Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kristen Murphy

Committee Members

Peter Geissinger, Anja Blecking, Alan Schwabacher, Don Wink


In 1982, in response to a growing demand for a scientifically literate population, two organizations, the AAAS and NCISE published reports that proposed using themes to bridge scientific disciplines1,2. The NCISE report identified “9 explanatory concepts” which included organization, cause and effect, systems, scale, models, change, structure or function, discontinuous and continuous properties, and diversity. The AAAS report, as part of Project 2061, identified 4 themes that define science literacy which included systems, models, constancy and change, and scale. In 1993, the AAAS released the Benchmarks for Science Literacy3 which outlined what all students should know or be able to do related to each common theme by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. However, prior to the release of the Framework for K-12 Science Education in 2012, and subsequent release of the Next Generation Science Standards in 2013, scale was not included in any national science education standards4,5. Now incorporated as one of seven crosscutting concepts, “scale, proportion, and quantity”, little is known regarding the degree to which scale is incorporated into instruction.

In disciplines like chemistry, undergraduate students are routinely confronted with concepts of scale and consistently demonstrate underdeveloped skills in understanding and applying concepts of scale. Previous research in this field led to the development of two assessments, the Scale Literacy Skills Test and Scale Concept Inventory6, for measuring student scale literacy. Using these assessments, scale literacy was found to better predict student success in general chemistry than other traditional predictors of student success such as ACT and placement test scores. Expanding upon the work of Gerlach and co-workers, the work described here outlines the development and systematic integration of a scale-themed curriculum in both general chemistry I and II courses. Throughout 10 semesters of testing, supplemental instruction, laboratory experiments, and lecture instructional materials were developed and adapted to feature explicit themes of scale and implemented into both courses. When all three instructional methodologies are simultaneously administered, consistent positive conceptual learning gains are observed over repeated semesters of testing in general chemistry I.


1. National Center for Improving, Science Education; Science and technology education for the elementary years: frameworks for curriculum and instruction; Washington, D.C., 1989.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061; Science for all Americans: a project 2061 report on literacy goals in science, mathematics, and technology; Washington, D.C., 1989.

3. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061; Benchmarks for science literacy; New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

4. National Research Council; A framework for K-12 science education: practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas; Washington, D.C., The National Academies Press: 2012.

5. National Research Council; Next Generation Science Standards: for states, by states; Washington, D.C., National Academies Press: Washington, D.C., 2013.

6. Gerlach, K.; Trate, J.; Blecking, A.; Geissinger, P.; Murphy, K., Valid and Reliable Assessments to Measure Scale Literacy of Students in Introductory College Chemistry Courses. Journal of Chemical Education. 2014, 91, 1538-1545.