A Mechanistic Organization is More than Just Mechanistic Patterns

No doubt one of the greatest benefits of teaching a mechanistic organization is the opportunity afforded to students to see patterns among mechanisms—patterns that we experts know and value, but are challenging for students to see under a traditional functional group organization. For example, as I described in my previous post, Why a Mechanistic Organization?, … Continue reading A Mechanistic Organization is More than Just Mechanistic Patterns

Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand

In my recent post, Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis, I highlighted research by Alison Flynn at the University of Ottawa, in which she showed that students have better success solving a synthesis problem when they draw reaction mechanisms. I recently had an opportunity to further probe this connection by analyzing my students’ success on … Continue reading Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand

Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems

There are no two ways about it—solving synthesis problems is one of the more challenging tasks that students face in organic chemistry. One reason for the difficulty is the sheer number of reactions we deal with throughout the year, perhaps a few hundred in total. Invariably my students ask me if they need to know … Continue reading Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems

Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis

I have long maintained that a greater mastery of mechanisms aids students in solving synthesis problems. The idea makes sense: the better a student understands how a reaction takes place via the mechanism, the better he or she will be able to incorporate that reaction into a synthesis when a specific modification to a molecule … Continue reading Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis

How Do Students Respond to the Mechanistic Organization?

Elon professor Joel Karty discusses his observations of how students seem to have more understanding, command, and control of their organic chemistry education when taught via the mechanistic organization. Prof. Karty also talks about being pleasantly surprised by the more interesting questions that students ask after learning elementary steps. Watch this and other videos of … Continue reading How Do Students Respond to the Mechanistic Organization?

Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Mechanisms can greatly simplify learning organic chemistry because the hundreds of reactions that students need to know have mechanisms that are constructed from just a handful of distinct elementary steps. This is easy for us professors to see—after all, we’ve been through the year’s reactions and mechanisms multiple times. Students, on the other hand, must … Continue reading Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Right Where I Want my Students to Be

The other day, while working through Chapter 21, I left class with a great feeling as a result of having given the following clicker question: My students were able to rule out choice (a) on their own, given that there’s no reasonable mechanism to arrive at that product with the methyl groups located there. However, … Continue reading Right Where I Want my Students to Be

Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning

We started Chapter 9 in class a couple weeks ago, where we learn how to predict the outcome of the SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. Similar to how it’s done in most books, we do this by first learning about the major factors that influence the rate of each reaction in this competition. But unlike other books, this … Continue reading Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning

Taking the Frustration out of Online Homework…for You and Your Students

In one of my previous posts, I described how happy I was to implement Norton’s online homework system, Smartwork, for my organic courses. For my students’ learning, nothing beats the instant feedback they get when they click “Check Answer,” which immediately helps them assess whether or not they understand the problem at hand (it’s hard to … Continue reading Taking the Frustration out of Online Homework…for You and Your Students

When Should Resonance be Taught?

In my textbook, resonance is presented rather extensively in Chapter 1 (“Atomic and Molecular Structure”), ultimately teaching students how to draw all resonance structures of a given species. I like to teach resonance to that depth early in the course because it reinforces topics that are vital to student success throughout the entire year of … Continue reading When Should Resonance be Taught?