Date of Award

December 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Kristen Murphy

Committee Members

Peter Geissinger, Graham Moran, MaryKay Orgill


Assessment, General Chemistry, Instruction, Scale


As a student, it is fundamental to comprehend how small an atom or molecule is in order to truly understand how the world works. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has determined that scale is a critical theme that pervades through all areas of science and is critical to a deep understanding. This project determined that students, which are more proficient with scale and moving between the macroscopic and particle worlds, were better performers in chemistry classes. Interviews were used to determine what the students understood and what common misconceptions were present. These lead to the development of two in-class lessons where the students interacted with live and remote instrumentation. A need to determine the proficiency of scale understanding on the classroom level lead to the development of two assessments which, when combined, determine a student's scale literacy. The scale literacy was determined to be a better predictor of student success in introductory chemistry classes than other currently used tests. To develop their scale literacy further, supplementary instruction using interactive activities were created and measured for effectiveness. Scale was determined to be a critical piece to a student's fundamental understanding however, more needs to be done to completely understand the continuum of scale development from novice to expert.