It’s All in the Arrows

In organic chemistry, I find that arrows are critical to teach organic content in a mechanistic perspective because they tell the story of all organic transformations. I try to impress upon my students that the arrows in mechanisms can provide a clear indication of how to move electrons. Mechanistically, students struggle with knowing the difference … Continue reading It’s All in the Arrows

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

Improvements on Retrosynthetic Analysis

Success in organic chemistry is heavily reliant on a student’s ability to identify patterns. Until recently, I organized my course by functional group. It was only after I adopted Joel Karty’s approach that I recognized that the variety of reactions used to synthesize each functional group can vary widely and that this variance makes it … Continue reading Improvements on Retrosynthetic Analysis

Making Backward Mechanism Arrows An Endangered Species

I’ve just finished grading the first exam for my Organic II course and I’ve experienced something I never have before. Of the more than 50 students that took my Organic I course last semester, none of them drew a single mechanism arrow in the wrong direction [1]. Yes, some of these students did get parts … Continue reading Making Backward Mechanism Arrows An Endangered Species