Measuring Student Interest as a Learning Outcome: Assessing an Introductory Sustainability Planning Course

By Chad Paul Frederick and K. David Pijawka.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Developing interest in sustainability is crucial for delivering a transformative education for sustainable development. Theory from the psychological sciences provides a framework for educators to consider interest development in students. This quasi-experimental research paper attempts to identify student characteristics that support increased interest in sustainability by analyzing a series of course evaluation surveys given to a large, introductory, undergraduate urban planning course. While there are many strategies for delivering an education for sustainable development and various ways to construct an introductory urban planning course, there are no empirical studies that measure change in interest or illustrate student attributes and classroom elements that generate the interest necessary to promote further enrollment in advanced sustainability courses. This study offers an exploration of an exemplifying case study with the goal of spurring reflection in planning and sustainability instructors. Results of statistical tests and simple analytic techniques are used to identify evidence of interest development. We find that various course elements, including certain lecture formats, lecture topics, and student attributes, such as students’ academic majors, combine to impact student interest in sustainability.

Keywords: Education for Sustainable Development, Pedagogy, Urban Planning, Course Development, Interest

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp.11-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 492.234KB).

Chad Paul Frederick

University Fellow, Department of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

K. David Pijawka

Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA