An Assessment of Environmental Literacy among Undergraduate Students at Two National Universities in Hubei Province, China
In China, there have been several national environmental surveys and studies of environmental literacy (EL) variables, but no broader assessment of EL in any population. This study investigated the status of EL among undergraduate students at two national universities in Hubei Province, China. Based on reviews of environmental education literature, as well as frameworks for and assessments of EL, eight variables were selected for this investigation: environmental worldview (NEP), environmental sensitivity (ES), willingness to act (WILL), perceived skills in investigating and evaluating problems and issues (PSPI), perceived skills in using citizen participation strategies (CPS), perceived knowledge of ecology and earth system science (PKEE), perceived knowledge of environmental science (PKES), and environmentally responsible behavior (ERB). The researcher developed and validated the Undergraduate Students Environmental Literacy Instrument (USELI) based on Dunlap et al.’s (2000) NEP scale, results of pilot studies, reliability and factor analyses, and a validity panel review. The USELI was administered as a pencil-and-paper survey to undergraduate students majoring in science and non-science fields at these two universities (N = 577). After data preparation and preliminary analyses, descriptive statistics were calculated for Research Question 1 (N = 464). For Research Questions 2−4, hierarchical regression was used to determine the effects of Set A (Affective Dispositions), Set B (Perceived Skills), and Set C (Perceived Knowledge) on ERB (N = 406). For the total sample, students’ average scores were: WILL (80%), NEP (77%), PKEE (67%), PKES (66%), ES (63%), PSPI (51%), ERB (46%), and CPS (45%). After transforming scale scores into component scores, average component scores were: affective dispositions (71%), perceived knowledge (67%), perceived skills (48%), and ERB (46%). For the hierarchical regression analyses, the overall model containing Sets A, B, and C accounted for 50.8% of the variance in students’ ERB scores. Null hypotheses regarding the influence of Set A, Set B, and Set C on students’ ERB scores were rejected. This study contributes a valid and reliable instrument for use in future studies of this kind. Findings from this study also add to the research base for developing an EL framework that reflects political, socioeconomic, and ecological conditions in China.