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

Free Energy Diagrams Help Free Students from Memorization

Most organic professors can agree that we want our students to understand concepts and big pictures rather than memorize a list of facts. When determining the outcome or major product of a reaction, I’ve found that using free energy diagrams is a great way to facilitate concept based understanding over memorization. But despite their long-term … Continue reading Free Energy Diagrams Help Free Students from Memorization

Chapter 7: Elementary Steps but Giant Conceptual Leaps

If writing mechanisms is like giving good directions, then each elementary step is similar to saying “turn left at the stop sign.”  You might have to turn right many times during one trip just as you might need multiple acid-base steps during one mechanistic pathway. Joel’s “Most Common Elementary Steps” chapter lays out each possible … Continue reading Chapter 7: Elementary Steps but Giant Conceptual Leaps

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?

Why a Mechanistic Organization Improves Understanding in Large Lectures

One of my favorite TV commercials is the AT&T, “Bigger is Better, It’s Not that Complicated” ad that features unscripted responses of elementary school children about why faster, bigger, larger, etc. is better.  Unlike cell coverage, bigger lecture size is not necessarily better. Over the years, I have done a number of things to make … Continue reading Why a Mechanistic Organization Improves Understanding in Large Lectures

The Organization Makes Mechanisms Part of the Routine

A number of years ago I had a student come to me at the end of Organic II and ask, “What happened to the SN2 reaction?” She wanted to know why we had spent so much time on this one reaction in order to move on to the next unit and then never discussed this … Continue reading The Organization Makes Mechanisms Part of the Routine

Practice Makes Permanent

Golf can frustrate my husband more than any other sport he plays. He recently asked a friend, who is a golf instructor, how to improve his game. The friend responded by saying that, “Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent.” If you are practicing with errors, it does not matter how much you practice, … Continue reading Practice Makes Permanent