Alabama’s Pedagogical Approach to Sustainability: Defining the Effectiveness of Higher Education Programs Through Comparative Test Modeling
Janssen, Michael J.
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CitationJanssen, Michael J. 2019. Alabama’s Pedagogical Approach to Sustainability: Defining the Effectiveness of Higher Education Programs Through Comparative Test Modeling. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractDetermining and understanding the sustainability literacy level of a student body within a higher education institution can provide critical insight into the strength and effectiveness of a campus-wide sustainability program. By knowing the student’s level of sustainability literacy, leadership can pinpoint investment strategies and develop course work necessary to improve sustainability awareness. The intention of this research was to discover and document the level of undergraduate sustainability literacy at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, (UAH) and compare this to a broader sample of scores taken from local and global samples. The focus of this research was to determine if the UAH undergraduate students fall below a global mean test score related to sustainability literacy.
To establish a recognized benchmark for sustainability literacy, I utilized an online testing platform developed by Sulitest, a non-profit organization located in France supported by the United Nations and other global organizations. The testing tool contained multiple-choice questions geared towards both global and local sustainability issues with additional voluntary demographic questions. Maintaining complete anonymity, all UAH test scores were compared to the Sulitest benchmarks calculated from this database of over 80,000 test scores. The UAH test scores were taken primarily from an on-campus sorority, students from two classes and students from the Honors College.
When comparing mean scores, results supported the hypothesis that Alabaman students would fall below the global mean for the most part. For the test related to international issues, UAH fell 11% below the global mean score. For the test covering US-specific issues, UAH fell slightly below, 2.5%, the mean test score. However, UAH performed well, 106 %, on the international test when compared with other US test takers. Further comparisons were made to determine the effects of other variables on test scores like selected major, class year, and previous education locations.
My conclusion is that although UAH fell below the mean benchmark in multiple areas, the institution currently exhibits many areas for promoting sustainability literacy along with areas for possible improvement. My research indicates possible measures that could improve UAH’s overall sustainability literacy test scores and the overall sustainability program in general. My recommended measures to improve sustainability literacy include: examination of existing course accessibility to all disciplines related to sustainability content, improved involvement of leadership to emphasize the importance of sustainability on campus, more robust student testing on sustainability literacy, capitalize on the existing Earth Systems Science program, introduction of sustainability as part of the student orientation and increase support to the Sustainability Department to reach more stakeholders across the entire campus.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004121
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