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

What Will Organic Chemistry Look Like in Fall 2021?

In Fall 2021, students will be asked to return to in-person learning. After a lonely and stressful year, I am thrilled about this. I have missed my students dearly, as I love interacting with them in the classroom. Undeniably, the pandemic became especially hard on students’ learning by separating them from their peers and instructors, … Continue reading What Will Organic Chemistry Look Like in Fall 2021?

Forward vs. Backward: How Do You Get Students Interested in Retrosynthesis?

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?

Asking Better Questions: When Students Become the Teacher

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

The Transition from Online Classes Back to In-Person Classes

As college instructors, we are fortunate to begin each semester with a fresh start, and Spring 2021 will be no different. In fact, this current semester already poses its own unique set of questions for me and my students as we plan to return to campus. How can we interact together safely? And how can … Continue reading The Transition from Online Classes Back to In-Person Classes

If I Could Turn Back Time

As a teacher, I try to remember what organic chemistry was like for me as a student. I know that to be effective instructors, we need to be able to see topics through our students’ eyes. After five years in academia, my list of main organic chemistry takeaways has grown to the following five points: … Continue reading If I Could Turn Back Time

Maintaining Pace As We Evolve Online: Lesson #1

Let me preface this post by saying that I believe all chemistry is best learned in a kinesthetic, interactive, face-to-face environment; where faculty and students can synchronously engage in a philosophical debate over electrostatic attractions, reaction energetics, and product probability. Don’t even get me started on the laboratory experience. You’ve got concerns about academic rigor? … Continue reading Maintaining Pace As We Evolve Online: Lesson #1

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

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