Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry

Learning a New Language

You're learning a new language as well as new concepts. There's lots of vocab, so terms like electrophile and nucleophile and many others. So learning the language, learning the code that we use, the curly arrow code, and then starting to apply that in half a dozen or a dozen or so different contexts, different reactions.

'Meet the Scientist' Breaks

So into the lectures I put kind of ad breaks, I suppose, short 'meet the scientist' breaks.  So we would have a photograph and fun facts about a scientist and various places we would have a stop, and I have told them that all of that information wasn't on the exam, so they knew that they could stop and just take a breather and then pick back up on the chemistry afterwards.  So that, I think helped, especially the ones that were just finding it all a bit kind of overwhelming. 


I like to approach chemistry as a different language, because it used symbols to convey ideas across, but they are not the reality.  When we draw a little stick structure, alcohol does not exist as I’ve just drawn it, it’s a representation.

Central Concepts

They struggle with the language of chemistry.  So we sort of need to teach them the process and how to work out how to do these things.  We know that their tendency is just to attempt to memorise reactions.  Whereas if we can teach them to derive … find out what the nucleophile and the electrophile is then all they have to do is draw a curly arrow from the nucleophile to the electrophile, rather than trying to work out what the reaction is itself. 

Holistic Approach

I think personally the quicker the students can see that holistic approach to chemistry the better... Because that’s when they start to realise how cool it is.

A New Language

Chemistry is a different language so I try to approach it that way by explaining the ideas behind symbols.

Be Available For Students

If a student comes to you with a fundamental misunderstanding, try to sit with them one-on-one if you can, and try to find out what their problem is and try to help them. Always try to be open, always try to be available. That’s very difficult in first year, due to the large number of students, but just try to help people. Be honest and open.

Weave in Examples

As usual, try to weave in some real-world examples.

Multiple Resources

If you look at the resources - students’ have textbooks, they have electronic media, they have Sapling. They can do the problems in their own time in a guided way with something like Sapling. All we as lecturers have to do is give them the framework to solve the problems.

Read the full quote here

Link to Sapling Learning


Use Both PowerPoint and Visualiser

Use two screens in a lecture and then turn one off and go to the visualiser and spend time on the visualiser drawing things or solving problems or writing something. And at that point the class becomes engaged. So when you’re using PowerPoint, unless you’re really good with it, they’ll disengage. If you start writing and drawing structures and things on the visualiser, they start doing it and then it becomes much more interactive - they’re working from the visualiser then they’re back to the PowerPoint and then back to the visualiser again.


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