Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

While teaching chapters 17-18, I have shown students the versatility of carbonyls and enolate chemistry. The discussion in Karty’s book is arranged well and does a nice job of spotlighting the chemistry unique to carbonyls, especially as it ranges from selective addition (direct or conjugate) to the use of enolates for alkylation and halogenation.  In … Continue reading Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

Smartwork online homework and written problem sets: A perfect marriage

Learning organic chemistry is not a linear process; rather, it’s made up of many small cycles. Each cycle begins when we present students the basic ideas behind a new topic. Then we’ll show students how to apply those ideas toward solving a few initial problems, and we’ll follow that up with an assignment where students … Continue reading Smartwork online homework and written problem sets: A perfect marriage

A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Williamson ether synthesis at the basic leave is rooted in the conditions of an SN2 reaction. However, students still struggle with the content. I have found myself trying to remind my class of the basics. I am quite fond of the Karty text, and have tried to compliment the book mechanics with some organically-flavored A … Continue reading A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

I am not sure if other instructors have this issue, but how do you connect students back to the content? Sometimes I wonder if the first week of the spring semester is worse than the first week of the fall semester. My class ended the semester on chapter 9 content, while my colleague left the … Continue reading Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

How Do You Foster Real-Life Connections between the Material and Students’ Worlds?

When teaching, I try to foster real-life applications between the material and students’ experiences. I try to channel my inner Ms. Frizzle, a quirky teacher from The Magic School Bus, which is a throwback to my childhood. Today’s students may not be as aware of the television show, but I still like to embody Ms. … Continue reading How Do You Foster Real-Life Connections between the Material and Students’ Worlds?

An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis

When students ask me why learning organic chemistry is such hard work, I often begin by telling them that it’s just so different from general chemistry. At the beginning of the course, there’s plenty of overlap since students in organic chemistry must have a strong foundation in the structure, bonding, and properties of molecules. Eventually, … Continue reading An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis

Chemistry in the Real World: Applications That Bring Life to the Page

Rarely are real-world applications of chemistry emphasized enough in the mainstream organic chemistry course. This can explain why students tend to view chemistry as structures on the page or as schemes drawn on the white board. A strictly two-dimensional discussion of chemistry can be one of the reasons that students struggle to connect what they … Continue reading Chemistry in the Real World: Applications That Bring Life to the Page

Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Organic Chemistry Using Online Assessment and Group Exams

“I hated that class!” That’s what nearly every doctor and dentist I’ve ever had has said when I tell them that I teach organic chemistry. It’s no surprise that I was afraid to declare my undergraduate major at Mount Holyoke College until I had passed organic chemistry, given its notorious difficulty. Was I smart enough? … Continue reading Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Organic Chemistry Using Online Assessment and Group Exams

The How-Tos of Hybridization

In the past four weeks, our time in lecture has been spent bridging the gap between principles (general chemistry) and preparing for the first exam. One topic that has a recurring theme between the two is hybridization. I have noticed two major groups of students: (1) those who need review, and (2) those who are … Continue reading The How-Tos of Hybridization