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

Smartwork5: Immediate Formative Assessment Opportunities Help Students Work Smart

Here at Teach the Mechanism we are excited to introduce you to Dr. Christine Pruis, our full-time on-staff Chemistry Subject Matter Expert. In the following post, Dr. Pruis discusses her journey with authoring the Smartwork5 online homework and how this resource facilitates learning and understanding organic chemistry and mechanisms when paired with Joel’s text. Read … Continue reading Smartwork5: Immediate Formative Assessment Opportunities Help Students Work Smart

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

Spectroscopy: Seeing (and Using) the Big Picture

Like many other instructors, I do the majority of spectroscopy instruction in my laboratory. It seems natural to integrate spectroscopy problems into lab exercises, and to use the molecules we make as the platform for understanding how to analyze them. Most organic texts I have seen introduce spectroscopy towards the end of the first semester … Continue reading Spectroscopy: Seeing (and Using) the Big Picture

Using Lab Reports to Reinforce the Mechanism

My students learn organic chemistry in a mechanistically organized course and I want to make sure they really understand how the mechanisms apply to reactions that are synthetically useful. There are many approaches that I use to reinforce their learning such as quizzes, practice problems, and SmartWork assignments. I previously talked about why I am … Continue reading Using Lab Reports to Reinforce the Mechanism

Mechanisms in Class, Mechanisms in Lab

I have always used a mechanistic approach when teaching organic chemistry. Every class I have taught, I started the first day saying, “Do you want to try to memorize hundreds, if not thousands, of individual reactions, or do you want to learn to understand how about ten reactions take place, so you can apply them … Continue reading Mechanisms in Class, Mechanisms in Lab

Playing Musical Chairs with Spectroscopy

As a Synthetic Organic Chemist by trade, I use NMR spectroscopy heavily for analysis and structure identification. When designing a course in organic chemistry, it comes as no surprise that I want my students to be comfortable mining information from an NMR spectrum and using it to solve problems. A mechanistically organized course lends itself … Continue reading Playing Musical Chairs with Spectroscopy

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

Solving the IR Puzzle

My three year old son recently has shown interest in solving puzzles. He dumps the pieces on the floor and randomly clicks them together until he finds a match. This is often the same approach that students take to problem solving in organic chemistry. To help my students work more systematically, I introduce IR early … Continue reading Solving the IR Puzzle

Is Learning Organic Chemistry like Learning a New Language?

Over the years, I've heard many organic faculty use the phrase: “Learning organic chemistry is like learning a foreign language.” I've certainly used the phrase myself to give advice to my own students, in an attempt to convey that both subjects are cumulative and require a lot of practice. This year, however, I find myself … Continue reading Is Learning Organic Chemistry like Learning a New Language?