Beginning Organic Chemistry (BOC)
2. Hints for Learning Organic Chemistry.
b. Understanding and Belief

Return to BOC Index. | 2c. Using the Molecular Models.

Emphasizing Understanding.

When you learn why something is as it is, you may then use this information to predict new outcomes, to solve problems, and to learn complex relationships. This is quite different learning from that which you use to memorize a list of facts, and has quite different results from merely regurgitating such a factual list.

Understanding allows you to picture what is happening by using the imagination, and I have a paper on this topic which perhaps you could look at:

Learning Chemistry: The Importance of the Imagination.

On Changing Our Minds.

It seems likely that deep learning and understanding are based on the way we imagine things to be: deeply held imaginings are termed beliefs. Note that this is how we imagine things to be, not how they actually are!

We all have these imaginations and beliefs and new learning must be built on those imaginations and beliefs that we currently hold.
[This theory of knowledge (that knowledge is not an absolute and is constructed by the learner, based on previous knowledge and overall views of the world) is known as "constructivism" and is a current philosophical view of human learning.]

If new observations are contrary to our current imaginations and beliefs we are faced with making a choice, often between two extreme alternatives:

we can modify our previously held imaginations/beliefs to account for the new data;

we can hold on to our previously held beliefs by downplaying or even ignoring the new data.

If you are meeting something absolutely new to you, something that has no prior meaning in any way, you are eager to learn; unfortunately, by the teenage years, there is virtually nothing that is absolutely new to you, and about which you have not already formed some imaginations and beliefs (opinions).

The human mind resists change to its basic imaginations and beliefs, (choosing option 2, above, subconsciously - for example, by not listening to opposing beliefs) but will, albeit reluctantly, change less basic beliefs.

The impact of this is that wrongly held beliefs and pictures ('imaginations') are very difficult to change. For a strongly held belief we will cling to that belief no matter what evidence is put before us that it is wrong!

be aware of your current held beliefs; don't let them get in the way of questioning and learning, and
try to ensure that what you newly learn, imagine, believe in organic chemistry is the current mode of thought.

Date created: 2005 06 10.