Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

Every time I teach Section 3.9, which covers rotations about single and double bonds and cis/trans isomerism, I’m reminded of how valuable an exercise it is to have students determine whether a particular double bond can have cis/trans configurations possible. It may not immediately jump out at you as a valuable exercise, but consider this. … Continue reading Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: Elementary Steps for Radicals

We have written a handful of blog posts that call attention to the benefits of Chapter 7, which introduces students to the 10 common elementary steps involving closed-shell species. Because of Chapter 7, students are exposed to the complete set of the elementary steps that make up the mechanisms for all reactions encountered through Chapter … Continue reading What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: Elementary Steps for Radicals

A Great Teaching Moment with Aromatic Substitution Reactions

One of my favorite teaching moments throughout the entire year comes in Chapter 23, when, in the same lecture period, we examine aromatic substitution reactions proceeding through three different intermediates: arenium ion intermediates (first reaction below), Meisenheimer complexes (second reaction below), and benzyne intermediates (third reaction below). I love this as a teaching moment because … Continue reading A Great Teaching Moment with Aromatic Substitution Reactions

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