Mapping of physics content standards to information literacy power

Zorana Ercegovac+, UCLA and Windward School

Marcus Milling, Windward School


This article is the first in a series of reports on Engineering Information Literacy Portal for 7-12 grade students, E-Portal 7-12. It is an attempt to enable science teachers and librarians to explore the common ground in their effort to guide the students in resource-rich, inquiry-based, standard-referenced, and accountable learning experiences.

We make the following conjecture (based on cited references and our own research and classroom experience with 7-12 grade students, and with college students):

> Curriculum that is inquiry-centered, resource-rich, and based on the pedagogy that puts standards, assessments, and problem solving at the heart of students' learning is likely to produce desirable performance outcomes.

>Collaboration between science or math instructors who integrate information literacy, IL, and technology skills in their instruction and librarians who are experts in science curriculum and technology are together likely to help the students become motivated learners, higher achievers, and aspiring scientists or engineers.

>High school students who do better in science and math are more likely to select their college majors in science and engineering than the students who do poorly in science and math.

This article looks at the intersection between physics curriculum content standards for grades 9 through 12 and IL standards for high school students. Scientific literacy has been defined as the "knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity." (NSES, 2001, p. 22). A person who is scientifically literate is able to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from everyday experiences; describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena; understand articles about science from popular press; converse about validity of the conclusions; debate opposite sides of scientific issues; evaluate the quality of scientific information based on sources and methods (NSES, 2001, p. 22) A person who is information literate is able to "access, evaluate, and use information from multiple sources in order to learn, to think, and to create and apply new knowledge." (AASL & AECT, 1998) The two sets of standards and related competencies, while analogous, are often reported and published in different sources, and read by science instructors and separately by librarians. However, we are often reminded that students become information literate when instructors and librarians together guide the students through discipline-related projects.

In an effort to construct a matrix that maps learning components of physical sciences (e.g., conceptual understanding, scientific investigation, and practical reasoning) to IL skills, it became clear that there was a great amount of agreement between underlying elements of the two sets of standards. Conceptual understanding is defined as the ability to understand basic concepts and tools used in the process of a scientific investigation. Practical reasoning involves suggesting effective solutions to everyday experiences and problems (NAEP Consensus Project, NAGB). These three elements of science standards are in general agreement with IL skills as developed jointly by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT). The underlying philosophy of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) has been that teachers:



 This model of pedagogy makes learning and teaching processes transparent: learners construct meaning as they actively engage in solving problems; instructors facilitate learning through inquiry-based strategies, reflection, and feedback mechanisms. The model recognizes that learning styles differ; that scientific concepts, processes, principles, laws, theories, and models can be understood through multiple ways; that learning ought to be standard-based; and that schools are accountable through systematic formative and summative assessments both of teachers and of students. A common denominator for both sets of standards includes higher order thinking skills that are based on the Bloom's taxonomy for categorizing levels of abstraction into knowledge acquisition, deep understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In a nutshell, the overlap consists of organizing factual knowledge around major concepts, defining and solving problems, accessing and evaluating information, connecting to prior experience, collaborating, and communicating results to others.

This project connected main ideas contained in science content standards with IL standards, both for high schools (AASL, 1998) and for higher education (ACRL, 2000). A variety of the class-tested and team-taught projects by Ercegovac and Milling for various physics topics were also presented and discussed at the poster session, Teaching Science Information: Taking Users to the Next Level. The session was organized and moderated by Ted Baldwin at the SLA 2002 Annual Conference in Los Angeles.



American Association for School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1998) Information Power: Building partnership for learning. Chicago and London: ALA.

American Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Chicago: ACRL.

Ercegovac, Zorana. (2001a) Accessing global information for engineers, in: Proceedings of the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. "Information in a Networked World." Washington, DC, Oct 31-Nov 4, 2001. Medford, NJ: Information Today, published for ASIST.

Ercegovac, Zorana. (2001b) Information Literacy: Search Strategies, Tools and Resources for High School Students. Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Publishing. For reviews, click here.

National Assessment Governing Board, U.S. Department of Education. Science framework for the 1996 and 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, DC: The Department [n.d.]. Available on the Web: Accessed on April 8th 2002.

National Science Education Standards. (1996) Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 8th printing, Feb., 2001.


+point of contact: Zorana Ercegovac at:



This project is supported in part by the Engineering Information Foundation under grant EiF-01.17, and in part by the Computer Science Department at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles, UCLA.