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Tropentag, September 17 - 19, 2018 in Ghent

"Global food security and food safety: The role of universities"

Integrating Research Instruments for the Assessment of Transformative Sustainability Learning

Lorenz Probst1, Lisa Bardach2, Daphine Kamusingize3, Noel Templer4, Hudson Ogwali5, Amos Owamani6, Lukman Mulumba7, Richard Ndemo Onwonga4, Berihun Tefera Adugna8

1University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Centre for Development Research (CDR), Austria
2University of Vienna, Dept. of Applied Psychology: Work, Education and Economy, Austria
3National Agricultural Research Laboratories, Uganda
4University of Nairobi, Kenya
5Facilitation for Innovations and Sustainable Productivity (FINASP UG), Uganda
6HORIZONT3000, Enabling Rural Innovation East Africa Project, Uganda
7Makerere University Kampala, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sci., Uganda
8Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia


If higher education for sustainability is to be advanced, we need to evaluate the effect of specific learning experiences on sustainability values, skills and behaviour. The Transformative Learning Theory seems to be particularly suited to capture such learning processes. There is, however, agreement in the literature that the impact of learning experiences is difficult to assess, as the course setting is only one of many aspects of the students' lifeworlds. Student biographies are not characterised by linear causalities, and even the students themselves may have difficulties identifying transformative learning moments. Moreover, studies on higher education for sustainability have been criticised for methodological weaknesses. Scholars of transformative learning in particular have questioned the ability of quantitative research instruments to capture the messy space of transformation.
We do believe, however, that those promoting novel forms of sustainability learning at universities will need efficient instruments to assess learning designs and to argue for course and curriculum adaptation. Accordingly, we developed a research instrument based on established concepts: the survey of the Graduate Study Cooperative (KOAB), the Transformative Learning Survey and the Environmental Attitudes Inventory (EAI). We then tested the instrument with 117 alumni of the International Training Course on Organic Agriculture.
The KOAB served as the basic structure and captured the characteristics and current professional position of a respondent. It also contrasted the capabilities acquired at university with the actual professional requirements. To apply the Transformative Learning Survey to a specific learning experience, we adapted the wording and reduced the number of scales to four: 1) Acting differently, 2) Cognitive/Rational, 3) Open perspectives, and 4) Social responsibility. Considering our interest in sustainability behaviour, we also integrated items of the Environmental Attitudes Inventory.
To test the factorial validity of the scales, we applied Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). All CFA models showed an adequate to excellent model fit (CFI: 0.91 – 1.00, TLI: 0.91-1.05, RMSEA: 0.000- 0.069) In addition, reliability coefficients of all scales were satisfactory to good. Despite the limitations of ex-post studies based on self-reported perceptions, we conclude that the newly developed survey instrument could become a useful tool for advancing sustainability learning.

Keywords: Evaluation, quantitative assessment, research instrument, sustainability learning, transformative learning

Contact Address: Lorenz Probst, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Centre for Development Research (CDR), Gregor Mendel-Strasse 33, 1180 Vienna, Austria, e-mail: lorenz.probst@boku.ac.at

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