The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals state climate change could irreversibly affect future generations and is one of the most urgent issues facing society. To date, most education research on climate change examines middle and high school students’ knowledge without considering the link between understanding and interest to address such issues in their career. In research on students’ attitudes about sustainability, we found that half of first-year college engineering students, in our nationally representative sample of all college students at 4-year institutions (n = 937), do not believe climate change is caused by humans. This lack of belief in human-caused climate change is a significant problem in engineering education because our results also indicate engineering students who do not believe in human caused climate change are less likely to want to address climate change in their careers. This dismal finding highlights a need for improving student understanding and attitudes toward climate change in order to produce engineers prepared and interested in solving complex global problems in sustainability. To advance understanding about students’ understanding of climate change and their agency to address the issue, we developed the CLIMATE survey to measure senior undergraduate engineering students’ Climate change literacy, engineering identity, career motivations, and agency through engineering. The survey was designed for students in their final senior design, or capstone course, just prior to entering the workforce. We developed the survey using prior national surveys and newly written questions categorized into six sections: (1) career goals and motivation, (2) college experiences, (3) agency, (4) climate literacy, (5) people and the planet, and (6) demographic information. We conducted focus groups with students to establish face and content validity of the survey. We collected pilot data with 200 engineering students in upper-level engineering courses to provide validity evidence for the use of these survey items to measure students and track changes across the undergraduate curriculum for our future work. In this paper, we narrate the development of the survey supported by literature and outline the next step for further validation and distribution on a national scale. Our intent is to receive feedback and input about the questions being asked and the CLIMATE instrument. Our objective is to share the nationally representative non-identifiable responses (the estimated goal is 4,000 responses) openly with education researchers interested in students understanding about climate change, their engineering identity, career motivations, and agency through engineering. Ultimately, we want this research to become a catalyst for teaching about topics related to climate change in engineering and its implications for sustainability.
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