I am not sure if other instructors have this issue, but how do you connect students back to the content? Sometimes I wonder if the first week of the spring semester is worse than the first week of the fall semester. My class ended the semester on chapter 9 content, while my colleague left the semester having talked about the first few sections of chapter 10. You could joke and say he was teasing the students, which left them wanting more….

Regardless, I have to try to jump start the audience’s brains to start thinking about organic reactions and electron movements. How do teachers do that? I start my semester with a syllabus review then proceed by ripping the band-aid off, as they say. What do other teachers do? Often at the start of the Fall semester, I start with an introduction quiz to gauge what content the students were able to retain from their experiences in general chemistry. 

I have often wondered how instructors assess their students throughout the semester to maintain that consistency and connection with the content. Depending on the institution, the class size can range. Smaller class sizes can allow for more qualitative or thought-provoking assignments. I often teach a minimum of 50 student classes and use exams and quizzes to assess students in a timely manner. Instructors, like students, can get bogged down in the restriction of keeping a timely report to best serve their students.

In the syllabus review, I remind students how they can get help (tutoring center, office hours, etc). I also remind them that the stakes are higher. Today started unique and I asked what they remembered from the previous Fall semester, and placed the choice of review with my students. I inquired how confident they were with the “staples” of the course….SN1 and SN2 reactions. I truly like how Karty is arranged…almost like a dance class for organic molecules. At the very least, I want my students to know that they need to view the electron movement, rather than worry about learning a named reaction by the term itself. 

I am glad that the students asked for a brief interlude into the semester. Ripping the band-aid off for me would be jumping right into the text without any notice. I see proof in that…like a sink or swim. Sometimes I feel like it makes the audience get a bad first impression of the instructor. Today’s class was spent relating the concepts that the students would see in chapter 10 and understanding the expectations as they assimilated back into the world of organic chemistry.

  • How to identify the nucleophile, electrophile and the route of SN1 or SN2?
  • What conditions support the particular route of SN1 or SN2?
  • Reactions are not provided at face-value and the chemist may have to prepare the nucleophile or electrophile.
  • What communicates an order in a reaction and when to use certain reagents?

For my discussion, I intertwined reactions from early sections of 10.1 – 10.3, and reminded them of concepts that don’t go away (ie, chirality, elementary steps), while others become more prominent (major versus minor and alkyl/hydride shifts). 

In retrospect, today’s discussion gives me hope that students are going to start the semester off on a good note. I am excited to start the next class with new content and continue to build their background as successful STEM-based professionals.

-Kerri Taylor, Columbus State University

Feel free to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below!

Click here to learn more about Kerri Taylor!

Click here to read all posts by Kerri Taylor!

One thought on “Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

  1. I’m blessed with small classes, but I think if I were pushing 50+ I’d try to make use of ungraded quizzes. Maybe like a short, here is where I am (the student) and what I can do kind of assessment. Maybe even do the old grade school trick of passing it to the next person to correct it.

Leave a Reply