“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
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
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?
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?
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
Imagine a world where all of your organic students read their textbooks thoroughly, ask you questions, and come to office hours every week...the wildest of fantasy worlds, right? Well, I’m an optimist—what can I say? So when forced to create an all-online version of my mechanisms-focused organic chemistry course, I thought I would see how … Continue reading What If Every Student Went to Office Hours?
Teaching labs online this fall has been quite unique. I am one of many instructors who has struggled with how best to instruct my students, particularly because labs require hands-on learning that can be difficult to simulate through a screen. However, my colleagues and I were inspired from our rapid transition to online classes this … Continue reading How to Conduct a Lab Course amidst a Pandemic?