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Optimizing the environmental attitudes inventory: Establishing a baseline of change in students’ attitudes

Stephen G. Sutton (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University Townsville, Australia)
Emma Gyuris (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University Townsville, Australia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 5 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was twofold: first, to optimize the Environmental Attitudes Inventory (EAI) and second, to establish a baseline of the difference in environmental attitudes between first and final year students, taken at the start of a university’s declaration of commitment to EfS.

Design/methodology/approach

The psychometrically designed EAI was used to overcome the problems and limitations of the much-used, but controversial, revised New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) Scale. The performance of the original 72-item EAI was compared with our 37-item reduced form using a population of first- and final-year university students.

Findings

The reduced 37-item EAI provides a reliable and valid tool for investigating structured, multi-dimensional environmental attitudes of university students while reducing response burden and increasing response and completion rates compared with the longer versions of the EAI.

Research limitations/implications

No attempt is made to link elements of the university experience with changes in attitude between first- and third-year students. The authors expect the 12-faceted EAI to provide more detailed feedback on the affective outcomes of EfS initiatives than currently used instruments.

Originality/value

This research contributes to establishing the EAI as a gold standard with which to monitor students’ environmental attitudes. Although most studies aimed at understanding the impact of EfS measure attitude change over relatively short periods of time – typically using the brief NEP scale administered immediately before and after a specific semester course – the approach developed here is designed to detect attitudinal change that may be ascribed to the entire university experience between students’ first and final year.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Dr Barry Goldman for preparing the data for analysis. The authors are grateful to student participants for their feedback. This research was conducted under ethics approval (H4151) from the James Cook University Human Ethics Committee. This work was funded by JCU Internal Research Grants to E. Gyuris.

Citation

Sutton, S.G. and Gyuris, E. (2015), "Optimizing the environmental attitudes inventory: Establishing a baseline of change in students’ attitudes", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 16-33. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-03-2013-0027

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited