My entire academic career as both a student and as an instructor, I have always taught or been taught organic chemistry using the functional group approach: beginning with the tried and true method of labeling chapters by functional groups and then moving on to learn how to name, synthesize, and react with the functional group in question.
This last year, I was invited to view a webinar on Karty’s Organic Chemistry: Principles & Mechanisms. I must admit that as I watched the presentation, I wasn’t sure this would work for me. However, while teaching over the next few days, I realized that I have always referred students to previous mechanisms similar to the one we were currently learning. I would go over a mechanism extensively in the hopes that students would remember it when they reappeared in other functional groups in later chapters. After the webinar, I was struck by the intrinsic nature of Karty’s approach in teaching organic chemistry: I was already employing the mechanistic approach without even knowing it! After skimming through a desk copy of the text that I received, the rest, as they say, is history.
I am currently beginning my first term with Karty and I thought I would offer my first impressions as well as what I am looking forward to doing this term with the students. While I knew about the mechanism-based organization before I received the book, one of my major reservations was regarding how it handled nomenclature. I have never been a fan of this topic. It is traditionally taught so that students learn the fundamentals (e.g. alkine nomenclature) early in the course and then is introduced more slowly in proceeding chapters for the function group being studied. In my prior iterations, we didn’t cover carboxylic acid naming until the second term despite covering esterification in the first term with the alcohol chapter. In essence, the students were doing synthesis even before they could properly name the regents. In Karty’s textbook, nomenclature is taught as a set of intersystem chapters (called Interchapters), which I am very excited to teach and cover in the first term. It seems to be much more focused and students can name structures much earlier in the course.
After reviewing the Teach the Mechanism blog and looking over the sample syllabi, as well as reviewing the textbook, I realized how easy it would be to reorganize the course to fit my specific style and needs. In our first term lab course, we perform quite a few syntheses and I like the students to have some background in qualitative analysis. For this reason, I have decided to move qualitative analysis into the first term. I am planning to cover NMR and Mass Spec. (Chapter 16) at the end of term I and will begin term II with Infrared and Ultraviolet (Chapter 15). As far as the rest of the chapters, I plan to teach them in order as they are in the book.
I should also say that I flip my course and I am very grateful for all the clicker questions and test bank provided as part of the instructor resources. They have eased the transition immensely.
That is my plan for the first term. I am very excited to start the course and work with the students this term. I hope you will check back later as I plan to write a follow-up at the end of the term on how my first term with Karty went.
-Corey Stilts, Emira College
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