Starbursts

Organic chemistry can be challenging. Often, students might be cautious or reluctant to attempt the material. However, I use “starbursts” in my classroom when teaching organic chemistry through a mechanistic organization to keep my students motivated. Starbursts compile a range of reaction schemes and conditions to provide comparisons among key reactions, which allow students to … Continue reading Starbursts

How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

For years I told my students they shouldn’t merely memorize a list of reactions. But what were my actions really telling them? In the last textbook I used, the alkene chapter began with nomenclature, then covered Markovnikov addition of H-X and water, halogenation and halohydrin formation, and ended with hydroboration/oxidation. The next chapter that covered … Continue reading How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

The Right Time for Synthesis?

At Butler, we have four learning goals for our students in organic chemistry: to learn the language, drawing style, and three-dimensional structure of organic molecules; to know and apply organic reactions; to demonstrate understanding of reaction mechanisms; and to integrate this knowledge through synthesis. Of these learning objectives, the most difficult for students to embrace … Continue reading The Right Time for Synthesis?

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?

Helping Students Learn How to Learn

I had been going through Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do with a new faculty member this semester. The overarching theme of Bain’s book is that the best college teachers are student-centered. These “best teachers” are constantly trying to get into students' heads to help them learn how to learn. It is not … Continue reading Helping Students Learn How to Learn

Making a Commitment (But Not to Traditions)

I did not realize my commitment to traditions—in my personal life and in the classroom—until recently. In my personal life, I discovered that I was married to a person who did not know that: Christmas trees are decorated while listening to Christmas music and not with a basketball game on in the background; salads are … Continue reading Making a Commitment (But Not to Traditions)

The Benefits of a Mechanistically Organized Book When Teaching a 2-cycle Approach

Two-cycle organic chemistry is a pedagogical approach that has gained in popularity over the last couple decades. It’s a rather simple idea: The first semester course is treated as something of a survey, dealing primarily with the fundamentals, whereas the second semester revisits many of the same topics from the first semester, but treating them … Continue reading The Benefits of a Mechanistically Organized Book When Teaching a 2-cycle Approach