Measuring students' environmental attitudes across 61+ institutions

Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

As an external evaluator for the InTeGrate project, I developed a survey to be administered pre- and post-instruction to probe students' interest in a career related to the Earth/environment and their motivation to tackle grand challenges related to environmental sustainability. This instrument has been deployed at colleges and universities across the country where InTeGrate courses and modules have been tested or used.

To accomplish this has required a high degree of technical and logistical support, which has come from InTeGrate's headquarters at the Science Education Resource Center (SERC). Specifically, this effort required:

  • putting the survey online from my Word text, one pre-instruction version and one post-instruction;
  • providing consulting services to help the instructors understand and comply with the IRB requirements of their institutions;
  • providing a way to anonymize the students' responses in such a way that analysts could not see who was who but that pre- and post-responses could be matched-up (also responses from the same student in subsequent semesters);
  • capturing the data as students fill out the online survey;
  • keeping track of informed consent status and not releasing data for analysis until informed consent documentation for that enactment and/or that student has been obtained;
  • matching up the pre- and post-instruction responses from each student
  • providing a web tool to overview the status of in-progress, scheduled, and completed enactments, including how many surveys had been received from each enactment;
  • combining student responses with metadata provided by the instructor and the project, such as name of course, institution, institution type.
  • providing a mechanism to download data into a form suitable for analysis.
For individual PI's or projects to set up such an apparatus for a single project would be tremendously burdensome, inefficient, and seriously non-cost-effective. The GER community (or perhaps the broader DBER community) would benefit if a central organization were to provide this set of capacities as a turn-key service, for a fee. Ideally this would be coupled with providing a data archive that would safeguard and provide ongoing access to the data after the funding for the project that collected the data had concluded.