Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so … Continue reading Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?
Rarely are real-world applications of chemistry emphasized enough in the mainstream organic chemistry course. This can explain why students tend to view chemistry as structures on the page or as schemes drawn on the white board. A strictly two-dimensional discussion of chemistry can be one of the reasons that students struggle to connect what they … Continue reading Chemistry in the Real World: Applications That Bring Life to the Page
“I hated that class!” That’s what nearly every doctor and dentist I’ve ever had has said when I tell them that I teach organic chemistry. It’s no surprise that I was afraid to declare my undergraduate major at Mount Holyoke College until I had passed organic chemistry, given its notorious difficulty. Was I smart enough? … Continue reading Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Organic Chemistry Using Online Assessment and Group Exams
In the past four weeks, our time in lecture has been spent bridging the gap between principles (general chemistry) and preparing for the first exam. One topic that has a recurring theme between the two is hybridization. I have noticed two major groups of students: (1) those who need review, and (2) those who are … Continue reading The How-Tos of Hybridization
One of my most common refrains in my organic chemistry classes is that students should strive to understand and apply the foundational principles, as opposed to trying to memorize each example reaction that they’ve encountered. I strongly believe that a mechanistic organization discourages the memorization behaviors that students are almost forced to adopt in a … Continue reading How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text
Active learning at Columbus State University (CSU) has been implemented in a variety of ways through both the flipped-classroom and HyFlex environments. The flipped-classroom model has been instituted since Fall 2017, and I have valued my experiences as an instructor in this kind of educational setting. The main tools that I use to successfully adopt … Continue reading Active Learning: Its Benefits in Organic Chemistry
For the professors reading this post, I am writing to gain some insight by asking for your advice. Even though I have been teaching organic chemistry for five years now, I still struggle with how to assess my students’ knowledge. When I was a student, we had a series of free-response/short-answer questions on our exams. I … Continue reading How Do You Keep Content Fresh for Students While Also Maintaining the Integrity of Your Course?
We have now approached Exam 3, which means that students have been exposed to material that includes Chapter 19 content. I am quite excited to see that my students are starting to build their “organic chemistry toolbox,” but I've also noticed that they are starting to confuse how and when reagents are used. While I … Continue reading Building Students’ Organic Chemistry Toolbox to Set Them Up for Exam Success
Molecular orbital theory (MO theory) can be a very challenging topic. Students come into the classroom already knowing about the octet rule, Hund’s rule, and the Pauli exclusion principle. However, the lecture component is critical for bridging the gap between their knowledge of general chemistry and organic chemistry. As such, I start my lecture on … Continue reading MO Theory and Its Relation to Molecular Stability
In today’s class, I spoke about the value of retrosynthesis, which allows chemists to view mechanisms and organic reactions from their products to their starting material. Typically, students are not keen on retrosynthesis because: 1). the word is scary, and students are introduced to many other difficult-sounding concepts while learning it, and 2). the process … Continue reading Forward vs. Backward: How Do You Get Students Interested in Retrosynthesis?