Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Kristen L. Murphy

Committee Members

Anja Blecking, Peter Geissinger, John Kirk, Alan Schwabacher


adaptation, anatomy and physiology, assessments, chemical education, chemistry, scale


The 1980s saw an increasing demand for education standards that would create a scientifically literate society. In response, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a report that outlined four themes that are characteristic of a scientifically literate individual: systems, models, constancy and change, and scale (1). In 1993, the AAAS published the Benchmarks for Science Literacy which outlined common scientific skills that a student should be able to demonstrate by grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 (2). Beyond the AAAS scale was not included in national science educational standards until 2012 when the National Research Council released the Framework for K-12 science education followed by the Next Generation Science Standards in 2013. Scale was included as a cross-cutting concept titled “Scale, Proportion, and Quantity” (3). Because proportion and quantity were included along with scale, some instructors who cover proportion and quantity believe that they also cover scale but may not have fully addressed the scale portion of the cross-cutting concept.

Previous research in general chemistry I and scale led to the development of two instruments: the Scale Literacy Skills Test (SLST) and the Scale Concept Inventory (SCI) (4). The average of the two assessments generated a Scale Literacy Score for a student providing a measure of their scale ability. Previous research has shown that scale literacy is a better predictor for success in chemistry than traditional measures. Scale has been systematically integrated as a theme in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum in lecture, laboratory, and supplemental instruction activities. When scale was integrated in all components of the course there was an increase in student learning as measured by final exam performance. Scale as a cross-cutting concept has applications beyond that of only chemistry, e.g. biology. When transferring disciplines from chemistry to biological sciences, the existing scale instruments, SLST and SCI, cannot be assumed to be valid. Before investigating students’ ability in scale in biological sciences the existing instruments were tested for reliability and validity. Once this was complete, the SLST and SCI were used to measure scale ability in Anatomy and Physiology I.

The goal of this project is studying student scale understanding across STEM disciplines. This continues the previous research in General Chemistry II and adapts the research for Anatomy and Physiology I (5). This thesis contains the details of three studies between two courses covering student scale conception and scale’s relation, if any, to final exam performance. The first (Chapter 3) discusses the development and implementation of two supplemental instruction online adaptive activities for General Chemistry II students. Chapter 4 details semi-structured interviews with Anatomy and Physiology I students with regards to their scale conception. Chapter 5 details the building of a multiple regression model to predict cumulative final exam score for the Anatomy and Physiology I course.


(1) 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.

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

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

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

(5) Trate, J. (2017). Integrating Scale-Themed Instruction Across the General Chemistry Curriculum and Selected In-Depth Studies (Doctoral dissertation). University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI.

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Chemistry Commons