Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Working memory and retrosynthesis in undergraduate organic chemistry: Does your brain work in reverse?




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



For many undergraduate organic chemistry courses, the design of reasonable syntheses is a capstone activity that ostensibly reflects students' knowledge of organic reactions. However, students with similar course grades show a wide range of aptitude for organic synthesis despite the common pedagogical practice of teaching retrosynthetic analysis as a problem-solving method. A recent study investigated the problem-solving methods of 22 "A-level" undergraduate students enrolled in the second semester of a full-year sequence in organic chemistry at a major research university. The findings suggest that working memory capacity is correlated with students' approaches to solving organic synthesis problems. Only students with the largest working memory capacities consistently applied retrosynthetic techniques when solving synthesis problems.

Conference Name

21st Biennial Conference on Chemical Education

Conference Location

University of North Texas, Denton, TX

This document is currently not available here.