sample is a subset of a statistical population that accurately reflects the members of the entire population. A representative sample should be an unbiased indication of what the entire population is like. For example, in a student population of 1000 students in which 25 percent of the students are enrolled in a business school, 50 percent are enrolled in humanities programs, and 25 percent are enrolled in science programs, a representative sample might include 200 students: 50 business students, 100 humanities students, and 50 science students. Likewise, a representative sample of purchases should accurately reflect the institution’s total purchases, accounting for seasonal and other variations in product availability and purchasing.

What’s the difference between a literacy assessment and a cultural assessment?

This credit requires an assessment that addresses student knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges to count (e.g., climate change, social and economic justice, biodiversity loss, global poverty, resource depletion, and so on). Assessments of cultural aspects (e.g., perceptions, beliefs, dispositions, behaviors, and awareness of campus sustainability initiatives) are recognized in the Assessing Sustainability Culture credit. Literacy assessment questions typically have right/wrong answers whereas culture assessment questions generally do not have a right/wrong answer.

Templates & Tools

Example Responses

  • Arizona State University – Great example of an assessment that addresses literacy AND behavior/culture/engagement, meeting the criteria for both AC 6 and EN 6.
  • Florida Gulf Coast University – Conducted sustainability assessment through a required course through assigned readings, group discussions, writing assignments, field experiences, service-learning, and other projects.
  • James Madison University – Unique approach to achieving a representative sample in student surveys while avoiding survey fatigue.
  • University of Arizona – Comprehensive results are outlined. The survey developers made sure to cover at least one question in each of the institution’s major sustainability “systems” issue areas.
  • University of Colorado Boulder – Literacy assessment was sent to a representative sample of faculty and staff, as well as students.
  • University of Michigan – Literacy assessment was sent to a representative sample of faculty and staff, as well as students.
  • Western University – Good example of a sustainability literacy assessment occurring through faculty assessment using a rubric based on assigned tasks (as opposed to a survey).

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Assessment must cover sustainability literacy rather than sustainability-related values, behaviors or beliefs. An institution may use a single instrument that addresses sustainability literacy, culture, and/or engagement to meet the criteria for this credit if at least 10 questions or a third of the assessment focuses on student knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges.
  • If “The entire student body or, at minimum, to the institution’s predominant student body” is selected, descriptive information must explain how a representative sample was achieved. If there is indication that a non-representative sample was assessed (e.g., only one class participated), response should be “A subset of students….”
  • If “Pre- and post-assessment to the same cohort of students or to representative samples…” is selected, there must be some mention of a follow-up assessment (a scheduled post assessment that has not yet occurred may count.). If the support isn’t there, response should be “Standalone evaluation without a follow-up assessment….”

Additional Resources

How can we improve our performance on this credit?

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