Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so … Continue reading Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?
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
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
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
We have written a handful of blog posts that call attention to the benefits of Chapter 7, which introduces students to the 10 common elementary steps involving closed-shell species. Because of Chapter 7, students are exposed to the complete set of the elementary steps that make up the mechanisms for all reactions encountered through Chapter … Continue reading What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: Elementary Steps for Radicals
In my recent post, Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis, I highlighted research by Alison Flynn at the University of Ottawa, in which she showed that students have better success solving a synthesis problem when they draw reaction mechanisms. I recently had an opportunity to further probe this connection by analyzing my students’ success on … Continue reading Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand
There are no two ways about it—solving synthesis problems is one of the more challenging tasks that students face in organic chemistry. One reason for the difficulty is the sheer number of reactions we deal with throughout the year, perhaps a few hundred in total. Invariably my students ask me if they need to know … Continue reading Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems
I have long maintained that a greater mastery of mechanisms aids students in solving synthesis problems. The idea makes sense: the better a student understands how a reaction takes place via the mechanism, the better he or she will be able to incorporate that reaction into a synthesis when a specific modification to a molecule … Continue reading Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis
I started teaching Karty’s textbook in my first full-time teaching position, and I am not looking back. At the end of each semester as I review my course plan and think about what worked that semester and what didn’t, I always notice new ways in which this textbook design is smart, student-centered, and ultimately makes … Continue reading Organically Gaining Synthetic Expertise