Diaspora

Students who can learn in groups can do better than those individually

Punjab News Express/Balbir Singh
INDIANAPOLIS: Cooperative (Collaborative) learning is more successful than those learning individually; Only 10 per cent of the big Indian population is provided education while in America efforts are to educate every one and though all Holy Hindu scripts are written in Sanskrit but now it is not a language to communicate among people.
These views were expressed by Indian-born Dr. Pratibha Varma-Nelson, a Professor of Chemistry and the Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in an interview to Dr. Keith Pannell and recently aired on Science Studio (NPR). The interview was recorded when world authority in the concept of Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) Dr. Pratibha Varma-Nelson visited University of Texas at El Paso. The topic of interview was STEM Education i.e Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
"STEM Education is important because it is how we teach. Not all groups are getting equal education.Typically it was white male who learnt physics, chemistry and biology. However, now women have started learning STEM."
Winner of 2011 Central Region Recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences, Dr Pratibha Varma-Nelson, explanined that those students who learn in groups perform better in comparision of those doing individually.
She explained that it was in 80's that "a Professor, who also worked in the field observed that the Asian students were working together, living together, cooking together and exchanging exams notes etc. These groups were more comfortable and benefiting. Collaborative means to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. That is why the Asian students who work in groups are more successful that the African-American students who also work hard invidividually.
"Cooperative learning education is good for minority communities and low income groups. Learning is a social activity. If not created that structure for learning some students are left out. The cooperative pool should be broadened, make a more friendly, less intimidating and provide more opporutnity to lean from each other.
Regarding education in India, Dr Pratibha Varma-Nelson, Executive Director of the STEM Education Innovation and Research Institute at IUPUI that only 10 per cent of the big Indian population is provided education while in America efforts are to educate every one. The Indian parents are spending a lot of money to give their children good education, including engaging private tuition. The situation in Korea is also the same as in India.
The Indian students and parents are under tremendous pressure to get into the right universities. It is a small percent at the top are getting all these resources and they also study in groups. In America we are trying to educate every one and that is a different goal, than educating the top 10 per cent.
Replying to a question, Dr. Pratibha Varma-Nelson said that Indian Holy scripts are written in Sanskrit. However, Sanskrit is not the language used today to communicate with each other. However, the Indians learnt to pray in Sankrit.
Giving her family background, Dr. Pratibha Varma disclosed that "I grew up in Pune (India). My parents were both Sanskrit scholars. My father was a professional photographer and mother taught Hindu philosphy and in this enviornament I was raised. Though my parents were educated but I was not surrounded by scientists. As I grew I enjoyed doing mathamatics. Initially I was not good in math. After my father died when I was 10 years old, I became more serious in studies. I secured highest marks in 6th standard in my school. Later I was introduced to science and Chemisty was my major. Chemistry explained world to me, sepcially organic chemistry. I came to USA at the age of 21 with few dollars in my pocket. My mother who was a Faminist desired that I should study as I want to. My mother spent last bit of money for my one-way ticket. It was very hard for my mom."
Regarding gender equality in India, Dr. Pratibha Varma explained "I belonged to a system where there is equality for all. That is Arya Samaj. However, there are many sects in Hiduism where the girls are not allowed to learn. In Arya Samaj men and women are treated equally. We do not workship idols."
"Though my mom is no more but her presence is still with me even today that helps me keep going, " said Dr. Pratibha Varma-Nelson, who received her B.Sc. in Chemistry with first class distinction from University of Pune, India, in 1970 and did her Ph.D. in 1978 from University of Illinois in Chicago in Organic Chemistry.

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