One of my most common refrains in my organic chemistry classes is that students should strive to understand and apply the foundational principles, as opposed to trying to memorize each example reaction that they’ve encountered. I strongly believe that a mechanistic organization discourages the memorization behaviors that students are almost forced to adopt in a … Continue reading How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text
We started resonance structures in class today. It wasn’t until after class had ended that I realized how many great teaching moments we had, and I attribute those teaching moments to the way resonance is presented in my textbook. Resonance is introduced in Chapter 1, and students are taught to draw resonance structures by first … Continue reading The Features of Resonance and the Teaching Moments They Lead To
For the professors reading this post, I am writing to gain some insight by asking for your advice. Even though I have been teaching organic chemistry for five years now, I still struggle with how to assess my students’ knowledge. When I was a student, we had a series of free-response/short-answer questions on our exams. I … Continue reading How Do You Keep Content Fresh for Students While Also Maintaining the Integrity of Your Course?
We have now approached Exam 3, which means that students have been exposed to material that includes Chapter 19 content. I am quite excited to see that my students are starting to build their “organic chemistry toolbox,” but I've also noticed that they are starting to confuse how and when reagents are used. While I … Continue reading Building Students’ Organic Chemistry Toolbox to Set Them Up for Exam Success
In today’s class, I spoke about the value of retrosynthesis, which allows chemists to view mechanisms and organic reactions from their products to their starting material. Typically, students are not keen on retrosynthesis because: 1). the word is scary, and students are introduced to many other difficult-sounding concepts while learning it, and 2). the process … Continue reading Forward vs. Backward: How Do You Get Students Interested in Retrosynthesis?
When teaching mechanisms, I try to impress upon my students that the concepts tied to mechanisms are not confined to the chapters that they appear in within the Karty text, but rather, that they are a continuation of connected topics across the discipline as a whole. Today’s class focused on Sections 13.1-13.3, which elaborate on … Continue reading Everything Is Connected: Teaching Organic Chemistry as a Unified Story through Mechanisms
As teachers, we are expected to be the experts in our subjects. But the act of learning itself is a constantly evolving process, which is why I find it refreshing when my students ask smart questions and suggest alternative perspectives to keep me on my toes in class. We have recently transitioned from the electrophilic … Continue reading Asking Better Questions: When Students Become the Teacher
Chapter 11 of the Karty text focuses on electrophilic addition along pi bonds. This can be a tough topic to tackle. The terms themselves can scare students, which is why I've found that it is key to break down the words into smaller chunks, especially for elementary steps. In the text, a variety of electrophilic … Continue reading The Teeter-Totter Method: Helping Students Visualize Electrophiles and Nucleophiles
Chapters 6-10 incrementally ramp up the types of things we hold students accountable for when it comes to reactions. Chapters 6 and 7 introduce students to the 10 most common elementary steps. Chapter 8 deals with constructing multistep mechanisms in reasonable ways. In Chapter 9, students learn how to predict the outcome of SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. … Continue reading Coaching Students in the Transition from Chapter 9 to Chapter 10
I am a big advocate of the Karty textbook and how it presents mechanisms to the audience. However, mechanisms are not every student’s favorite topic. While some chapters are quite easy to present, others prove to be more challenging for students. I have found that Chapter 7 (“An Overview of the Most Common Elementary Steps”), … Continue reading The Best Tactics for Learning the Elementary Steps of Organic Chemistry