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?

What about the First-Term ACS Exam?

For longer than the 14 years I’ve been at Elon University, we’ve been administering the full-year ACS final exam in organic chemistry at the end of spring semester. It’s a valuable tool to assess our effectiveness in teaching the fundamental material that students are expected to know, and it also lets us see how our … Continue reading What about the First-Term ACS Exam?

No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Shortly after I began teaching, when I was still using a book organized by functional group, I came to dread the second exam of the first semester. The class would typically perform decently well on the first exam, but scores would plummet on the second one. I recently looked back at my records for a … Continue reading No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Delay Reactions, Hasten Understanding

In my early years of teaching, I would break the ice the first day of class by asking my students what they know about organic chemistry. Without fail, the first student to respond would say something to the effect of: “It’s really hard! I’ve heard that there are so many reactions to memorize!” A low … Continue reading Delay Reactions, Hasten Understanding

Taking the Fear Out of Lengthy Mechanisms: A Good Type of Problem from Chapter 7

Even if a student intends to devote a great amount of time and effort to studying mechanisms and to using mechanisms to understand reactions, their efforts can be easily thwarted by the sheer intimidation of relatively long mechanisms. Years ago, when I was still teaching under a functional group organization, I would hear gasps and … Continue reading Taking the Fear Out of Lengthy Mechanisms: A Good Type of Problem from Chapter 7

Getting Students to Connect Acid-Base Chemistry to the Rest of Organic Chemistry

Many professors agree that a strong foundation of acid-base chemistry is vital for students to understand the great majority of organic reactions they will face, and I firmly agree. Certainly, the importance of acid-base chemistry is reflected by the fact that organic textbooks typically discuss acids, bases, and proton transfer reactions early. Despite these early … Continue reading Getting Students to Connect Acid-Base Chemistry to the Rest of Organic Chemistry

Spoiler Alert: Reading the Textbook Before Class Does a Student Good

For students to succeed in organic chemistry, they should begin the semester on the right foot and stay on the ball throughout the entire semester. A huge component of that involves coming prepared for class each day, having already read and processed material from the textbook that will be covered. When I began teaching 14 … Continue reading Spoiler Alert: Reading the Textbook Before Class Does a Student Good

Six Things Students Should Be Able to Do upon Completing Chapter 7, and One Thing They Shouldn’t

In my previous post, I described how happy I’ve been with my students’ ability to process the relatively complex interplay between kinetics and thermodynamics to understand the outcome of a competing set of chemical reactions. The specific example I gave involved the competition between transesterification and the Claisen condensation reaction, and that got me thinking … Continue reading Six Things Students Should Be Able to Do upon Completing Chapter 7, and One Thing They Shouldn’t

My Three Favorite Words (to Hear from a Student)

A week ago, one of my students sent me this in an email: “I have a question for you: when an ester and an alkoxide anion are together in a problem, how do we know if a transesterification or a Claisen condensation will take place? Is it just that if the alkoxide anion is the … Continue reading My Three Favorite Words (to Hear from a Student)