Two-Cycle Organic Chemistry

The attached file is a slide show of a presentation I gave at the 2010 BCCE conference, entitled, “Effectiveness of a two-cycle organic chemistry sequence.”

Two-cycle organic chemistry is a non-traditional sequence for presenting material in a two-semester organic chemistry course.  The first semester is a survey course, and the second semester is more advanced, covering all the remaining topics normally taught in a yearlong sequence.

The slide shows reviews evidence that the two-cycle sequence works better than the traditional sequence for both groups of students I have in my courses:

  • Students majoring in Biology and Environmental Science, who are only required to take one semester of organic chemistry, receive a far more appropriate body of material than if they had only covered the first half of the text book.
  • Students majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry/Molecular Biology (this includes our pre-med students), who are required to take both semesters, see the same material as if they had taken the course in the standard sequence.  However, they demonstrate improved retention at the end of the year.

Others have reported that this approach, which requires students in the second semester to recall and apply material learned in the first semester, increases student retention by the end of the year.

In my presentation I show how my students, who took ACS examinations at the end of each academic year, showed significant improvement when comparing scores from years with a traditional sequence versus the two-cycle sequence.  The presentation also includes choice of topics for each semester, other challenges particular to the alternative sequence, and student perceptions about its effectiveness.