We are pleased to present summary results of the faculty survey we conducted in December, and want to thank those members of the college/university community involved in sustainability education who took the time to respond to the survey instrument.
Some major findings and highlights from the survey responses follow.
In the survey, we asked respondents to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements designed to elicit their views on a wide range of issues pertaining to current conditions at their institution as well as recommended priorities for SCC’s work during the next year to 18 months. We received a total of 92 responses to the survey instrument. Interestingly, there is much diversity of opinion regarding most of the issues raised. Nonetheless, there are limited numbers of statements that prompted general agreement or disagreement across the respondent pool. Figures 1 and 2 display these statements for current conditions, while Figures 3 and 4 present the more consistently held views regarding recommended SCC priorities.
Taken together, we might suggest that the following preliminary conclusions could be drawn from these results:
- There is strong support within the academic institutions represented by the survey respondents for the teaching of sustainability, underlain by a shared understanding of why such education is important.
- There is widespread support for the use of multi-disciplinary, integrated approaches in teaching sustainability and related topics within college/university settings.
- Sustainability educators generally feel that they have the support of their respective institutions and their leaders, and may be or have been recognized for their work in this field.
With that said:
- There is a widespread belief that most people on a typical college/university campus do not appreciate the full scope of sustainability or its importance within the curriculum, as distinct from a more tactical, campus and physical plant-focused orientation.
- Although there is general agreement concerning the “why” of sustainability education, the “how” is far less clear in the minds of many college/university educators and administrators.
- Students are perceived to be frustrated by a lack of coherence in the existing sustainability curriculum at their institution, as well as by an insufficient emphasis on the development of practical skills.
As shown in Figure 3, there are a handful of prospective SCC activities that were identified as either “crucial” or “very important” by more than two-thirds (at least 49 of 74) of the respondents. These recommended priorities focus on developing, maintaining, and making available resources that could be used by post-secondary educators to develop and deliver sustainability curricula that are responsive to the needs of college/university students and address some of the limitations of current approaches identified above. These limitations include understanding what capabilities are needed to become a successful sustainability practitioner; the absence of a compelling rationale and supporting analysis demonstrating the value of sustainability education and sustainability-infused academic disciplines/tracks; the lack of widely accepted goals for sustainability curricula and individual courses; and the emergent nature of instructional methods tailored to deliver sustainability concepts, coursework, and curricula.
At the same time, survey respondents as a group delivered relatively clear feedback regarding several potential areas of SCC work that they generally believe are less urgent or less appropriate for short-term attention by SCC. These are shown in Figure 4. Even for these activities, however, it should be noted that substantial percentages of the respondent pool believe that they are crucial or very important. Activities viewed as deserving of a lesser priority by SCC by a plurality of survey respondents include developing definitions of sustainability or principles by which sustainability education could be developed and delivered; working on awards or certificate programs or components thereof; and providing consulting or staff support to individual colleges and universities.
We intend to give greater scrutiny to the survey results, and plan to provide more in-depth presentation of responses and further analysis during the coming months. Stay tuned!