Chemistry & Biochemistry Department Seminar

Friday, February 24, 2017 at 4:00pm

A. Paul Schaap Science Center, 1000
35 East 12th Street, Holland, MI 49423-3605

Abstract: Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) is a pedagogy that encourages students taking STEM classes to be more active in their own learning, thus improving their problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and success in introductory science courses. This talk will present a brief overview of the PLTL research before describing the development and evaluation of cPLTL, the online adaptation of PLTL. The presentation will conclude with the description of the mixed methods study that examined the transfer of a PLTL to an online workshop environment in a general chemistry course at a research university in the Midwest. The null hypothesis guiding the study was that no substantive differences would emerge between the two workshop settings. The final exam scores and discourse analysis support the null hypothesis and use of both face-to-face and synchronous online peer-led workshops in early science courses. More information about PLTL and cPLTL can be found at

Biography: Pratibha Varma-Nelson is Professor of Chemistry and the founding executive director of the STEM Education Innovation and Research Institute (SEIRI) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Before this, for almost eight years, she served as the executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at IUPUI. She is well known in the STEM community for her pioneering work in the development, implementation and dissemination of the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model of teaching. She has served as Co-PI of three NSF funded National Dissemination Grants. In addition she was a founding Co-PI of the NSF funded Undergraduate Research Center “Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education, (CASPiE)”. Her research group is currently working on the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of cyber-PLTL (cPLTL). For the cPLTL project, she has received funding from IUPUI, NSF, and EDUCAUSE (Next Generation Learning Challenges funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation). This work broadly informs the understanding of how students learn chemistry (general and organic) in online environments as well as in face-to-face environments and how effective communities of learning can be created in online learning courses. Dr. Varma-Nelson is co-author of several publications about PLTL and CASPiE and has made numerous presentations in local, national, and international venues. She was the co-recipient of the 2008 James Flack Norris award for her role in developing the PLTL Workshop model for teaching chemistry. In 2011 she was awarded the Stanley C. Israel Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences sponsored by the Committee on Minority Affairs of the American Chemical Society. In 2012 her group received the Sloan-C Award for Effective Practices in Online and Blended Education and in 2013 she was selected Woodward Lecturer by the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Varma-Nelson is currently serving on the advisory boards of several NSF funded projects.

Event Type

Academics, Natural & Applied Sciences Division, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Dr. Pratibha Varma-Nelson, Indiana University-Purdue University "Replicating Peer-Led Team Learning in Cyberspace: Research, Opportunities, and Challenges"

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