The How-Tos of Hybridization

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

How Do You Keep Content Fresh for Students While Also Maintaining the Integrity of Your Course?

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?

Building Students’ Organic Chemistry Toolbox to Set Them Up for Exam Success

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

Coaching Students in the Transition from Chapter 9 to Chapter 10

Chapters 6-10 incrementally ramp up the types of things we hold students accountable for when it comes to reactions. Chapters 6 and 7 introduce students to the 10 most common elementary steps. Chapter 8 deals with constructing multistep mechanisms in reasonable ways. In Chapter 9, students learn how to predict the outcome of SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. … Continue reading Coaching Students in the Transition from Chapter 9 to Chapter 10

“Keep” vs “Toss”: Skills and Tactics to Consider As an Instructor

It should come as no surprise that teaching online has been a challenge this term. Across the board, both students and professors have experienced growing pains. I know that, amidst the pandemic, we haven't had our first choice of instruction style or teaching materials, but I still hope that this post can bring some clarity … Continue reading “Keep” vs “Toss”: Skills and Tactics to Consider As an Instructor

If I Could Turn Back Time

As a teacher, I try to remember what organic chemistry was like for me as a student. I know that to be effective instructors, we need to be able to see topics through our students’ eyes. After five years in academia, my list of main organic chemistry takeaways has grown to the following five points: … Continue reading If I Could Turn Back Time

Proton Transfer Reactions and Thinking Like a Chemist

Teaching students how to think like a chemist is a challenging, but necessary feature of any organic chemistry course. A seemingly simple question such as, “How will these two compounds react when I mix them?” can stump even the best students. Since it is impossible to memorize every possible reaction combination, students must rely on … Continue reading Proton Transfer Reactions and Thinking Like a Chemist

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