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

Taking the Enolate off the Pedestal

I’ve noticed over the years that when I put a “name” on something, students tend to panic. We will be doing just fine with SN2 reactions, but when I suddenly name it the Williamson Ether Synthesis, my students become very concerned, as if it’s some completely different concept. Whenever I bring up the Williamson Ether … Continue reading Taking the Enolate off the Pedestal

MCAT-2015 is Here

The new year traditionally brings a time for both reflection and looking forward. For teachers of organic chemistry everywhere, this past year stands out more than most. After years of planning, MCAT-2015 is finally upon us. I previously wrote about the challenges and opportunities this change holds for us and how we, at Middlebury College, … Continue reading MCAT-2015 is Here

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)