An Educational exploration of Generation Z’s systems thinking tendencies and green consumer values




systems thinking, environmental consumption, Generation Z, agriculture and natural resources education


University agricultural educators are challenged to employ innovative approaches to prepare undergraduates in agriculture and natural resources to address complex global problems while understanding interconnected systems. Undergraduates, current members of Generation Z (Gen Z), prefer environmental sustainability and innovation, but solutions for addressing these preferences in educational settings remain elusive. Exploring Gen Z’s environmental consumption values and how those values relate to their systems thinking tendencies may provide university educators with insights on how to best educate Gen Z students. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between Gen Z students’ green consumer values and systems thinking tendencies. Data were collected using a web-based survey instrument of 68 undergraduate students at the University of [state]. Findings revealed respondents somewhat agreed they had green consumer values and respondents often used systems thinking when seeking to make an improvement. A Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient indicated a positive, yet weak, association between systems thinking tendencies and green consumer values. The association necessitates further exploration. University agricultural educators should incorporate systems thinking educational tools into classrooms so Gen Z students can effectively engage in systems thinking when addressing complex agricultural issues, like sustainability. Additional implications for systems thinking teaching are explored.


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Author Biographies

Kristin Gibson, University of Georgia

Kristin Elizabeth Gibson is a Doctoral Student in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia. She received her master’s degree in Agricultural and Environmental Education (MAEE) from the University of Georgia in 2021 and her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies (B.A.) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016. Previously, she worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research administered through Fulbright Austria (2018-2019). She also served as an AmeriCorps Member for the North Carolina Coastal Federation (2017-2018). Kristin’s research interests include human dimensions of natural resources, specifically related to water education and communication.

Catherine Sanders, University of Georgia

Catherine “Katie” Sanders recently obtained her Ph.D. in science communication and Extension evaluation at the University of Georgia in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department. While completing her M.S. at the University of Arkansas, she worked on a Higher Education Challenge grant to facilitate a course focusing on global horticulture and community resilience as well as to evaluate student experiences during international service learning. Katie’s research interests include communicating environmental science to the public based on cultural and social identity, investigating the social consequences of agricultural innovations, and using post-qualitative methodologies to further research within the discipline.

Alexa Lamm, University of Georgia

Dr. Alexa Lamm is a Professor of Science Communication in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication at the University of Georgia. She is considered a leader in the field of social science research as it relates to understanding how communication efforts impact the decision-making process and the ultimate adoption of new scientific technologies to advance agricultural production while maintaining a sustainable environment.




How to Cite

Byrd, A., Gibson, K., Sanders, C., Corry, R., Lamm, K., & Lamm, A. (2023). An Educational exploration of Generation Z’s systems thinking tendencies and green consumer values. Journal of Agricultural Education, 64(4).



Journal of Agricultural Education