This new teaching method consistently helps students to:
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Understanding Organic Chemistry incorporates cutting-edge instructive approaches not found in any other organic chemistry textbook. Dr. van Kuiken’s teaching system changes the students focus and approach from passive learning to analyzing and actively solving problems utilizing the associated Lab Book and Workbook.

The van Kuiken teaching system was developed and implemented over 38 semesters with a high proportion of her students scoring in the top 1%–2% on the organic chemistry portion of national standardized tests. In addition, the acceptance rate for her students applying to health professions and graduate research programs is over 90%.

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Typical organic chemistry textbooks are difficult for students & teachers

Typical Organic Chemistry books don’t have a central take-home message in any given chapter. Students are generally shown a few reactions that could be used by a professional organic chemist.

A disjointed collection of unrelated theories (carbocations, radicals, cyclic ions, carbanions, resonance, shifts, etc.) are tossed in to explain the specific reactions. This is comparable to giving students the answers to a few selected math problems that use unrelated kinds of math and then drilling the students on the same specific problems at the end of the chapter.

The idea behind that traditional teaching method is for students to be drilled until they can memorize and successfully spit back the same answers to those same problems. Think of it like offering a math book where the only central theme to each chapter is some number that is common to each problem.

Many Chemistry Professors found that the traditional method was unsatisfying to teach their students.

We asked what Organic Chemistry Professors want Students to know

The van Kuiken teaching system is unique because it specifically focuses on and prioritizes these significant objectives. This textbook is exceptional because it uses effective, cutting-edge experiential instruction to achieve these results. It focuses on building a solid foundation of essential principles while helping students build the logic and analytical skills needed to apply those principles.

These are the most significant concepts and skills professors want students to learn, retain and apply:

  • analyze the properties of reactants and intermediates
  • draw and interpret reaction mechanism arrows
  • determine relative stabilities of molecules
  • stabilize a carbocation, carbon radical and carbanion
  • accurately draw resonance structures
  • determine the best leaving group
  • apply information (including how to apply information to new situations)
  • integrate various concepts
  • think through a problem
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Why the van Kuiken Method Works

“Within each chapter, students are first taught foundational principles and then shown how to build an analysis method. Reactions are used as a vehicle to help students learn how to apply those concepts. Rather than being told how various reactions work, students predict the outcome of each reaction. My textbook covers the same reactions that are covered in other textbooks, but the difference in approach means that more durable foundational concepts and analysis methods become the long-term take away. The entire textbook is written with this unique approach in mind.” Dr. Barbara van Kuiken

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Materials Available for Preview

You can learn more about the contents of Understanding Organic Chemistry here.
If you would like to preview an e-book desk copy of Parts 1 and 2, email us for an access code.

Tutorial Videos from Dr. van Kuiken


“This is so awesome! I have tried in vain so many times to explain to people how much easier the MCAT is to take when you have Dr. van Kuiken as your teacher.” –Tim D.

“My heart sings for all of the students who will now be blessed by your teaching methods!” –Breanna H.

Dr. Barbara van Kuiken

is a full professor of chemistry at Southern Virginia University, a teaching institution where the focus is on providing excellent instruction to the students. She has taught organic chemistry for 19 years and was twice nominated as Teacher of the Year for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati, and holds an endowed chair (Kaye and Michael Elton Professor of Chemistry) at Southern Virginia University. She also a member of ACS.


131 W 21st St. Buena Vista, VA 24416


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