Plenary Speaker Profile (2010)
Pratibha Varma-Nelson
Executive Director-Center for Teaching and Learning
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Faculty Development: Does One Size Fit All?

Faculty members are drawn to professional development activities because of challenges related to student learning, but may avoid these activities if their tacit knowledge of teaching is not recognized. Therefore, professional development activities delivered in a general, one-size-fits-all way may leave faculty dissatisfied because the examples, terminology, or pedagogy may not seem relevant to their discipline. For professional development to be successful, it must acknowledge the importance of faculty as disciplinary professionals and emphasize how pedagogies grounded in research can be applied to teaching scientific content. Clearly, one size does not fit all when it comes to designing faculty development activities.

This presentation will focus on strategies being implemented at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to welcome disciplinary faculty. I also will discuss how my experiences as a program director at the National Science Foundation and as the co-founder of the Peer-Led Teem Learning national project inform my current work at the CTL.

Pratibha Varma-Nelson is Professor of Chemistry and the Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). She received her B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Pune, India, in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Illinois in Chicago in Organic Chemistry. She joined the faculty of Saint Xavier University, Chicago in 1979 where she received tenure in 1985 and was promoted to Professor in 1992. She moved to Northeastern Illinois University in July of 2002 as Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics. From August 2006-2008 she was a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education. Since 1995 Dr. Varma-Nelson has been involved in the development, implementation and dissemination of the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model of teaching. She has been a Co-PI of two NSF funded National Dissemination Grants awarded to the PLTL project and was senior partner of the Multi Initiative National Dissemination (MID) Project. In addition she was a founding Co-PI of the NSF funded Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education, (CASPiE). Her current research involves development and evaluation of cyber-PLTL (cPLTL). In her role as the executive director of the CTL at IUPUI she is developing discipline –based faculty development programs. She has co-authored of several publications about PLTL and CASPiE and has made numerous presentations in national and international venues. Pratibha was the co-recipient of the 2008 James Flack Norris award for her role in developing PLTL Workshop model for teaching chemistry courses.