Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 11, Issue 1, Article 8 (June, 2010)
Sustainability in higher education: A needs assessment on a course “Education and awareness for sustainability”

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This descriptive study was designed as a NA study as a part of course evaluation including three main steps consisting of NA, formative assessment and summative assessment. In the present study, the NA process addresses mainly to two issues: (1) assisting in determining what needs exist and how these needs should be addressed, and (2) providing criteria against which course merits can be evaluated; that is, the degree to which is intended or important human needs are addressed. A university level course entitled Education and Awareness for Sustainability was the target of this assessment study. The basic description of the course is given below.

The Course: “Education and Awareness for Sustainability”

The “Education and Awareness for Sustainability” (EAfS) course has been offered for six semesters by the Department of Elementary Education in the Faculty of Education at the Middle East Technical University (Ankara-Turkey). It is an elective course and available to all students enrolled in the university. The aim of the course is to develop environmental awareness and sensitivity among undergraduate students. As indicated in the course syllabus, the main goals of the course are to: (1) help the learner understand how daily life and work can be adopted to improve the environment; (2) acquire awareness and sensitivity to the whole environment; (3) acquire social values, strong feelings of concern for the environment and motivation for actively participating in its protection and improvement; (4) acquire a personal view of general and global environmental issues; and (5) ensure that, students understand that they are part of the natural circle of life.


Eighty-five undergraduate students enrolled in the Education and Awareness for Sustainability course participated in the study. The characteristics of the participants are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. Characteristics of the Participants.


# of the students



Name of the Faculty



# of the students












Economic and Administrative Sciences










As seen in Table 2, 26 of the participants were male while 59 were female. Eighty percent of the participants were comprised of the students of the Faculty of Education. Among them, 27 were from Elementary Mathematics Education (EME), 18 were from Elementary Science Education (ESE), eight were from Foreign Language Education (FLE), six were from Early Childhood Education (ECE), four were from Chemistry Education (CHED), three were from Physics Education (PHED) and one was from the Computer Education Department (CEIT). Among the Faculty of Engineering students, seven were from Geology Engineering (GeoE), two were from Mechanical Engineering (ME), two were from Food Engineering (FE), one was from Electric Electronics Engineering (EE) and one was from the Mining Engineering departments. Among the students from the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, two were from Business Administration (BA), and other two were from Political Science and Public Administration Department.


The need assessment questionnaire (NAQ) developed by the researcher for investigating undergraduate students’ needs, expectations and pre-knowledge about the course of EAfS was used for the data collection. The NAQ consists of three sections, eight sub-sections and a total of 53 items. 17 of the items were open-ended and 36 were closed-ended questions on a Likert type scale. The sections and sub-sections of NAQ are summarized in the Table 3.

Table 3. Sections and sub-sections of NAQ.




Question type

# of the items


1.1. Background information

Determining students’ demographic information




2.1.The Course (general)

Determining students’ general expectations from the course



2.2.Instructor’ and Students’ roles

Determining expectations on the instructor’s and students’ roles



2.3.The Course (specific)

Determining students’ specific expectations from the course (i.e. schedule, time, objectives, content)

(Likert type scale)


2.4.Instructional Methods and Techniques

Determining students’ expectations of the frequency of the use of the instructional methods and techniques, and the degree of their importance



2.5.Instructional Media (materials)

Determining students’ expectations of the frequency of the use of the instructional materials and the degree of their importance




Determining students’ expectations of the frequency of the use of measurement and evaluation and the degree of their importance




3.1. Attitudes

Determining students’ general attitudes toward the course



The frequency part of sub-sections - 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 were on a four point scale [1-never and 4-always], whereas the importance parts of these sub-sections were on a five point scale [1- not important at all and 5-very important]. Before administering the NAQ, it was reviewed by the course instructor, an expert on education for sustainable development, and an expert on curriculum development and evaluation in order to obtain their opinions of the content coverage of the instrument. Content validity and face validity of the NAQ was assured by getting expert opinions. Since the items were already grouped based on the formal interview with the instructor and curriculum evaluator, no factor analysis was conducted to reveal the factor structure behind the NAQ. SPSS reliability analysis was only applied to sub-section 2.3 (see Table 3), which included Likert Type items. Cronbach’s Alpha (a) of this part of the NAQ was .77.

Data Collection and Analyses

This study is the first part of a course evaluation project undertaken for the EAfS class. The project was realized in three steps including the NA, formative assessment and summative assessment.

The four stage DIPO model given in Figure 1 was used in order to evaluate the course overall. The model emphasized determining students’ needs (and/or expectations and priorities), adapting the program to the determined needs and detecting if these needs are matched to the program objectives. The stages of DIPO are parallel to those of the CIPP model (Stufflebeam, 2003).

Figure 1. DIPO Model for course evaluation .


The NA was the first step of the model and was essential for conducting the rest of the evaluation. This step of DIPO evaluation model focuses on the needs-objectives relationship. The basic standards considered during the evaluation, on the other hand, are utility, feasibility, propriety and accuracy, as suggested by Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (1981). The NA addressed the first step of the model and further consisted of three sub-steps: (1) preparation or planning, (2) instruments developing and operating - data collection and (3) analyzing and reporting the data.

Planning Needs Assessment

Before conducting the NA, a formal interview was carried out with the instructor of the course, one curriculum and evaluation specialist and one former student from the course. Then, a tentative instrument was prepared based upon their reports and comments. The draft instrument was later given to an expert on curriculum evaluation and to the instructor for further revisions. Some of items were revised and a few questions were added depending on experts’ critique.

Operating Needs Assessment

Once the instrument was developed, the application was performed in two days for two sections in the class setting. The NA was carried out at the beginning of the class (semester) in order to determine the needs and priorities of the students regarding instructional materials, teaching methods and evaluation procedures to be used in the course. A few students were absent during the NA. Before conducting the NA, the purpose and rationale of the study was clearly explained. The students were assured about the confidentiality of their responses. They seemed to be volunteering to complete the application.

Reporting Needs Assessment

Since the NAQ included both open-ended and closed-ended items, both qualitative and quantitative methods were used for the analysis. The open-ended responses were subjected to content analyses, i.e., coding and categorization. The quantitative data was analyzed statistically through making use of SPSS, and mainly descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation and percentages) were used.


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