2007-2008 is the first of three years at half time on the way to retirement, and my teaching for this year will be primarily in a secondary role, as a second faculty member in shared courses. This may include some lab and lecture teaching in CHEM 115, Principles of Chemistry: Structure and Reactivity (the first term of our intro course - fall) and lab teaching in the Organic courses (CHEM 250 and 252) in the winter and spring.
In addition, I've done individual or small-group tutorials on numerous topics, Among them are NMR methods, Synthesis Design, Dendirimers or other Polymers, Anesthetics, Green Chemistry, Infrared Spectroscopy, Molecular Modeling.
Organic chemistry is a challenge for many students, both because there's a lot of material to cover, but even more, because the approach is quite different from most of what the students have seen in prior chemistry courses. Many introductory courses focus on mathematical relationships (stoichiometry, equilibrium problems, etc.) for which the students can learn a set of equations and some algorithms for using them to solve quantitative problems. Students get quite good at that. Organic, on the other hand, focuses much more on the geometrical and chemical structure of molecules, and on the ways in which those structural features determine what reactions can happen, how those reactions happen, and what the various products might be. It's far less easily handled by simple memorization, and far more dependent on critical thinking, being able to find similarities between known structures and new ones, and on the ability to visualize and mentally manipulate objects in 3-dimensions.
I've always tried to guide students into the subject in ways that encourage them to look carefully at the structures of the compounds we treat, to apply generalizations appropriately and with attention to their limitations, and to think through problems as they come up rather than trying to memorize lots of specific examples in advance. I also try to find different ways of presenting material, so that as many studennts in the class as possible can catch what's going on, even though they may have different ways of learning.
I also believe that many concepts are best learned by doing, which means that the laboratory is an integral part of the course. It is also true that just doing the laboratory manipulations isn't the main point - thinking about what's happened and interpreting the results are the crucial steps. That means that laboratory notebooks are important as a way to learn observational and record-keeping skills, and laboratory reports are important as the means of thinking through what's been done and seen, and building the connections between the observations and the molecular-scale processes we infer from those observations.
Besides my regular courses, I have also offered a week-long summer enrichment program for teachers of high school AP Chemistry courses, either in collaboration with Professor Rosenberg or alone, in the summers of 1987, 88, and 90. I also directed and/or did approximately half the teaching in the "SummerScience" chemistry workshop - a two-week program for rising high school seniors - from 1988 through 1994.
I was a participant, starting from the organizational meeting in the fall of 1993, in the ChemLinks Coalition, an organization of chemists from a variety of (mostly undergraduate) institutions, funded by the NSF through its program for Systemic Change in the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum. The coalition took as its approach the use of topical course modules through which the basic concepts of chemistry would be learned as needed. Several of us worked on course modules for the organic chemistry course. I built such a module, intended to provide a vehicle for discussing reaction mechanisms, molecular recognition, and some protein structure, centered around the induction and uses of catalytic antibodies. That module has been used in the second term of my organic course here, and several faculty members from otehr institutions contacted me and requested the materials, as well. I've also used a module designed by Jerry Mohrig of Carleton College, entitled "Why do we get the flu every year." The focus of that module is on carbohydrate chemistry and molecular recognition.
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