HomeDLSU Dialogue: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Cultural Studiesvol. 11 no. 2 (1976)

Trends in Teaching of Organic Chemistry

Salvador M. Fanega

Discipline: Cultural Studies



As noted in the previous article, the various textbook authors organize the subject matter of organic chemistry according to two major guiding philosophies which are combined to form the framework on which the teaching of organic chemistry could be based. The first philosophy governs the subdivision of the chemistry of organic compounds on one hand, into the chemistry of certain functional groups or homologous series of compounds, and on the other, according to the reaction mechanisms exhibited in their reactions. The first manner of presenting organic chemistry is to discuss the chemical behavior of a series of compounds containing a given functional group followed by a discussion of another series of compounds containing another functional group. The alternative to this is to present the commonly-followed reaction mechanisms and discuss the various functional groups that exhibit each type of reaction mechanism. In this way, all the functional groups which react in the same fashion are grouped together until all the common representative functional groups shall have been covered. The dichotomy between subdivisions into functional group chemistry and into reaction-mechanism types is dramatic enough so as to enable one to put these two approaches at two ends of a spectrum of approaches to organic chemistry teaching. Some textbooks authors (particularly Ferguson in 1965 and Roberts and Caserio in 1967) profess to take a middle ground between the above pedagogical extremes, although Ferguson clings more closely to the functional-group approach.