Results of Four Years of Teaching the Mechanism

I adopted the Karty textbook four years ago.  I had been using a book organized by functional group but focused on the subject from a mechanistic approach. When it came to choosing a new textbook, I reviewed most of the textbooks on the market and asked my current and previous students their opinions of each … Continue reading Results of Four Years of Teaching the Mechanism

Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

One thing I was really looking forward to when switching to Karty’s mechanistically organized text was how reactions involving alkenes would be addressed. I expected to see the reactions simply grouped by mechanism; for example, the electrophilic addition reaction mechanisms would be grouped together, as would the pericyclic reaction mechanisms and so on. Instead, I … Continue reading Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

Are Mechanisms Just for Chemistry Majors?

Like many chemists, I am not much help to the biology, biomedical, and medical students that come to my office with queries ranging from anatomy to physiology. Though a prerequisite for my degree, biology was never a true passion of mine. Likewise, many biology majors despise chemistry. In fact, a number of the biology majors … Continue reading Are Mechanisms Just for Chemistry Majors?

Starting the Semester with My Biology Students in Mind

Like so many other organic courses, at my school approximately two-thirds of organic students are biology majors. Of these, most have some sort of pre-health professional aspiration. Because of this audience alongside my chemistry and biochemistry majors, I come to my organic classroom (as I know many of you do!) with two sets of course … Continue reading Starting the Semester with My Biology Students in Mind

Choosing to Teach the Mechanism

When it became clear that we would be changing texts for organic chemistry, most of my colleagues and I began dreading the long decision and transition process. We all use the same textbook and choose it by consensus. There are about seven faculty members in our department who teach in the organic chemistry series. We … Continue reading Choosing to Teach the Mechanism

Do Your Students “Get” Aldol Reactions?

As a new professor, I had mixed feelings about spring break. On the one hand, I was so ready for a vacation, but on the other, I remembered what it was like as a student that time of year. Your mind is on anything but classes. Not only are you looking forward to a week … Continue reading Do Your Students “Get” Aldol Reactions?

Surprising Scores in Unit 4

At the end of the semester the students are typically burned out, busy with all of their final assignments, and in general do not perform as well on the last unit exam compared to the other three units. At Old Dominion University we teach addition to alkenes and alkynes in the last unit, a very … Continue reading Surprising Scores in Unit 4

Teaching the Mechanism Means Testing the Mechanism

Exam questions are a primary medium by which students learn what their instructor values most in the course. If we evaluate what we value, questions should test the mechanism and thus emphasize conceptual understanding, utilize real applications, and require deep thinking. And for me, the most important reason to pose mechanistic questions is to see … Continue reading Teaching the Mechanism Means Testing the Mechanism

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?

Surprises from Chapter 10

Organizing a course like organic chemistry with dense material and volumes of content to cover can be incredibly daunting. At times, it seems impossible to find a balance between giving fundamental concepts the attention they require and building up the toolbox of reactions for students to use at a reasonable pace. Like many professors, I … Continue reading Surprises from Chapter 10