How Difficult Should Organic Chemistry Be?

Maitland Jones, a well-known organic chemistry professor at New York University (NYU), was fired during the summer.

The 84-year-old professor wrote a famous book: “Organic Chemistry” which is still used in many middle school classes. He taught the class for many years at Princeton University before retiring in 2007. Since then, he has taught subject matter at NYU on a series of one-year contracts.

The New York Times recently reported that NYU students have appealed against Jones. Eighty-two students, of the 350 who attended his class last spring, signed the document saying they thought he did not consider their work fairly. They were unhappy with their weak grades and they felt that his method of teaching made a difficult subject harder for them to learn. They also told NYU that poor grades hurt their chances of getting into medical school.

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The temperature said Jones was defending his teaching method. In fact, he is known for pioneering a new teaching method that focused on problem solving rather than mindless memorization. He said some students were not coming to class or watching class videos. Jones said ratings plummeted even as he facilitated testing. He said that coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, students not only hadn’t studied, but they also didn’t seem to know how to study.

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Just before classes began in the fall, NYU decided to terminate Jones’ contract. A spokesperson said the university was assess all classes, including organic chemistry, in which a high percentage of students receive poor grades. The school also offered to reconsider students’ poor grades in Jones’ class.

FILE - Maitland Jones in Shanghai in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Maitland Jones/Princeton University)

FILE – Maitland Jones in Shanghai in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Maitland Jones/Princeton University)

Close the gap

Jones’ dismissal drew thousands of comments from students, alumni and faculty. Some felt that Jones should have made the class easier and changed the way he treated or graded students. Others supported maintaining the class’ demanding instruction and grading systems.

Renee Link is a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Irvine. She told VOA: “When you see these things, and we see these issues come up, it’s easy to put it on the students or on Facultybut in reality, it is a systemic problem and it is not the problem of an individual default. Like, everyone has to share the blame here.

Link said she uses a system known as Features ranking. The idea, she says, is to start the study term by showing students how they can prove their abilities. If they can achieve the higher goals, they can get a good grade at the end of the term. Some college professors think they should limit the number of top grades awarded to students. But Link said there was no limit to the number of top marks she would give.

Link said spec scoring allows students to learn at their own pace. Link said students can progress at a slower speed while showing off what they’ve learned.

“We can give students various attempts over time to demonstrate that he has learned something, without necessarily penalization them for not learning about it when we thought they should have,” Link said.

One of the concerns about Jones’ class at NYU was that students felt they didn’t have enough of a chance to prove themselves. If they did poorly on a test, they said, it would greatly affect their overall score.

Geri Kerstiens is a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kerstiens wants to change the idea that certain classes, called “weedless” classes, are set up to prevent students from advancing.

Medical schools in the United States require organic chemistry. So, if a student does poorly in class, he may not have the chance to study to become a doctor.

Kerstiens told VOA there are two ways to think about notes. She said people understand that an “A” grade shows a medical school or employer that a student is ready to work or study at a high level.

Kersteins added: “But on the opposite side, the grades are terrible. They are not really representative of what students can do in many cases.

She proposed that there should be a way to “meet in the middle” and allow students to demonstrate their abilities in a “fair and equitable” way. fair.” She also suggested having students work together on projects and having multiple tests during the study term so that no one test is more important.

Upcoming changes?

Link said she was concerned that people who are not close to teaching chemistry might find fault with the younger generation of students. However, she now sees thoughtful conversations between the people teaching the subject.

Kerstiens said she hopes Jones’ story at NYU will inspire people who guide university chemistry departments to think about change. They should think about teaching chemistry, she said, and why they’re doing things “the way they always have, because it only works for some people.”

I am Jill Robbins. And I’m Andrew Smith.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English.

Quiz – How hard should organic chemistry be?

Quiz - How hard should organic chemistry be?

Start the Quiz to find out

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words in this story

Fire -v. fire someone from a job

To note nm a comparative or hierarchical assessment given to students by teachers, often based on a percentage grading system

Assess -v. determine, judge or calculate

Faculty -not. (plural) university professors

Default -not. an error or a source of blame

specification -not. a clearly defined requirement

Several –adj. various

Penalize -v. punish or bring negative sanctions or effects

Opposite side -not. the opposite side

Fair –adj. fair to all concerned people or groups

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