Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry

Put Material into Context

You can liken teaching chemistry to hacking your way through a forest. It’s a lot of detail, and you can’t expect students to do the hard work of fighting their way through the forest or the jungle, unless they have a global view of where they’re going. Keep going back to applications in the real world. How is it that geckos can crawl up a wall, and sit on the ceiling without falling off? How is it they’re able to stay there with gluey legs or something? How do they maximise the attractions between the molecules in their feet and the molecules in the ceiling?


Use the visualiser for problems.

Re-Iterate Line Structures

Make sure that you reiterate things like line structures and don't incorporate any stereo-chemical information until you need that.

Link to Real World Outcomes

In organic chemistry for anything that's structure-based it’s imperative that they understand molecules are three dimensional - that they have a spatial requirement. And you can talk about the actual real-world outcomes of that, like drug design and penicillin structure and things which might be what they're actually interested in.

Small Group Worksheets

Use small group student-centred interaction using structured work sheets that logically develop students' conceptual understanding. It’s a learning cycle approach.

Smart Phone Mirror

Students’ ability to visualise the molecules in free space is limited sometimes. So a strategy is to ask the students to take out their smart phone and use it as a mirror by putting it opposite the molecule on the paper, so that they can see the reflection and easily visualise the molecule. This is good for teaching enantiomers and rotating the molecule.

Group Work

Photocopy the problems rather than expecting students to download them from Blackboard, and take in only a few copies so that students have to share. They’re forced to work together. But that causes a problem at the end of the class if they all want their own copy, so you then have to go back and load it up onto Blackboard. But that sort of approach works quite well.

Present Solutions to NMR Problems

Get the students to present the solutions to NMR problems, with a bit of assistance. Point to a signal on the spectrum and say ‘have you thought about what that means?’ Give them some hints. Encourage the students themselves to be asking the questions about what the signals are or why you ignored a particular signal.

Models to Explain Symmetry

Utilise model making to display principles of symmetry. Make the model, show the NMR spectrum and use them together to explain the symmetry.

Examples of Symmetry

Use examples to demonstrate symmetry. For example, show 1H and 13C NMR spectra of ethyl benzene.


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