To read this content please select one of the options below:

Assessing sustainability knowledge for undergraduate students in different academic programs and settings

Elysa C.M. Briens (Department of Environmental Management and Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Yiwen Chiu (Department of Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
David Braun (Department of Electrical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Priya Verma (Department of Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Gregg Fiegel (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Brian Pompeii (Department of Geography and Earth Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA)
Kylee Singh (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 28 June 2022

Issue publication date: 5 January 2023

98

Abstract

Purpose

As sustainability teaching and learning rises in importance, an increasing number of higher education institutions (HEIs) are assessing the effectiveness of their approach to sustainability education. However, most assessments fall short in determining the impacts of curriculum plans on learning outcomes. Therefore, this study aims to assess the impact of curricula on undergraduate sustainability knowledge and assess opportunities for improving sustainability education in HEIs.

Design/methodology/approach

A campus-wide survey deployed at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, (Cal Poly) solicited data identifying students’ sustainability knowledge score (SKS). The survey collected responses from undergraduate student groups enrolled in different curriculum plans under different academic settings.

Findings

This study reveals that Cal Poly honors students enrolled in a structured sustainability curriculum have significantly higher SKS than general students (i.e. nonhonors students) enrolled in random sustainability courses. Further, taking at least three sustainability-related courses significantly distinguishes SKS for general students. The results also show that SKS does not significantly differ across colleges, suggesting that additional sustainability education can benefit all students.

Originality/value

Findings of this study provide statistical evidence to justify institutional efforts to integrate sustainability into existing courses, with the minimum requirement of three sustainability-related courses to make an impact on SKS for the general student population. Such efforts could represent the first steps toward developing sustainability education at a HEI and improving sustainability learning outcomes.

Keywords

Citation

Briens, E.C.M., Chiu, Y., Braun, D., Verma, P., Fiegel, G., Pompeii, B. and Singh, K. (2023), "Assessing sustainability knowledge for undergraduate students in different academic programs and settings", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 69-95. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-10-2021-0455

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles