Assessing Sustainability Culture

Credit Language

EN 6: Assessing Sustainability Culture – version 2.2

Frequently Asked Questions

How has this credit changed from STARS 2.1 to 2.2?

Minor edits were made. Participation by U.S. and Canadian institutions in the NSSE Sustainability Education Consortium is allowed to qualify as a cultural assessment. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the 2.2 Summary of changes.

What kind of questions address sustainability culture?

Questions assessing sustainability culture could cover perceptions, beliefs, dispositions, and behaviors related to sustainability, as well as awareness of campus sustainability initiatives. Answers to these types of questions generally have no right/wrong answer. For example, “Which of the following describes your view on global warming?” In order to count, the culture assessment should cover multiple sustainability topics. (Note: An assessment on a single topic, e.g., transportation behaviors, is not sufficient.)

Can assessments on a single sustainability-related topic qualify?

The assessment should cover multiple sustainability topics. An assessment on a single topic, such as a commute modal split survey or an assessment of recycling engagement, is not sufficient.

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

Yes, see the guide on Sustainability Literacy/Culture Assessment Tools for a list of approved assessment tools.

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

Yes, the assessment can combine sustainability culture and literacy questions, or can be included with other assessments needed for STARS (e.g., transportation survey). Some institutions include sustainability culture 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 culture (e.g., perceptions, beliefs, dispositions, behaviors, and awareness of campus sustainability initiatives).

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.

If claiming that the assessment covers the entire campus community (students, staff and faculty), directly or by representative sample, the descriptive information must explain how each of these three groups were targeted. If it appears that certain groups were not assessed (e.g., the assessment was sent to students only), the response should be changed to “A subset of the campus community…”

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

This credit requires an assessment that addresses sustainability-related values, behaviors, or beliefs (e.g., perceptions, beliefs, dispositions, behaviors, and awareness of campus sustainability initiatives). Assessments related to student knowledge of sustainability topics and challenges (e.g., climate change, social and economic justice, biodiversity loss, global poverty, resource depletion, and so on) are recognized in the Sustainability Literacy Assessment credit. Literacy assessment questions typically have right/wrong answers whereas cultural assessment questions generally have no right/wrong answer.

Resources, Templates & Tools

Example Responses

  • Arizona State University – Responses are comprehensive, and a high representative sample was reached and the assessment can determine literacy gained over time. Good reporting example for large institutions.
  • Keene State College – A mixed methods approach of focus groups, interviews, and a survey goes above and beyond the credit criteria (most institutions report on a survey only).
  • SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry – References a student-developed survey that is being adopted by multiple SUNY institutions.
  • Western Kentucky University – Survey methodology description is thorough. Assessment included faculty and staff as well as students. Good demonstration of a one-time assessment.

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Assessment must cover sustainability-related values, behaviors or beliefs on multiple sustainability-related topics, rather than sustainability literacy. 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 culture, behavior, and engagement. Culture/behavior/engagement questions typically do not include right/wrong answers, whereas literacy questions do.
  • If “The entire campus community (students, staff and faculty), directly or by representative sample…” is selected, descriptive information must explain how each of the three groups was targeted. If there is indication that certain groups were not assessed (e.g., the assessment is sent to students only), response should be changed to “A subset of the campus community…”.
  • If “Longitudinally to measure change over time…” was selected, there must be some mention of a follow-up assessment. (A scheduled post assessment that has not yet occurred may count.) If the response doesn’t include information about a follow-up assessment, response should be changed to “Without a follow-up assessment of the same cohort or representative samples.”

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