Environmental Literacy in Environmentally Themed Higher Education Courses
King, Jordan A.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Amidst the burgeoning environmental crisis impacting our world, including ecological, social, political, economic, and cultural forces, the need to act with environmentally responsible behavior is increasingly necessary. As a significant setting for personal growth, higher education must seek to cultivate in its students the capacity to respond to environmental issues. This study assessed how environmentally themed higher education courses are related with growth in environmental literacy. Using a framework for assessing environmental literacy developed by Hollweg, et al. (2011), this study measured the changes occurring in environmental knowledge, dispositions, competencies, and behavior in environmentally themed higher education courses. These changes were compared across pedagogical perspectives, separated into ecological science-based, humanities and social science-based, and integrative environmental studies. This study found that environmentally themed higher education courses had a significant impact, t (678) = 39.53, p < .001, on students’ self-perceptions of their environmental literacy. Specifically, students in integrative environmental studies courses (M = .80) experienced the greatest growth across all aspects, while humanities and social science-based courses (M = .35) exhibited the smallest differences between pre- and post-test. Instructors were shown to emphasize knowledge and competencies most of the environmental literacy aspects. Ultimately, this study suggests the need for further environmental education principles, methods, and objectives in higher education and the conception of environmental literacies that depend on individual competencies and context to make the capacities of students’ more meaningful in response to environmental issues.