2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

September 2004

Looking Ahead to the Next Atlas of Science Literacy

Atlas of Science Literacy presents a collection of 49 conceptual strand maps that show how students’ understanding of the ideas and skills that lead to literacy in science, mathematics, and technology might grow over time. By taking the specific K–12 learning goals set out in AAAS Project 2061’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy and displaying connections among them, Atlas can help educators design coherent curricula, instruction, and assessment. Published in 2001, the existing Atlas includes about half of the learning goals in Benchmarks; Project 2061 has been hard at work mapping the remaining goals into strand maps for a second volume of Atlas. Together, the two Atlas volumes will map all of the learning goals in Benchmarks. (View the list of maps under development for the second Atlas volume.)

New Volume, New Refinements

Like existing maps, each new map will use arrows to illustrate connections between learning goals, and will be accompanied by notes that help the reader study the map and by a summary of the research on student learning pertaining to the map’s topic. But the new Atlas will incorporate refinements to make it easier for users to see the parallel content of Atlas and Benchmarks and to navigate among the strand maps themselves.

Whereas the first volume of Atlas organizes each chapter’s maps into “clusters” that correspond only loosely to the chapter sections in Benchmarks, the second volume will exactly match the chapter sections of Benchmarks. This change will simplify the work of locating Benchmarks learning goals and help educators who want to use Atlas and Benchmarks together to design curriculum or plan instruction. Once all the maps are complete, each chapter section of Benchmarks will be represented by one to four Atlas maps.

Another Atlas refinement facilitates moving from map to map when individual benchmarks appear on more than one map. The first volume of Atlas uses a two-letter code to indicate that a benchmark appears on other maps in the same cluster. Now, with no clusters, that code will not be used; instead, whenever a benchmark appears on a separate map in the new volume, the title and page number of that map will be “attached” to the benchmark with a dashed line. Users will thus be able to navigate the intersections between maps more efficiently as they explore the larger fabric of ideas, skills, and connections represented by the maps as a whole.

How a Strand Map Gets Made

Developing an Atlas map involves extensive consultation both within Project 2061 and with outside specialists. The map developers first review the adult literacy expectations in the appropriate section of Science for All Americans. They then identify the learning goals that are precursors to the literacy understandings described in Science for All Americans within the relevant section of Benchmarks and then look for other important precursors and related ideas in other sections. The connections between the learning goals on the map are then specified. Connections are based on the logic of the subject matter and on the available published research on how students understand and learn—both in general and with regard to specific concepts. With the connections in place, the map developers examine the map to ensure that it describes an appropriate developmental progression across the grade levels and a coherent "story" within each grade level. If gaps exist, the developers look for learning goals in other standards documents, such as the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards.

After a draft map has undergone several rounds of evaluation by Project 2061 staff, the map then receives broader review by scientists and science educators who are experts in the topic area and knowledgeable about the relevant research on student learning. Most Atlas maps go through about 10 drafts over the course of a year before they are ready for a wider round of external reviews. External reviews include a series of small focus groups run by an evaluator outside of Project 2061 and feedback from educators who view draft maps on the Project 2061 Web site. Ultimately, as many as 12 or more scientists and educators may scrutinize and review any particular Atlas map, helping to ensure that the map is an effective tool for designing coherent curriculum and for illustrating how individual learning goals relate to the “big picture” of student understanding.

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For more information, please contact:

Program Director: Dr. Sofia Kesidou
Senior Program Associate: Ted Willard

Maps under development for the second volume of Atlas of Science Literacy

1: The Nature of Science

  • Science and Society
  • The Scientific Community

2: The Nature of Mathematics

  • Mathematical Applications

3: The Nature of Technology

  • Technology and Science

4: The Physical Setting

  • Earth’s Resources
  • Weather and Climate
  • Energy Transformations
  • Electricity and Magnetism

5: The Living Environment

  • Diversity of Life
  • Interdependence of Life

6: The Human Organism

  • Human Identity
  • Human Development
  • Basic Functions
  • Learning

7: Human Society

  • Group Behavior
  • Political and Economic Systems
  • Social Conflict
  • Global Interdependence

8: The Designed World

  • Materials Processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy Sources and Use
  • Health Technology

9: The Mathematical World

  • Number Sense
  • Shapes
  • Principles of Reasoning

10: Historical Perspectives

  • to be determined

11: Common Themes

  • Models
  • Constancy and Change
  • Scale

12: Habits of Mind

  • Values and Attitudes
  • Computation and Estimation
  • Manipulation and Observation
  • Communication Skills
  • Critical Response Skills

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