Submitted by Matt Whited / Carleton College on Tue, 02/21/2017 - 18:52
My Notes

This LO is a problem-set-style literature discussion that leads students through a critical analysis of an interesting but flawed paper from the recent chemical literature.  Students use the questions to help them work through the paper prior to class, providing plenty of raw material for an in-class discussion about various aspects of the work from a mechanistic organometallic perspective.  The questions help students critically analyze substrate tables, spectroscopic data, and computational results from DFT.

Learning Goals
  • Students will be able to pull out important mechanistic information from substrate tables in an organometallic paper
  • Students will be able to use knowledge of organometallic mechanisms and organic chemistry to rationalize findings in a catalysis paper
  • Students will be able to use knowledge of spectroscopy, particularly NMR, to understand structure and bonding arguments in an organometallic paper
  • Students will critically analyze a paper and learn to feel comfortable questioning assertions by authors, including the major findings of a paper
Implementation Notes

I had students prepare answers to these questions ahead of class and bring the answers with them.  To add incentive, I collected them as a homework assignment (though I graded some of the harder ones fairly leniently).  The questions helped prepare them for a class discussion of the paper, which I led with a few slides containing information from the paper and some other useful tidbits (I am happy to send those to you if you like, just contact me).

Time Required
1-2 hours student prep (reading paper); 45 minutes in class discussion
Evaluation Methods

Graded problems students turned in.

Informal evaluation during discussion.

Evaluation Results

Graded assignments: mean of 84, std dev of 12, so a fairly broad range of understandings

Informal: Students really enjoyed getting to evaluate published work critically and were quite engaged in discussions, which helped to bring some of the students who didn't understand the paper as well up to speed.  After the paper, students have felt much more comfortable questioning what is stated in papers, particularly if little or no support is given.

I will definitely use this again!  Unfortunate to find a paper with several important oversights in the literature, but it is a good learning opportunity.

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