Ongoing changes in values, pedagogy, and curriculum concerning sustainability education necessitate that strong curricular elements are identified in sustainability education. However, quantitative research in sustainability education is largely undeveloped or relies on outdated instruments. In part, this is because no widespread quantitative instrument for measuring related educational outcomes has been developed for the field, though their development is pivotal for future efforts in sustainability education related to STEM majors.
This research study details the creation, evaluation, and validation of an instrument – the STEM Sustainability Engagement Instrument (STEMSEI) – designed to measure sustainability engagement in post-secondary STEM majors. The study was conducted in three phases, using qualitative methods in phase 1, a concurrent mixed methods design in phase 2, and a sequential mixed methods design in phase 3. The STEMSEI was able to successfully predict statistically significant differences in the sample (n= 1017) that were predicted by prior research in environmental education. The STEMSEI also revealed statistically significant differences between STEM majors’ sustainability engagement with a large effect size (.203 ≤ η2 ≤ .211). As hypothesized, statistically significant differences were found on the environmental scales across gender and present religion. With respect to gender, self-perceived measures of emotional engagement with environmental sustainability was higher with females while males had higher measures in cognitive engagement with respect to knowing information related to environmental sustainability. With respect to present religion, self-perceived measures of general engagement and emotional engagement in environmental sustainability were higher for non-Christians as compared to Christians. On the economic scales, statistically significant differences were found across gender. Specifically, measures of males’ self-perceived cognitive engagement in knowing information related to economic sustainability were greater than those of females. Future research should establish the generalizability of these results and further test the validity of the STEMSEI.