The Meaningful Learning Research Group

NSDL Science Literacy Maps

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Summary by Jane Heinze-Fry
February 11, 2011

NSDL Science Literacy Maps are a tool for teachers and students to find resources that relate to specific science and math concepts. The maps illustrate connections between concepts as well as how concepts build upon one another across grade levels. Clicking on a concept within the maps will show NSDL resources relevant to the concept, as well as information about related AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards. [It is worth noting that the use of the term "concept" as it applies to the AAAS documents has a broader meaning than the "perceived regularity of objects or events" that is more commonly used in the study of concept maps.]

These web-based strand maps are an extension of the science education reform movement (dubbed 'Project 2061' by AAAS) starting with the publication of Science for All Americans (1990), followed by the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993), then the two Atlases of Science Literacy (2001, 2007).

Educational researchers, practitioners, and curriculum developers will appreciate that these strand maps demonstrate connectedness and the development of ideas and skills over the preK-12 years. Thus, the maps can serve as a foundational tool for those who believe research supporting the primary Ausubelian claim that it is what students already know about a topic that is the most significant factor in determining their success in learning new, related content.

For researchers investigating student's prior conceptions or "misconceptions" about any of the science concepts included in these science literacy strand maps, there exists an invaluable tool. If you click on any of the conceptual boxes of the maps, a "View Student Misconceptions" box appears in the upper left corner of the screen. When this button is clicked, typical student misconceptions about that concept are described, and references documenting those ideas are cited.

Try one example:
1. Go to the NSDL Science Literacy Maps at
1. Click on "The Living Environment."
2. Click on "DNA and Inherited Characteristics." (You can navigate around this strand map using four directional arrows in the upper right corner.)
3. Click on "View Student Misconceptions" box in the upper left corner.

Perhaps the peer-reviewed research of this group will contribute to this growing body of knowledge and, thus become more easily accessible to those responsible for teaching science.

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