Plenary Speaker Profile (2003-4)
Pratibha Varma-Nelson
Professor of Chemistry
Northeastern Illinois University
PLTL: A student-faculty partnership for transforming the learning environment

Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) provides students with opportunities for intellectual and personal development as well as a restructuring of their content knowledge. This approach preserves the lecture and introduces a new structure, a weekly two-hour workshop where students interact to solve problems under the guidance of a trained peer leader, a student who has done well in the course previously. Each weekly PLTL workshop centers around carefully constructed problems and activities selected by the instructor to address common misconceptions and develop conceptual understanding. An overview of PLTL will be presented. Recruitment and training of leaders, evaluation of the method, issues surrounding implementation and adaptation of the model will be discussed as well.

Pratibha Varma-Nelson is currently Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). She received her B.Sc. from University of Poona, India, in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Illinois in Chicago in Organic Chemistry. She did a Post Doctoral fellowship in Enzymology at Loyola University, in Maywood Illinois before joining the faculty of Saint Xavier University (SXU) in 1979. At SXU she taught courses in Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. At NEIU she teaches Senior Seminar and Chemistry of Biological Compounds to Chemistry Majors. Since 1995 her professional activities have revolved around the development, implementation and dissemination of the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model of teaching. She was an active partner of the Workshop Chemistry Project, one of the five NSF supported systemic reform projects in Chemistry and is currently a co-principal investigator of two NSF supported National Dissemination Grants: The Workshop Project: Peer Led-Team Learning and Multi Initiative Dissemination. She has co-authored several publications and manuals about the PLTL model. Varma-Nelson is the director of the Workshop Project Associate (WPA) Program which provides small grants to facilitate implementation of PLTL and director of the Chautauqua course on PLTL offered annually.