Make Organic Chemistry More Realistically Learnable

Make Organic Chemistry More Realistically Learnable

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Natalie Holmes started this petition to IUPUI Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

"I changed my major because of Organic Chemistry.” This phrase is said way too many times by very smart people. Why? Not necessarily because they cannot learn the topics, but because it is too much information taught in a very limited amount of time. I have friends here at IUPUI who have expressed these feelings to me. The problem is that the course is taught at mock speed – a speed that is nearly impossible to keep up with for the majority of people. I am a second semester Organic Chemistry student who barely passed the first semester. I am going to explain what is taught in organic chemistry, the organic chemistry national exam scores, the results of a survey I conducted here at IUPUI, present a potential solution, and finally share what you can do to help – no matter your major.

The American Chemical Society provides a nation-wide final exam for each semester of organic chemistry. In 2014, the exam over the first semester had a mean score of 55%, which is a C according to IUPUI’s grading scale. In 2016, the exam over both semesters had a mean score of 52.3% (ACS Exams, Deng). To help more students be more successful, Yale University offers two semesters of an introductory organic chemistry course that focuses on the “structure and mechanism” theory in organic chemistry rather than teaching both the theory and the specific reagents used in multiple different reactions at the same time (“Freshman Organic Chemistry I”).

Based on my research, I decided to conduct a survey among IUPUI students who are either currently taking or have taken organic chemistry at IUPUI. I asked these students if they thought that they would have learned and retained more knowledge if the course was taught over a longer period of time. Over 50% of students responded “yes,” 27% were unsure, and 16% responded “no.” Yale’s approach to teaching organic chemistry with introductory courses or spreading out the material over more semesters would be a solution to this problem.

Over 50% of respondents thought that organic chemistry should be taught over three or four semesters or they provided other alternatives that included more time in the classroom. Melanie Cooper, a chemistry professor at Michigan State University, describes that students “cannot take in the fire hose of information” that is organic chemistry (Halford). Based on my research and the fact that some professors in the field and the majority of students surveyed at IUPUI think more time spent on the material would be beneficial, I think it would be smart to create a third semester option to not only help students, but to future medical doctors, drug chemists, and pharmacists. An optional introductory course could better prepare students and promote effective learning. 

We can make change happen. First of all, you can sign this petition and share it with everyone you know to help spark change here at IUPUI. Second, you can share this with other people. The more people that know about this situation, the more people who can help facilitate change. As a review, we discussed what organic chemistry is and what the national grade average is, a survey conducted here at IUPUI, their results, what change could look like, and finally what you can do about it! You do not have to be a chemistry major to care about the future of science. Let us make organic chemistry more realistically learnable; together. Thank you! Please email me at natholm@iu.edu with any questions!

Works Cited

ACS Exams, uwm.edu/acs-exams/instructors/exam-statistics/national-norms/.

Deng, Yongming; Minto, Robert. Syllabus for Organic Chemistry II. Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Spring 2021.

“Freshman Organic Chemistry I.” Freshman Organic Chemistry I | Open Yale Courses, oyc.yale.edu/chemistry/chem-125a.

Halford, Bethany. Is There a Crisis in Organic Chemistry Education? 28 Mar. 2016, cen.acs.org/articles/94/i13/crisis-organic-chemistry-education.html.

Survey responses can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nEC_o1EgV8tpShpnLNRtB8r_6clkcuAFEKQ_c8VnFT4/edit?usp=sharing  

Image credit: https://www.chemicals.co.uk/blog/what-is-organic-chemistry 

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