Organic chemistry. Just thinking about it strikes fear into the hearts of many. With a nationwide failure rate estimated between 25-50 percent, it’s not a class to take lightly.
Dr. Matthew Siebert and Brian High saw that failure rate and decided it was too high. As chemistry educators at Missouri State University, they saw a way to decrease that rate.
And they did. Their paper, “Boot camp to improve student perception and performance in sophomore organic chem? Hoorah,” outlines solutions to big problems in chemistry.
High, a senior instructor, starts off teaching general chemistry, the first year course that gives a foundation to organic chemistry. After that, Siebert, assistant professor, teaches them organic. Sometimes, that can be a year in between classes, losing pertinent knowledge.
Their solution? A “short but intense course that reminded students of what they learned in general chemistry,” Siebert said, “but presented in a way that shows the application to organic.”
They started this in fall 2014, and students who have taken this boot camp do exponentially better in organic chemistry. This boot camp, also known as CHM 242, is now offered every fall and spring intersession, with 20-60 students enrolled each offering. Siebert calls it quite the achievement for an intersession course.
“Our interest is really about holding ourselves accountable as educators and giving students the best shot at success that we can,” Siebert said.