Survey instrument developed to measure domains of sustainability knowledge

Faculty and students in the ESS Lab have developed a survey instrument to measure three domains of sustainability knowledge:  environmental, economic, and social.  Unlike surveys that measure beliefs and values, we aim to measure cognitive, factual knowledge.  The survey was created through expert panels, pilot testing, and an initial launch of the instrument to Ohio State University undergraduate students.  Using nearly 2000 completed surveys, we analyzed a battery of 30 questions and, through Item Response Theory (IRT) we reduced the question set down to 16 items.  The 16 items can be found here (note:  on the survey instrument you will see questions highlighted; these are the questions we concluded would be the best for a shorter version of our question sets).  Our recent presentation at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference will be posted soon.

As we refine this instrument, we see several challenges as we move forward.  First, the correct answers to our questions will shift over time (e.g., the percent of U.S. oil that is imported).  Second, student scores will likely be higher than the general population, so extending the instrument beyond campus may require adjustments.  Any comments/suggestions about these challenges are welcome.

Also, we are soliciting ideas about any foundational pieces of sustainability knowledge (example: tragedy of the commons, externalities, etc.) that are missing.  Any suggestions for items that we should add to fully capture the three domains?  Please provide feedback by sending an e-mail to: with Feedback in the subject line. 


(Oct 15, 2012)