Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part II

Context Is Everything! So, coming back to the gray-hair issue that I mentioned in last week’s post, I have been teaching for long enough that sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that most of my students don’t know very much chemistry, especially not the chemistry of their day-to-day lives. This … Continue reading Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part II

Teaching Mechanistically Online

Like many other faculty, I’ve found myself with two days to switch my organic chemistry II course to an online format. Luckily, I have taught online classes before, although not this particular one, so I was familiar with many of the tools. Here are a few thoughts that I’m keeping central to how I teach … Continue reading Teaching Mechanistically Online

The Plan for My Organic Course During the COVID-19 Crisis

First and foremost, I hope you and your students are all well, and that you stay well through the coronavirus crisis. Like many colleges and universities around the country, my university has gone exclusively to remote learning. We are currently on spring break, and our classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, March 23. I … Continue reading The Plan for My Organic Course During the COVID-19 Crisis

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

Rules of Thumb

Nearly every semester, I am asked a question that I’ve never been asked before. I have found that by giving students some rules of thumb (ROTs), I can help them understand the basics while also giving them specific strategies for solving organic chemistry problems. More recently, I’ve recognized that the mechanistic organization helps enforce my … Continue reading Rules of Thumb

Mechanism Problems with Numerous Teaching Moments

Each year, as my students complete Chapter 8, I find tremendous value in assigning a handful of written mechanism problems that not only challenge students, but also reinforce important lessons about mechanisms that we learned throughout Chapters 7 and 8. This year, I assigned the following two mechanism problems (not found in Chapter 7 or … Continue reading Mechanism Problems with Numerous Teaching Moments

The Far-Reaching Benefits of Teaching Organic Chemistry According to Mechanism

In my experience, the traditional method of teaching organic chemistry courses according to functional group often leads students to rely on memorization. For example, a single chapter on alkyl halides may include substitution reactions, radical reactions, and additions to alkenes. With such a large volume of information, it’s very difficult for students to manage and … Continue reading The Far-Reaching Benefits of Teaching Organic Chemistry According to Mechanism

Ballroom Dancing as a Metaphor for Learning Organic Chemistry

Students are notorious for feeling overwhelmed by the subject of organic chemistry. This leaves the instructor perplexed with the thought of effectively and adequately teaching the course. Often, the question posed is … "…to use or not to use reactions?" Both as a student and as an instructor, I have heard that students only feel … Continue reading Ballroom Dancing as a Metaphor for Learning Organic Chemistry

Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

Every time I teach Section 3.9, which covers rotations about single and double bonds and cis/trans isomerism, I’m reminded of how valuable an exercise it is to have students determine whether a particular double bond can have cis/trans configurations possible. It may not immediately jump out at you as a valuable exercise, but consider this. … Continue reading Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

Proton Transfer Reactions and Thinking Like a Chemist

Teaching students how to think like a chemist is a challenging, but necessary feature of any organic chemistry course. A seemingly simple question such as, “How will these two compounds react when I mix them?” can stump even the best students. Since it is impossible to memorize every possible reaction combination, students must rely on … Continue reading Proton Transfer Reactions and Thinking Like a Chemist