At the beginning of each semester, I make sure to emphasize the importance of working through problems in the textbook. For each chapter, I give students suggested problems to do, but with over 200 students in my organic I lecture this fall, it is impossible for me to know how well they are following my guidelines. I became doubtful because, while I regularly receive questions about online homework in my office hours Q&A sessions, I rarely receive questions about book problems. I assumed this meant that few students were working through book problems, but I assumed wrong.

Recently, a student stopped by my office to discuss questions she missed on the exam. Through our time together she realized that the problems she missed directly correlated with how many problems in the book she had worked on. She aced the resonance questions because she felt she worked through a sufficient number of book problems, she did poorly on the bonding/hybridization questions and noted that she had only worked through a few in preparing for the exam. Unprompted, she told me how helpful the solutions manual was to her effort in working through the book problems (well, the ones she did complete). Recognizing her shortcomings in the first exam, she plans on working through more book problems to aid her study in the future.

The “Think” step, which kicks-off every problem, is probably one of the most valuable features of the solutions manual. It consists of questions or prompts that will help elucidate a path to the solution. It is the same approach used in Joel’s text and mimics questions I might ask a student in my office as I guide them through a problem. The feature is especially helpful in a large lecture section where I do not have the ability to meet with each student and guide them one-on-one. I believe it is helping my students become better problem solvers, by training them to ask similar questions on their own.

This was one of my first times hearing about the solutions manual, which I co-authored, from a student. Her positive comments inspired me to create an online survey, to see how other students approached book problems. I learned that the detailed solutions in the solutions manual and, in particular, the “Think” steps were likely the main reasons I was not getting a lot of questions. One student even told me in the survey, “It helps break down the solutions and improves my comprehension of why the answers are what they are so that I am more likely to answer future problems correctly.”

For the first time in my experience teaching organic, the students are working through book problems and taking their understanding to a higher level. I saw this reflected in the average on the first exam (which had improved 5 percentage points compared to 2011-2013) and I am confident that the trend will continue. The solutions manual seems to serve as an “in-home” professor guiding them through the problems.

It would be good to hear if others users are having a similar experience with the solutions manual. Comments below are welcome.

– Marie Melzer, Old Dominion University

Marie Melzer teaches a mechanistically organized course at Old Dominion UniversityClick here to learn more about Prof. Melzer.

One thought on “Warning: Use of the Student Manual May Result in Fewer Questions from Students

  1. I’ve found that to be true this year as well. A number of my students have expressed gratitude at the process the solutions manual models. Thanks!

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