Sustainability in STEM higher education : it takes an institution to make social change

Zizka, Laura (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, HES-SO // University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland) ; McGunagle, Doreen M. (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA) ; Patti, Clark (Patti, Clark)

This developmental paper aims to demonstrate how Higher Education (HE) courses affect student knowledge of sustainability concepts. Sustainability is a system of systems and requires a higher level of understanding beyond concepts and principles. HE institutions must move beyond book definitions and theories to demonstrate to students the significance of sustainability in their everyday lives. Currently, the absence of understanding how sustainability goals and challenges are related is missing from many HE programs. These first results derive from one pilot group of 19 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) students in an Honors course in one U.S. HE institution. Students took the pre and post sustainability literacy test (SULITEST) to gauge which sustainability concept scores if any, improved over the semester. The gaps showed that students improved their sustainability literacy in 15 of the tested areas, performed worse in 6 areas, and remained the same in one area. Interpretation of these initial results indicates that the tenets of sustainability are well ingrained by the students, but not the application of sustainability to the students’ lives in the present or for the future. While the results were based on one group in one school, the study is ongoing as other classes and schools are currently taking the SULITEST. The results presented in this paper provide a first indication of the gaps in sustainability education for STEM students in HE and the ongoing research project should help to confirm these results and strengthen our model for filling the gaps in STEM education.

Conference Type:
full paper
Economie et Services
Bristol, UK, 04-06 September 2018
Bristol, UK
04-06 September 2018
11 p.
Published in:
Proceedings of the BAM 2018 Conference
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 Record created 2018-10-22, last modified 2021-03-08

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