Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Steven Bertman

Second Advisor

Katie Easley


Organic Chemistry is a gateway course to a handful of courses in higher chemical education. Unfortunately, it is notorious for its high-fail, high-withdrawal, and high-drop rate and has a reputation for being time-consuming, with difficult concepts that are oftentimes new to students. It is often taught in a two-semester sequence, with the courses named Organic I and Organic II, and both courses have a lab component. At Western Michigan University, the fail rate for these two courses are 53.5% and 36.9%, respectively. Most higher education institutions are certified with the American Chemical Society (ACS) and given a skeleton of a curriculum to follow for both courses. How does this ACS certification ensure standardization between these institutions? Moreover, what does the ACS certification allow for leeway for these institutions to teach the courses as they see best fit? A Google Survey was sent out to ACS-certified higher-education institutions and the instructors of these courses in the Great Lakes region to determine where the standardization begins and ends, and how these discrepancies might account for the trends observed at Western Michigan University. The survey was divided into three sections: course structure, standardization, and content and outcomes. Though only a handful of institutions responded, interesting trends between instructors of different institutions were observed and compared against Western Michigan University’s current methods of teaching both courses. It was found that Western Michigan University’s fail rates were much higher than other institutions, and the emphasis on exam performance is much higher at Western Michigan University when compared to the institutions that answered the survey. The findings from this study suggest there is standardization between content, mostly due to the ACS certification these institutions all have, but there is room for interpretation in terms of course structure, grading, and emphasis put upon testing.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access