Specifications Grading: A Before-and-After Tale in My Organic II Course
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
3M ago
I implemented specifications grading (aka standards-based grading) for the first time in spring 2023, in my Organic Chemistry II course. Coming off a sabbatical that previous fall, I knew something drastic had to change from the last time I taught the course in spring 2022, where: Students were more disengaged than I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years of teaching. My office hours felt like a ghost town most days. Most students seemed devoid of growth-mindset. Student anxiety was at an all-time high, and it felt tangible. Students just didn’t quite have the resilience they used to have, especially i ..read more
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FAQ: Part 1
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
Why is Chapter 1 not a “general chemistry review” chapter? General chemistry review topics are spread throughout the first six chapters of my book to provide a better transition from general chemistry to organic chemistry. Students tend not to have retained as much general chemistry as we want or need them to have retained, in which case a general chemistry review chapter, which marches rapidly through several topics, ends up leaving students behind. Moreover, even if a student is quite capable with general chemistry topics, it does not necessarily mean that the student is able to apply those ..read more
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New Sample Syllabi Available
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
Dear Instructors, To help you get the most out of the new third edition, we’ve enlisted the help of some incredible instructors from around the country to provide you with updated sample syllabi. We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to Andrew Morehead at East Carolina University, Vandana Bindra and Nanette Wachter at Hofstra University, Grace Ferris at Lesley University, Matthew Siebert at Missouri State University, and Laura Wysocki at Wabash College for contributing their syllabi. These syllabi are available now, under the Syllabi page. Each syllabus has been thoughtfully constructed to he ..read more
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A New Organic Lab Curriculum That Emphasizes Connections Among Chemistry, Biology, and Sustainability
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
Have you received your copy of Greg Friestad’s Techniques and Experiments in Organic Chemistry: Biological Perspectives and Sustainability? This new lab text motivates students with biological context and gets them thinking about sustainability, while reducing disposal costs to the department. Here’s an excerpt from Greg’s preface discussing how the project came together at the University of Iowa, and how you can put the new book to use in your organic lab. Dear Instructor, My mission in creating this textbook was to develop a green organic chemistry laboratory curriculum that inspires stude ..read more
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Using a Previewing Strategy to Help Students Get the Most Out of Reading
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
When I was an undergraduate student, I hated reading my chemistry textbooks. Like many science faculty, my professors would assign sections of the textbook to read before class with little to no explanation or guidance. As a first-year college student who took my coursework seriously, I tried to do as I was told. Unfortunately, the reading often left me frustrated, confused, and stressed. By sophomore year I had given up on reading the textbook before class and had convinced myself that I was “bad at learning by reading” (see that fixed-mindset thinking?). But sometimes, I would go back to the ..read more
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How an Objective Becomes a Smartwork Question
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
Norton’s Smartwork is the online homework system that supports students using Karty’s Organic Chemistry. Within this system there are thousands of questions which can be used for homework assignments, quizzes or even exams. But this robust library of questions doesn’t just spring from nowhere. Behind every question, there are multiple people and hours of work. Let’s take a look at the process for writing a Smartwork question. With a large catalogue of questions already available, the process of adding new textbook questions begins by focusing on the learning objectives that are either new or c ..read more
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Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
While teaching chapters 17-18, I have shown students the versatility of carbonyls and enolate chemistry. The discussion in Karty’s book is arranged well and does a nice job of spotlighting the chemistry unique to carbonyls, especially as it ranges from selective addition (direct or conjugate) to the use of enolates for alkylation and halogenation.  In the second semester, my audience is filled with a portion of previous students that I had in organic chemistry 1, as well as those from my colleague who simultaneously taught the other section. Those students who had me previously were expos ..read more
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Consistency is Key
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by teachthemechanism
1y ago
When I talk to other faculty who are using the Karty book I find that we share a love of Chapter 7. In this chapter, the most common elementary steps are presented, those being proton transfer, biomolecular nucleophilic substitution, coordination, heterolysis, nucleophilic addition, nucleophile elimination, biomolecular elimination, electrophilic addition, electrophile elimination, and carbocation rearrangements.  Every multistep mechanism in chapters 8 through 26 is presented in terms of these 10 elementary steps (I always say 7 in class since they are in Chapter 7 and numbers are hard ..read more
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“The Right Answer Always Looks Right”
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
How to Make the Most of Practice Exams Practice exams can be a valuable learning tool if they’re used correctly by students. They have the potential to give students access to exam-level questions that ask them to synthesize ideas across multiple topics, provide an example for the exam length and question styles, and offer students an opportunity to think deeply about new problems before exam day. Unfortunately, I found that my students have underutilized or misused this learning tool. One common behavior I encountered was that students would review the answer key rather than attempting the pr ..read more
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Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content
Teach the Mechanism
by teachthemechanism
1y ago
I am not sure if other instructors have this issue, but how do you connect students back to the content? Sometimes I wonder if the first week of the spring semester is worse than the first week of the fall semester. My class ended the semester on chapter 9 content, while my colleague left the semester having talked about the first few sections of chapter 10. You could joke and say he was teasing the students, which left them wanting more…. Regardless, I have to try to jump start the audience’s brains to start thinking about organic reactions and electron movements. How do teachers do that? I s ..read more
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